Kneeling at the Shrine, Reading the Gospel of #Startup

This has been on my mind for a good few months and I’ve pondered whether to write it, or just leave it….. ah what the heck. As usually these are merely opinions so take it for what you will.

The Deities Sell The Dream

OH: “Huh, it’s like Zuckerberg is the god of startups…..”


There’s the gospel according to Zuckerberg, the gospel according to Jobs, the gospel according to Bezos. The same companies are used as deity markers in the likes of the tech press. And the most dangerous part is that these are the ones many of have, or still do, look up to. And we start talking like we’re in their image….

“It’s like the Facebook of Dog Owners”

“Its like Instagram but for Cross Stitch”

“It’s like for Hermaphrodites”

The truth is you and I will never be like them, simple as that, we won’t, our brains aren’t wired like theirs.

And the Valley is like Mount Shasta, there’s a lot of new age deities out there willing to share their dreams, visions and end goals, and they really can’t wait to see you go with them on that journey. And a lot of the time we look at the Valley as the single source of nirvana…. it’s a dangerous thought.

Accelerators as Churches?

There’s been a lot of church growth recently. Accelerators will gather you together and teach you their ways. Sounds a bit like church to me…. listen to our doctrine on “how to be a great startup” and we’ll show you where the riches are. The church is designed by the human race for human consumption, and there are times we need those places (I did, not for a startup, the other one).

As the gatherings followed other look and think, “I want some of that too” and more and more open up, willing to take in any startup that will listen to their preachings. Then the money men and big business get involved and they startup accelerators with the aim of helping (let’s be honest, probably owning) your dreams and visions.

Do yourself a favour and look at the leadership of this church and ask yourself this question: “How do they know this stuff they’re talking about? Did they walk this path or just read about it?”

Anyone preaching the Church of Lean and the Church of Business Model Generation, well they need not preach. You can go to your local Waterstones and buy the books there. Save yourself a lot time, nonsense and pain. There are other paths than those too.

Look at your leaders, do they really have your best intentions at heart, probably not. There are a few, but very few, people I know that are happy to advise without any gain on their part. They’re called friends, they’ll be the most honest with you. Accelerators are promising all sorts and usually want to own part of your soul, it’s like the Church meets Robert Johnston and, when you think about it, that’s a lethal combination.

The Prophets

“a prophet is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.”

There are plenty of voices telling us about the “next big thing” and their shout pieces come through the foghorn of the tech press. Every year it’s the same “What will be big in startup space for 2016”, ultimately even the oracle Gartner only has a rough idea.

Ultimately no one really knows.

A lot of faith is put in the prophets of startup, their guide in the path to supposed riches. With a voice many follow and create things based on their potentially dodgy knowledge. And this is where the blanket terms come out…. messaging apps, BigData which has now led to AI and Deep Learning. “Make these products and you will be guided to the riches…..”. Yeah, right, sure.

The Evangelists

Oh a special place in my heart for these ones because I’ve seen the damage caused in both church and start.


I’ve been to a Benny Hinn crusade, 17,000 people on the inside of the arena (and it was a BIG arena in the UK) and another 5,000 outside. It’s the only time I’ve been truly scared as I thought they would actually break the doors down. There were police helicopters, the works. It was also a long time ago, my life and beliefs are my private business (as in, that’s my  thing and I don’t discuss it with anyone really).

And as startups some put the same faith in the travelling wordsmiths, the ones who can weave a story and sell it to us like the water we need. Ultimately what happens to us as individuals is irrelevant once the evangelist leaves as long as the money is in the bucket. No aftercare, no after thought.

The startup event industry is booming, big and spreading. They only care for startups in the sense of you’ll buy the tickets, you’ll attend, you’ll listen and you may (potentially) be mentally manipulated in such a way you’ll come out a different founder. Once the money is in the bucket though it’s job done and on to the next event. It could be a pitch event (pay to pitch, really?!), or a “network” event where you know most of the people in the room, a tip, if you know 75% of the room already then you’re probably wasting your time.

Blessed are the money makers and the events they run.

So Where Does It End?

Well it doesn’t and if you think about the amount of startups out there, does it end in the Rapture where the 144,000 startups are suddenly picked up and taken to the promised land? Possibly but that does beg the question about the other 98% who invested everything in going to startup church….. well you could start over and be a born again startup.

This, of course, is just an opinion.



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