No Battle Plan Survives The First Enemy Fire

I have been using this line a lot lately. It is a bastardized version of Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke's "No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength."

I always encourage entrepreneurs to get on with the business of putting their product in the market. All the planning and designing and strategizing and grand plans of taking over the world are no match for reality.

The real world is messy. Stuff happens that you could never imagine. And then you are reacting to all of that and your grand plans are in tatters. That's reality. It happens to everyone.

So no point in waiting in the hopes that you will nail it. You won't. The enemy will take fire, you will hit the deck and then the good stuff starts.

#mobile#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Drew Meyers

    Working on building an MVP now…

    1. William Mougayar

      Great. Get it out in 8 weeks if you can, then iterate.

      1. Drew Meyers

        Aiming to beat that timeline. But of course I’m potentially overly’s just a few hours of coding, right? πŸ™‚

  2. William Mougayar

    Very well said & true. But often, it’s not the enemy you worry about. It’s user adoption, even without enemies in sight.Β The enemy is whether you can move the hearts, minds and clicks of users.Β But if the enemy is the competition in your context, then definitely – do not worry do much about them, because your early users will give you the ammunition you need to defeat the enemy.Β 

    1. awaldstein

      The enemy is most often time.Bend that to your advantage and the runway looks wider and more steady.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yes. I would add Timing too.Time & Timing. They are related.

        1. awaldstein

          If you have some time, and it is the scarcest of currencies, timing is still important just not everything.

      2. JimHirshfield

        The enemy is in your mind. The race is typically lost by a matter of inches; the distance between your two ears.Don’t know who said it, but one of my favorites.

        1. awaldstein


        2. JamesHRH

          game of inches between your ears is usually a golf quote….

          1. JimHirshfield

            That may be. I’m not a golfer, but I love the quote. Coming up short, but I recall golf having lots of life lesson quotes.

          2. JamesHRH

            ‘the smaller the ball the better the writing’ is a sports maxim ….although I have never seem much writing at all about marbles πŸ˜‰

          3. JimHirshfield

            I don’t know what that quote means. :-/

          4. JamesHRH

            HIstory shows – for whatever reason – that basketball writing is not as good as football, football not as good as baseball & baseball not as good as golf.It is usually correlated to the decreasing pace of each game – if there is more time to think inside the actual game, then it attracts better thinkers to write about it.Less fandom in the writing.

          5. JimHirshfield

            iDidNotKnowThat. Thx.

      3. fredwilson


      4. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        +100 timely comment.

    2. fredwilson

      The “enemy” is anything that gets in the way of success

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        The enemy – often – lies within…

        1. William Mougayar

          Definitely. Who said…”We have met the enemy and it is us.” OR “Keep your friends close, your enemies closer.”

  3. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I just posted this in Codecademy blog entry from yesterday. Even more apt today…Anyone who’s tried to start a high-tech business quickly learns that what’s taught in business school is nearly useless – via @theeconomist today.Off-topic: RIP, Gore Vidal. Genius.

    1. awaldstein

      ‘Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the face’Hardly genius but undeniably true.

      1. JamesHRH

        I disagree – totally genius and one of life’s great lessons!

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        I love that quote. So raw.My face is a bloodied mess, lol πŸ˜‰

        1. awaldstein

          We never forget the really bruising days: the monster deal that fell through, the key person leaving, earthquakes closing down the data center, stock plunges, horrid press.I look back on my career and feel fortunate. I look forward to the new bruises even more so! I do love the game.

      3. bsoist

        Excellent! Did you come up with that?

        1. awaldstein

          Mike Tyson!

      4. JLM

        .There is great wisdom in that statement.As military cadets, we had to take boxing. When we were practicing our form, we were all upright, brave, full of piss and vinegar. It was a jolly undertaking and we were dangerous fellows. Quite pleased with ourselves.Then we started to spar a bit. Nothing too intense.Then we boxed — 3 one minute rounds, the equivalent of about a week of any other exercise.Then you got punched in the nose or you punched someone else in the nose and it was “game the fuck on”.Some guys just melted. Good bleeders usually to boot. Looking for their manhood, boxing was not it. But they had taken a deep draught of that cup of pain. Fair play to them.And some guys — some guys — calmly took the measure of the situation and decided they were going to kill you.After we developed some skill — and 4 years of boxing training will develop some skill — you could figure out who the killers and assassins were.The guys who could “take a punch” and then calmly come for you. Not with excitement but with cold cunning. And they would come for you like a lioness stalking a wildebeest. And you would return the favor.I used to box with my bridge partner — cadets play a lot of bridge for some reason. And we were the greatest of friends.Until we got in that ring and then I wanted to kill him and he wanted to reciprocate politely.We roomed next door to each other and there was many a night that I nursed a black eye with ice or a split lip knowing I had evened the ledger more than a bit.I may just challenge him to a match come our 40th reunion next year..

