Startup Sequence Initiated

Paul O'BrienDevelopment5 Comments

Enterprise Stations

We are in an era of ‘prestige television’, with unprecedented choice and quality. So why are so many of us streaming endless reruns of 90s sitcoms?

Richard Godwin; The Guardian

I introduced my daughter, now 14, to Star Trek when she was 12. It’s now *our show* with her begging to stay up late to watch it with Dad, and our family joke being that the only time slightly more mature content comes on the show is when Mom is in the room.

What might throw you for a loop is that I introduced her not to the original series, not the Next Generation, not even Deep Space 9, but Enterprise. In this era of nostalgia, I also introduced my family to MacGyver (the original)… and by extension of Richard Dean Anderson, Stargate SG-1. So of course, with my fond memories of spending time with former scientist Sam Beckett who found himself trapped in time due to an experiment gone awry, leaping into the body of a different person each week, I thought I’d start with Scott Bakula’s turn at the helm.

And in that walk down memory lane, Star Trek: Voyager popped up in my Netflix feed and I found myself consuming way too much mobile data bandwidth binge-ing on those feel good shows of classic TV.

“It seems that, in this time of unprecedented choice and quality, the so-called golden age of prestige television, most of us still want to watch half-hour shows about vaguely likable people in which everything turns out OK. Ideally from the 90s, but maybe the 00s. And preferably something that we have seen many, many times before.”

The Guardian’s Richard Godwin

And that’s when it dawned on me as a startup evangelist and advisor; that in this era of explosive entrepreneurship and social change, we’re all drawn to those familiar experiences that tend to have a happy ending.

But what really dawned is that while we’re drawn to them for the comfort they provide, they might impart more life lessons than we realize or appreciate.

Real Star Trek Technologies

Many are rather familiar with the notion of how the pop culture of Star Trek inspired many of today’s innovations. Television media has long had influence over every aspect of our lives and it should go without saying that stories always inspire.

  • Food Replicator – 3D printed food?
  • Universal Translator – Google translate
  • Tablet Computers – Amazon Kindle and the iPad
  • Holodeck – Augmented Reality
  • Communicator Badge – Drop in on someone in your home with Echo
  • Tractor Beam – Apparently it’s coming

The story that Motorola’s famous flip phone was inspired by Captain Kirk is frequently told story of innovation as they come.

“Martin Cooper led the team at Motorola that developed the world’s first handheld mobile phone.  He was born in 1928.  He served in the US Navy before taking a degree in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).  Despite the fact that AT&T were larger than Motorola and had much greater research resources, Cooper wanted to challenge and if possible to leapfrog the giant.  He has said that watching Captain Kirk using his communicator on the television show Star Trek inspired him with a stunning idea – to develop a handheld mobile phone.”

Destination Innovation

But as you’ll find from a Google search, the exploration of the impact of Gene Roddenberry on the realities of technology today, is a very popular topic.

As I watched Janeway and Chakotay wrestle to bring the Maquis and Federation together, to build a team, what I wanted to share was how we might learn from what it takes to accomplish as mission as astounding as traveling 70,000 light years, through uncharted territory, from the Delta quadrant, to return home.

Your Star Trek Team

In business, your team is paramount.

“What does a firm like Live Oak look for in an investment?” Asked by a Startup Grind Austin audience of LiveOak Venture Partners’ Krishna Srinivasan.

“There are three important things: team, team and team. After team, there is the big question ‘Why now?'”

  • Captain
  • Commander
  • Chief Engineer
  • Medical Officer
  • Communications
  • Pilot
  • Science Officer
  • Head of Security

To be honest, where this exploration occurred to me was while watching J.J. Abrams’ Spock, in the 2009 remake.

“Jim, the statistical likelihood that our plan will succeed is less than 4.3 percent.”

“It’ll work” says Kirk.

Spock takes a seat in the small craft and with a few button presses, the computer reports: “Startup sequence initiated,” and as the Jellyfish lifts off, retracts its landing struts and presumably the gangway as well, then it smoothly heads out of this area and begins flying through the enemy ship to chorus music.

