Velocity and Momentum are not the same thing…

In the past week I was lucky enough to attend the Interactive part of SXSW in Austin, Texas.   I can safely report that everything you have heard about both the event (super laid back, hyper networking event) and venue (heaven on earth) is in fact true!!  But rather than bore you with the details of the many amazing people I met, free parties I went to and Tarantino-esque situations we found ourselves in for my first post I wanted to talk about the main difference in the startup culture that I encountered there!

End of Interactive Official Party

End of Interactive Official Party

It was Saturday afternoon and I was heading to a conference networking session “VC / Startup Meetup”.  As is the way with SXSW I struck up a conversation with the guy standing next to me.  He was about 30 years old, had had two successful exits and was onto this third startup.  Impressive!!  When he asked me about my own startup, Conker, I told him that we had been working on it since September 2012,  to which his response was “Wow, that’s a long development time!”.  5 Months??  A long time…..?!?!?  What was he on about?  That seems like a perfectly reasonable time to be working on something and still be early stage isn’t it??  Well unfortunately in the US the answer would seem to be “No”.   And from there stems the huge palpable difference that I could feel between US and European startups……..Velocity!

Velocity gives both how fast and in what direction an object is moving.  In the startup sense Velocity allows you to build up a head of steam and still pivot without losing that speed.  It is generated by all that good lean and agile stuff.  On the customer development side, signing people up, getting them to pay.  On the product side making sure to develop that product in quick sprints with the features that the customer wants.  All of this builds Velocity.  Once you have your startup roaring at an insane Velocity then you can focus on momentum.

Momentum is the product of the mass and Velocity of an object.  With Velocity cracked the search for more customers and funding can begin in earnest.  Each additional customer or investor adds to the mass of your startup until you are that winning Juggernaut that we all want to be!

In Europe, I believe many of us focus on Momentum because we confuse it with Velocity.  This manifests itself with how quickly we try to fund raise before we have cracked the Velocity of our startup.   This creates a distraction during that critical first 6 months of our startup when we should be focused on Velocity.  The US teams I met at SXSW had cracked their Velocity and were then looking for the funds etc for their momentum.

So with that in mind I know that everything we do in our  startup over the next few months will be solely focused on Velocity!

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