        1. awaldstein

          I’m so glad you are part of this community my friend.It’s like a glimpse of a completely different world from mine that strikes ever so true and translates into meaning in my own terms.

          1. LE

            “I’m so glad””completely different world from mine”Agree. I think about that frequently with respect to first responders as well (police/fire etc.). Our tribe (if I understand what I believe you are saying) wasn’t raised that way.

          2. awaldstein

            Not I but I sleep better knowing there are people who are awake and alert honestly.

    2. Tom Labus

      I re read Burr every few years and always find something new.

      1. David Clarke

        Me too. That & ‘Lincoln’ are worth a library of nonsensical business books. Wonder how Tim Geithner would react if challenged to a duel a la Burr/Hamilton. Sad to think of it today with Vidal’s death, but he has left behind a durable legacy.

  4. awaldstein

    I’ve never used the Field Marshall’s quote but the messiness of life and the market…and communities, for that matter, is a truth I’ve lived every day of my career.”Just do it’ is the greatest slogan of all time.

    1. Aaron Klein

      I just have to compliment you on LocalSip on this topic. Perfect example of shipping a product that didn’t wait too long but actually makes a great first impression. Hitting that balance is hard.

      1. awaldstein

        Wow..thanks.So hard actually. Sleepless night hard.The other part of the equation is of course how to roll it out. How to get attention without shouting. How to target getting users without the big buzz spike and fade.Early market, MVP product, low burn and slow roll is my mantra for now.This is a marathon that will pick up speed as the course gets clearer.

        1. William Mougayar

          “low burn & slow roll”. Words of wisdom.

        2. RichardF

          Arnold, I think theLocalSip is a great idea, wine lends itself perfectly to the marketplace and community that you are creating.What is your reasoning for not having anything on the home page that explains what the local sip is or a link to the about page

          1. awaldstein

            Good Qs!This was intentional.theLocalSip at first blush is a platform tool for community shops to build and publish their own tasting events and content and load SKUs into the marketplace. First behavior is to make this tool their own. They are.Early usage (7 days now) is showing the platform to be super easy to use. Page views per visitor are really encouraging. Stores are making amazing content. There are 150 SKUs purchaseable with a click or two anywhere online.Getting emails like “I didn’t know they made a sparkling wine from Poulsard in the Jura.” How do you know that is my response?” ‘I saw this…(thelocalsip shareable tasting object with embedded transaction is sent to me’).Bingo!I believed I could get first few thousand enthusiasts to use this. They will find the next 5-10K with some help from me. Wine tasting supersipper crawls are coming.Then I’ll put a door on this when I figure out what color to paint it as it extends beyond my subway stops

          2. William Mougayar

            You’re re-inventing the home page concept during beta. It’s like finding a great restaurant that has a very inconspicuous door. But once you’re inside, it’s amazing.

          3. awaldstein

            There’s a back story here of course πŸ™‚ I’m starting to wireframe out a home page now as I think it through.I have bloggers, enthusiasts, distributors and paid event people starting to find me slowly.Right now we have a basic language developing between these truly amazing wine shops and a group of enthusiasts.I’m letting the syntax develop (if that metaphor works) with this group.There are 3.5M wine enthusiasts in the country who spend over $5K each and maybe 1-5K places where they buy. And some 65M folks who just buy where they buy. No community. No structures. Completely fragmented. Create value, efficiency and connect interest to knowledge and passion and maybe there is something there.

          4. William Mougayar

            You’re doing it right in my opinion. Low expectations on the in, good experience and value on the out.

          5. awaldstein

            Thanks William. We shall see.It’s a huge biz ($36B in US last year) wrapped in convoluted tiers and layers. And many companies from Lot18 to startups targeting it through variations of flash sales and demographic specific offerings.The top 15% of the buyers spend more per capita and influence the next big group below them. Do something right and provide value to them and you are serving a purpose.And of course, never! pick up a bottle except to pour it into your glass.

