Here’s an analogy about start-ups that we were batting around recently: Perhaps you have seen Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (MXC) on Spike TV. There is a game within this show called "Wall Bangers". Contestants face a wall with a set of paper-covered openings. They are told to charge at the "opening" of their choosing. Unfortunately for them, behind most of the paper openings is solid wall. Crazed with TV fame, the contestants charge at the openings in hopes of bursting through. It looks something like this:
Starting a business can feel the same way: there are few clues of the obstacles you are likely to encounter and plenty of opportunity to go splat. You have a few options:
1. You can make an educated guess as to the best door to charge at, build up momentum by developing a great product, raising money and hiring a skilled team, then throw yourself at the target. If you find the right opportunity, your momentum can thrust you deep into success. At the same time, the risk of a painful flameout is high.
2. You may decide that this game is for fools. Most of the doors are dead-ends. There is never going to be enough information to know what you’ll encounter, no matter how much you examine the problem. Better to stay on your side of the wall -- something most of the MXC contestants wish they could choose.
3. The final approach is to go poking at the different openings looking for the one that has real opportunity. Admittedly, this method is both timid and likely to take longer. Maybe an opportunity will disappear -- but it does lets you play the game while avoiding the risk of flattening your face on a wall.