Sunday, March 25, 2007

The 300: An Allegory of a Start-up?

In college, I had a class on Freudian literary analysis. I learned that if you look hard enough you can always find a phallus somewhere.

Well, now that my mind is awhirl with startups every waking minute, I've take to doing "startup literary analysis". Here is my startup version of The 300.

A senior manager (King Leonidas) leaves his company (Sparta, Inc.) with his best employees and forms a new company(the 300). Microsoft *cough* I mean the Persians, wanting to dominate the marketplace declares war on the company (but only after trying to buy them out first). Leonidas being a smart entrepreneur chooses a small niche (the Hot Gates) from which to make a stand. Wisely, it's a niche whose terrain is very familiar to Leonidas and his men. They arrive in the niche before the Persians and erect a barrier to entry (literally). The Persians throw millions of dollars at the niche, but the 300 are able to withstand the onslaught because they are top-notch entrepreneurs who trust each other to do their job and do it well.

Finally, Bill Gates *ahem* Xerxes meets with Leonidas and offers him 300 millions dollars for his company and the position of Senior Vice President of Greece. He declines. Even at a SVP salary, he'll still be only a wage slave.

Meanwhile, a disgruntled employee, Ephialtes, betrays the 300, revealing to Xerxes a flaw in the Spartan's business strategy that the Spartans hoped no one would realize.

Xerxes uses this information to flank the Spartans in the marketplace.

Leonidas, knowing that his company is doomed, he doesn't have enough resources to fight on two fronts, and the venture capital he was hoping for never appears. He makes a final glorious stand against the giant corporation and is destroyed. His flameout inspires other entrepreneurs and convinces venture capitalists that its a market worth fighting for.

A year later, a fully capitalized startup led by a former employee of Leonidas does battle in the marketplace and carves out a respectable marketshare.

Of course, if this was taking place in Silicon Valley, Leonidas would form another company a year later to fight Google.

Cast of Characters (partial)
Leonidas - CEO
Captain - COO
Xerxes - Bill Gates
Ephialtes - Disgruntled Salesperson
The Spartan Senate - Board of Directors, Sparta Inc.
Ephors - Business Strategy Consultants (McKinsey?)