          6. JamesHRH

            Arnold – we are in the 65M sector, although in CAN.We know a little, spend a lot (I think, compared to the market) & always enjoy finding someone who can provide expertise (which happens on a random basis).FWIW.

          7. awaldstein

            Canada is a tough place to be interested in artisanal wines. Hard access as @wmoug:disqus and I discuss often.The chain of referrals in wine generally is not very fluid and of the millions of socials shares less than 1% of them actually carry a transaction with them.Wine is so replete with interest and passion and so devoid of working social nets.Thanks!

          8. John Revay

            Great demographics

    2. David Semeria

      I prefer Mark Suster’s iteration: JFDI

      1. JimHirshfield

        I like that…it’s like JEDI, with a branch trimmed off the E

      2. awaldstein

        Don’t know that one..but I’m in.Bball cap quality for certain.

        1. JamesHRH

          Nike slogan – with emphasis.

  5. Alan Mendelevich

    While I totally agree with this in general I found out that quite often we are reacting to the “first enemy fire” not knowing if the “enemy” has any ammo for the second round. I mean I’ve reacted to user feedback which was based mostly on their first instinctive reaction to the product and their overall expectations in the area you work in. I’ve reacted just to find out later that it was a mistake and had to pull out of the thing over time.Still, all other feedback was really useful but that one thing kind of set the precedent and cost a substantial chunk of time/money.

    1. fredwilson

      How you react to enemy fire is a fascinating topic and would be a great series for AVC

      1. JLM

        .β€œthere is no more exhilarating feeling than being shot at without result”.

        1. William Mougayar

          Exactly. And they wear themselves out in the process.Business analogy is when you see the competition headed in a direction that will lead them no where. Or they copy you but get no traction. Let them.Lots of great quotes today. I will retweet some of them.

      2. Rick Colosimo

        Fred, isn’t this the purpose of good business plans? A well-constructed financial model identifies assumptions, such as price points, terms, and sales cycles. As experience (enemy fire) accumulates, those assumptions get marked to market so the board can re-evaluate the company’s strategy as needed.It’s the tactical version of scenario planning, which identifies big picture assumptions that would also affect strategic decisions in a trigger – cause – effect chain.

      3. John Best

        Without a doubt. Most recent example: Twitter’s “cashtags”.

      4. andyidsinga

        yes![edit: plus that post about education ;p ]

      5. LE

        I think there are many ways in the interview process to simulate (fair and unfair) how someone reacts under pressure.

    2. pointsnfigures

      I am struggling with the word “feedback”. We launched a boutique product, It is a boutique target market-not a scalable start up-but ironically the principles and execution behind it are the same. Asked for “feedback”. But I think we need to be specific in what we want to learn. Feedback is too broad.

      1. falicon

        Yes – the more specific questions you ask, the more solid answers you will get…and the closer you’ll get to the heart of it all…’why’.For something like seatleaser, you probably want to be asking specific questions about how the service did (or didn’t) ease the pain of buying or selling a seat lease…and don’t just ask questions, watch behavior (where and when are people dropping off in the process, what path are people taking? Which ones are they ignoring?) Then ask them specific questions about that behavior…it’s a long uphill journey to getting it right (but it’s also the stuff that will bring the biggest reward in the end if you’re willing to do it longer than anyone else).

  6. John Best

    I love that quote. That and Eisenhower’s – “I have always found plans to be useless, but planning to be invaluable.”The sooner you move from plan to test, the better you are at reacting. Be aware that nothing will go as planned, but that doesn’t mean that the act of considering the variables and ways in which the wheels can come off isn’t useful.

    1. fredwilson

      i love that eisenhower quote. i like it even more than the quote i used on this post. wow, that is insightful

    2. William Mougayar

      And knowing when to change your plan or what parts of it to change is important.

    3. Ryan Kiskis

      I’m glad you noted the Eisenhower quote as well – I find a lot of startups now neglecting ANY planning in favour of just chucking stuff out the door in the name of MVP. The rest of the quote is: “There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of emergency is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.” Preparing doesn’t mean nailing down exactly what will happen, but it DOES mean considering different options and establishing a set of common values/themes on how to respond…

    4. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      great quote!! I think planning does put you in particular mindset that gets your ready for the unexpected.

