Why A Startup is Like Chutes and Ladders

You know Chutes and Ladders–the board game (Snakes and Ladders to those of you from the British Commonwealth). It’s popular among the younger set since the game is simple and requires no skill. In fact luck is a major component of success with the game. The goal is to be the first to move through the 100 spaces of the board. If you land on a ladder, you get to go up the ladder and advance a number of spaces equal to the length of the ladder. If you land on a chute, you slide down a number of spaces. Careful observers will note that landing on a ladder and advancing is the result of performing some virtuous task like baking cookies. And going backward down a chute is the punishment for a vice like breaking a window.

It seems to me that the parable of this game is a metaphor for what it’s like creating a startup. And in particular the “two steps forward, one step backward” sensation is very much like raising venture capital. Continue reading