Startups, Just Pick Up An Instrument!


I work on 20Skaters, ThreeFortyNine, Ontario Startup Train and a few others. My vanity site is

I reference this great post by Jason Fried almost weekly. He compares learning to create new businesses to learning to play an instrument. Getting is more about pickup up an instrument and making noise around like minded folks than it is about pitch contests and incubators.

My kids and I were watching Danny MacAskill’s video the other night.

My son asked “how did he learn how to do all of that?” Luckily we happened to be about 30 seconds into the video. At that point Danny falls a few times. I answered my son “that’s how he did it. He made it up, had a silly plan, tried it hundreds of times with small course corrections each time”.

Another video my kids and I watch often is Edward Sharpe performing live.

Beyond the music, I enjoy watching how Alex leads. He spends more time facing his bandmates and interacting with them than any audience. Clearly there’s a framework in place in the form of a structured song but it’s clear he expects creation from each member in the moment. Stumbling and failure are part of creation. You can see Alex smile when a bandmate makes a mistake. You can see more of this style in this NPR video…

I’m of the opinion that team formation and project definition are artificially forced to occur too early in startups. A mandate for me at ThreeFortyNine and Startupify.Me are to allow them to happen as late as possible. If we all focus more on finding ways to pick up an instrument and jam together, the rest will work itself out. Someone will write great songs that we’ll be attracted to playing them. Others will book shows. Maybe you’re more like Alex and will do all of the above, enabling and leading incredible artists to create great music. Or maybe you’ll be one of those awesome musicians reinventing Alex’s songs everyday. Don’t worry about all that today, just pickup an instrument and find some people to play with!