  7. Humberto

    that looks like a message to some startup in particular..

    1. fredwilson

      a bunch actually

      1. JimHirshfield

        A portfolio-full

        1. JamesHRH

          of startups that are not in a portfolio but could be……?

          1. JimHirshfield

            Yes, put them in the pool too!

      2. Humberto

        i meant it looked liked you were reacting to some news or some email. not that i’ve associated it with any external news, it’s just the way its written… the tone and pace is interestingsomewhere between grandfatherly advice and a batman symbol in the skies (I know you’re feeling this, and it’s alright, and i’m backing you up).

  8. Guest

    The other point is that even the best laid plans cannot take into account the opportunities the are created once you hit the ground running.Hillbilly Philosophy: “Shit Happens…”So many times I have seen start ups and turnarounds struggle to succeed in what they started out in or in the market they initially were in but if they had just stepped back or looked up out of their foxholes they would have found their real opportunities….You never know what lies ahead until you tie up your tennis shoes and hit the trail…..

    1. Trish Fontanilla

      I agree about focusing on opportunity. To throw in my analogy… haha… my boss was a screenwriter in another life. As a writer, you spend so much time on your own, writing and re-writing a script. Then you head into casting and the actor who’s had your script for 2 minutes interprets it in a way that you’ve never thought of in the 2 years that you’ve been working on it.We had all these fancy ideas of the “ideal” way people were going to use our product, then boom… launched the beta and immediately got feedback on what people were actually using it for. I think startups need to see their customers as collaborators instead of critics waiting to pounce. And even potential “enemies”, their success means there’s a market for us… that and they’ll never be us (as a team, as a company, as a voice, etc).

      1. Guest

        Sometimes, owners/founders are like parents who have given birth to their first child; they marvel at their creation.I see this a lot when dealing with lines of art and artists/designers.Maybe they even have shown their baby to the market and the market loved it. So they then believe the world wants more of their little precious baby.Within a year the market has totally forgotten about their little baby.From adoration to one hit wonder.One core attribute of success is to give the customer what they want, even if they do not know what they want. Even Steve Jobs understood that.I sell tee shirts, they are expensive compared to others, and I “listen” to my customers….That does not mean that I then go and produce cheap tee shirts, but rather it means by listening I then have an opportunity to explain to my customers why “cheap” is not always a value.

  9. mattb2518

    Very true. This is why Lean Startup methodologies are taking root. You are constantly adjusting the battle plans as the early skirmishes are underway.

  10. kidmercury

    no doubt. all you need is a mission statement in my opinion. if you want to get fancy you think in terms of disruptive theory — i.e. what is the job the customer is hiring you to get done, and what is your enabling technology? i think having a framework and ask the right questions can help you think deeply about how to iterate as you inevitably fail and embarrass other news, india got their power back! out of all the doom and gloom i share on this blog, nothing is more doom and gloom than the prospects of an energy crisis. what happened in india stands a very good chance of happening in other places in my opinion if the energy crisis is not dealt with. the problem is largely legislative here, we need to make it easier for companies in this sector to get started. fewer regulations lowers the cost for entrepreneurs and makes investment capital easier. banning fracking, coal, and nuclear only raises the prospects of a global blackout.

    1. fredwilson

      Is energy highly regulated in India?

      1. kidmercury

        sort of, in that india relies largely on coal and the coal industry is basically a state monopoly there (which many argue creates coal shortages that would not result if it was more of a free market industry). there are also energy subsidies for farmers which has been attributed as one of the causes of an overburdened grid. they are making the transition to greater nuclear but it is going to take time.heres an article i liked for those who are itnerested:

      2. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Such a complex society, booming demand, disparate communities, huge centralised powerhouses (eg, Mumbai), an old infrastructure = cannot meet the demands/logistics. Huge and fascinating topic…

      1. kidmercury

        the mobile payments solution sounds very exciting! reminds me of what nuru international — http://www.nuruinternationa… — a non-profit is doing in remote villages in africa. i like this approach more than most others.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith


    2. JLM

      .It is amazing given the magnitude of the energy resources in the US — coupled with being bled white looking for some job creation and retention — that we do not have a coherent energy policy.A coherent energy policy would address energy, energy costs, international balance of payments, trade deficit, CPI implications, job creation and retention, strategic military issues and global competition.And the craziest thing is that we would improve on ALL of them.And, we have nothing.We are contemplating going to war over oil coming through the Straits of Hormuz when we could make that oil irrelevant to the international balance of power by having a coherent American energy policy.We are really not this stupid. Are we?.

