The Science (and Chemistry) of a Startup

The Science (and Chemistry) of a Startup

In high school I majored in computer science and chemistry. While computer science was always my biggest passion, chemistry just intrigued me. I was drawn to those basic rules that determine the world, as we know it.

8 months into my entrepreneurial roller coaster, I’m starting to realize we should be following some basic rules of science and chemistry:

The Startup Atom

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An atom is the basic unit of chemistry. It consists of a positively charged core (the atomic nucleus) which contains protons and neutrons and it maintains a number of electrons to balance the positive charge in the nucleus.

In a startup, your founders are your atoms. Like every atom, it is necessary to be comprised of different forces that balance each other to work together for the same cause. In every decision and action our startup atom acts like an organic unit.

Boyle’s Law

The mathematical equation for Boyle’s law is pV = k:

p denotes the pressure of the system.
V denotes the volume of the gas.
k is a constant value representative of the pressure and volume of the system.

If we agree on the idea that your team can’t think or code faster than it currently is, then we can agree that “k” is the constant amount of volume that your startup engineers. P, then, is the amount of pressure that your team injects and V is the volume of work that it produces.

Just like in science, it only works when the equation is balanced. If your team is under too much pressure it will eventually decrease the amount of work that it produces. We learned that trying to fix bugs, building new features and designing architecture all at once brings about poor results for us. Keeping the fine balance between putting just enough pressure on a team to produce the best results versus not putting enough pressure is tangible.

I guess each team has it own level of pressure but discovering and mastering how to exert this level is key.

Hess’ Law

An energy change is path independent, only the initial and final states being of importance.

It’s not important if your startup is using Agile, Scrum or any other development method. Getting everyone on board and excited about the new goal is one of the must-have things a “startup atom” needs. No less important is achieving the goal.

Our company had a goal to finish a core component on a specific day and time (yeah day and time, giving an exact deadline improved our “V” factor). Achieving the goal gave the team and myself a feeling that we can do the impossible. We had a few bugs and the system was far from perfect but at the end of the day we made it. The path between two points is important but people typically remember how you started and how you finished, not how you got there (if you’re not pushing it too much and over reacting during the process).

Newton’s Law

Every action has an equal but opposite reaction.

This is, perhaps, the most important analogy to science and physics. As Newton said: “The mutual forces of action and reaction between two bodies are equal, opposite and collinear”.

In the startup world this is also the case. If you take a position with your blog and start putting time and effort into it, you will see user reactions on Google analytics. If you choose a different course of action and stop putting time and effort into it you will also see user reactions. What I’m trying to say is that every action I take: whether it’s focusing on product, R&D or sales, I always (sometimes later than others) see a reaction from the other side.

The bad thing is that you cannot take action on everything, but the moment you take an action towards something the reaction will come, no matter what.

To summarize: Because we only have 24 hours in a day I’ve learned that choosing my focus is an extremely important, though difficult task. There are times a founder should focus on early sales, times for being the product guy and times to focus on marketing. Each hat is super-important to our startup’s success and I can only hope I’m making the right choices.

The best of the human minds write down the laws of this universe in Physics, Chemistry and Biology. It only makes sense that startups, like the rest of the universe, should follow those rules in order to succeed. Hey and even if I’m wrong, learning about the universe is always cool!

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