Start Me Up; The Rolling Stones’ Big Idea

Universities are the spark of so much more than workforce ready graduates and life experiences. We’ve explored a bit the incredible media work being done at Arizona State University and while in class, so to speak, Ally Brzezinski gave us snapshot to USC; so it was when the University of Houston shared a big idea, just as I was hanging a picture of Mick Jagger in my living room, that I had to take a closer look.

Actually no, it wasn’t even that coincidence that struck me. Here I am, spending too much time on Facebook, when Ted Cohen sends me a photo Spieker Field at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California as the stage is set for the Stone’s No Filter tour.

And yes, I said I have a picture of Mick Jagger in my living room.

What the Rolling Stones Can Teach You About Startups

That was the headline.

The University of Houston is a Carnegie-designated tier one public research institution. Created in 1970, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, is the framework for classifying colleges and universities in the U.S. and was originally created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching to recognize Universities engaged in the highest levels of research activity. To that end, the University of Houston’s Division of Research is, in particular, enhancing research infrastructure, improving awards management, creating new intellectual property, and enhancing its capacity to secure additional funding.

And they’re studying the Rolling Stones.

Before I get there, let me share a bit more what really excites me about what UH is doing… University research is very often poorly communicated and introduced to the world. Through no real fault of the Universities mind you, as media has evolved in the ways we’re all so familiar, the same challenge that plagues entrepreneurs, artists, and companies, plagues Universities – how to use the internet to capably communicate through online media, social media, podcasts, and the like. We all must work together to help everyone appreciate how MediaTech works, so that everyone might thrive in our inevitably online world.

A step in the great direction in this case? The University of Houston launched The Big Idea.

“We had a lot of questions. Answers led to more questions. Then we discovered that many of the challenges and opportunities we have at the University of Houston are experienced by research offices across the country.

So we decided to write about it.”

— The Big Idea; the University of Houston

The Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, and Bill Wyman; six co-founders.

The longest-performing rock band of all time, the Rolling Stones have greatly influenced rock and roll throughout the decades. Beginning as part of the British Rock Invasion of the 1960s, the Rolling Stones quickly distinguished themselves in the market as the “bad-boy” band.

Keep in mind, this was the 1960s, when The Beatles were considered a threat because they had longer hair.

Influenced by predecessors, in a competitive market with the other, then dominant brand (The Beatles), innovative, inclusive, and impactful, the notion of learning about entrepreneurship from a band starts to resonate when you think about it.

Rene Cantu, Writer/Editor for the UH Division of Research, brings the research to life

“Let’s Spend the Night Together”

“Chemistry, the non-science-y kind,” shares Cantu, “is one of the most overlooked aspects of startups for entrepreneurs. The chemistry a team of individuals have with each other makes for a positive company culture that maintains high morale.”

Not sure?

See the trend? Even Techstars, one of our favorite Accelerators, has noted time and again that they decisions they make about the startups they engage comes down to one simple evaluation: the team.

“For startups, a strong company culture composed of like-minded individuals working together with chemistry is a prime way to keep your employees motivated, especially when your company is so young, you cannot pay them very much. You have to remember that most startups are extremely tiny, with 2 to 3 people even, so chemistry is vital. You want to have a culture where you can air your grievances with each other and be honest about your company,”

“Time Is On Your Side”

“A good startup sees its employees working together, functioning as a well-oiled machine, spending long nights together figuring out problems, taking turns ordering Chinese for late meetings, checking each other’s work, and learning each other’s personalities to more effectively communicate.” Cantu continues, “It takes time. But if the chemistry isn’t there naturally, it’ll be there once you put in the time to iron out each other’s wrinkles.”

“Start Me Up

Startups exist because entrepreneurs and founders see an opportunity to be innovation and the potential of being so by way of having more control over what they’re doing; rather than working within a company.

The Big Idea spoke with James Briggs, Ph.D., Professor of biochemistry at the University of Houston and president and CFO of Metabocentric Biotechnologies, and noted that very decision on the part of their own researchers; asked why Professor Briggs launched his own startup, “Primarily, it was because we felt that development of the technology stood a much better chance if we prosecuted it rather than trying to find a licensing partner.”

In 1970, the Rolling Stones’ relationship with Decca Records expired and with the band’s traction and experience to that point, they were able strike out on their own with the launch of their label. The result? More control over their music: creatively and financially.

A startup.

Beast of Burden

“Pharmaceutical companies, now, look to small biotech startups to de-risk the lead and approach before they consider partnerships or acquisitions,” shared Briggs during UH Startup Pains event. “Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to buy failure, they want to buy the success. So they make sure to look for small biotech companies who bring their tech to a point where it is de-risked enough that a partnership suddenly becomes less of a risk to undertake.”

And that’s the burden you’ve signed on to bear as a founder, “Researching for investors, virtually begging for money,” notes Cantu, “Entering competitions, updating your tech, growing your team, commercializing your product, and staying relevant.”

“Under Your Thumb”

“Much like the Stones’ newfound ability to control their own music by not having the tentacles of Decca Records around it, you keep more control of your tech.”

Rene Cantu; The Big Idea, Start Me Up: What the Rolling Stones Can Teach You About Startups

You’re starting a band.

Granted, I prefer to entertain the idea that we’re, in MediaTech Ventures, starting The Beatles; next to that Mick Jagger photo on my wall is one of John and Paul, but regardless, you get the idea.

And think about the roles such artist entrepreneurs play by coming together.

  • Ringo, er, sorry, Charlie Watts to keep the team on pace
  • Bill Wyman to make sure the work has soul
  • Ian Stewart to spin a story into something infectious
  • Brian Jones and Keith Richards to transform what we expect of strings
  • And Keith Richards to tell us a story

The result is a product, distinction, and a market, that creates customers. And as startups create, a brand (a band) that changes the world.

Comments on Start Me Up; The Rolling Stones’ Big Idea

  • Neal Murthy

    Good stuff, Paul!

  • Patrick Talley

    how is this not a bit dubious …the stones haven’t been a startup since the 60’s

  • Dustin Stewart

    Start Me Up is from the 80s and is associated with tech via the famous Windows ‘95 marketing campaign…

  • Paul O’Brien

    It’s an analogy 😉

  • Lloyd Watts

    Paul O’Brien – Great article. Love the Rock band analogy.

Start Me Up; The Rolling Stones’ Big Idea

by Paul O'Brien time to read: 5 min