Startup Sequence Initiated. Because of a team that inspires one another to take the risk.

Here’s how you might appreciate those roles though; as I’d imagine, your startup doesn’t have a Chief of Security…

  • Captain the Chief Executive. Few decisions made by this person alone, great CEOs merely make the tough calls and leave the real leadership to the leaders most capable of the work to be done. Always advised, Jean Luc had Deanna Troi, Janeway turned to Tuvok, and Kirk looked to Spock and McCoy, the Captain leads us into undiscovered country but none of it is possible without the people who get the ship there.
  • Commander – Referred to in the show as Number One for a reason, the Commander of Federation ships leads everyone. Evident in Voyager as Tom Paris, the ship’s pilot, goes off the rails (later discovered to be intentional so as to plant him as a spy), Commander Chakotay attempts to handle the challenge of his insubordination. And it’s the Commander who could have been in charge or the Voyager crews’ return home, had it been the Maquis ship instead that survived. “Commander, you have the help.”
  • Chief Engineer – Being the “engineer,” it might be quick to presume this person embodies your CTO or VP Engineering; but that’s not the consideration that I think applies. The Chief Engineer is your head of Revenue. Cash flow is king in a business and on starship, those warp coils has better keep energizing dilithum antimatter particles.

Kirk: How much refit time before we can take her out again?
Scotty: Eight weeks, sir. But ye don’t have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for ye in two.

  • Medical Officer – Continuing with the the analogies that stretch our imagination, our Medical Officer is the CFO / Bookkeeper. Someone is unable to accomplish what we need done, something is broken, we need the resources to get it fixed. And this ship, with the licenses, patents, and taxes to need to file, needs to stay healthy so that we can keep moving forward. And by the way, like the Holographic Doctor of the Voyager, early as a business, this person isn’t needed around as much; hopefully though, your Doctor isn’t as teetotal-ling as McCoy.
  • Communications – What is it really that Nyota Uhura and Hoshi Sato accomplish most for our ship? Business Development. They know the various humanoids, and other aliens, throughout the Universe and they enable the conversation of support while alleviating the challenge of conflict.
  • Pilot – Moving the ship forward in the right direction starts and ends with Promotions, Placement, Public Relations, and what it takes to get there. Aspects of Marketing, too many starships favor the Pilot without the Science Officer who knows the risks and rewards of where to go. Without the Pilot, you’re not moving; but with the Pilot alone, you might be moving in the wrong direction.
  • Science Officer – Marketing. How does your venture KNOW how to proceed? The work of the market starts and ends with the science of studying the universe in which you work and experimenting with opportunities before you. “Once you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” “Change is the essential process of all existence.” Marketing.
  • Head of Security – Who protects your work when challenged by competitors? The efficiency and tough decisions made by Operations. That might be evident in a Chief Operations Officer or it might be as simple as, at this point, having that CRM and infrastructure in place to be familiar with your team, customers, competitors, and investors so that you aren’t caught off guard.

In the immortal words of Jean Luc Picard, “Engage.” And that engagement starts with the team.

Being the Media oriented venture group that we are, be it a band or a movie, there is much we can learn from culture and the stories that inspire us. We voyage because of our team, our team of incredible media professionals and entrepreneurs who know how to help us all, a Federation, if you will.

As entrepreneurs all, the best we can hope for is that you “Live long, and prosper.”

5 Comments on “Startup Sequence Initiated”

  1. Adding to the list of innovations inspired by Star Trek: the talking computer. Siri even sounds a bit like Majel Barrett at times…

    Also, we might not need a chief of security in the Star Trek sense, but the CISO / chief of *cyber* security is certainly important these days.

  2. Wow, Paul you really dug through the archives for that one! And yes, 6 years later & 35 investments later, “team, team, team” is still a key focus for us. So MacGyver’s, Captain Kirk’s, and Sam Beckett’s, bring it on!

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