      1. Guest

        Outside of the Department of Defense (and of course, CIA and NSA) that has a coherent anything?How about an industrial policy? Or….Wouldn’t that list be endless?What is coherent within the whelm of government?

  11. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Let me translate this post.Cut the bullshit and give the damn bloody thing to the user and let user tell about it …. then let us sit across the table and talk.

    1. falicon

      I really like this translation. πŸ™‚

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam


  12. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    I also liked his other quote … which is even better… from a world renounced strategist.” Strategy is a system of expedients”

  13. Irving Fain

    This is one of the reasons I’m not a big fan of companies in “stealth”. Occasionally there’s merit to it, but most of the time it’s simply delaying the collection of valuable feedback and perspectives. I say this often, but in our case we should have launched earlier with less. Amazing what we learned even in day 1 with real users, not just “testers”

  14. JimHirshfield

    “Fuck it. Ship it” – @borthwick You Digg?

    1. falicon

      Nice! I have a bunch of these stickers from the guys as well…good stuff πŸ˜‰

  15. William Mougayar

    Here’s what you are simply saying: the enemy is the market.Β Get your product out there, take the first fire, change your plans, and come back to fight another day. Do it again on the 2nd fire.Β Listen to the market, and the market will become your friend, not your enemy.Β 

    1. pointsnfigures

      And make sure you have enough in reserve so you can pivot. No one can fight with one hand behind their back.

      1. William Mougayar

        yes, agreed. thanks

  16. Tom Labus

    The world’s a harsh place and cares zip about your plans until people take notice.And after they do you still will catch a lot of heat.Facebook and Zynga come to mind this week.

  17. LIAD

    Read the short military doctrine ‘War Fighting’ by the US Marine Corps.Concise, well elucidated strategies and tactics for business and life.…On DisorderIn an environment of friction, uncertainty, and fluidity, war gravitates naturally toward disorder. Like the other attributes of war, disorder is an inherent characteristic of war; we can never eliminate it. In the heat of battle, plans will go awry,Instructions and information will be unclear and misinterpreted, communications will fail, and mistakes and unforeseen events will be commonplace. It is precisely this natural disorder which creates the conditions ripe for exploitation by an opportunistic will.Each encounter in war will usually tend to grow increasingly disordered over time.As the situation changes continuously, we are forced to improvise again and again until finally our actions have little, if any, resemblance to the original scheme.

    1. JLM

      .The best fairly contemporary read on the nature of war which any civilian can understand.The science of war and war fighting is really quite intellectual and complex.The military educational system with stops at basic course, company commander’s course, advanced course, Command and General Staff, Army War College (merged with the Industrial War College) and advanced civilian education (Gen Petreaus PhD from Princeton) is really a system for continuous learning peppered with command assignments (plt, co, bn, bde, div, corp, army, army gp).The combination of command performance and education determines who wears how many stars. Plus a bit of luck, having a great rabbi (mentor) at an early age and peer evaluations.Getting a single star is a pretty rarefied achievement. Getting 4 is miraculous. Toughest meritocracy on the planet.The big issue is the raw material — the ability to be smart on the drop zone and 20 miles away. You have to be rugged enough to be in the fight. Only then can you deploy your intelligence..

    2. Rick Colosimo

      Funny: I’m actually writing a business strategy book based on Clausewitz.

      1. John Best

        Clausewitz > Sun Tzu, but he doesn’t get name-checked as often.

      2. JamesHRH

        Have you heard of Jack Trout & Al Ries?They wrote the book on writing books based on von Clausewitz πŸ˜‰

        1. William Mougayar

          I love Marketing Warfare and Positioning: The Battle for your Mind. Classics. Trout & Ries became my marketing heroes since 1987. I had 2 original paintings commissioned based on marketing warfare (the 4 strategies) and the mind behind Positioning. They were in my office at HP. I still have them.

          1. JamesHRH

            That’s hilarious. I was first introduced to them in my first job, circa 1990. Hands down the best.Love to see a pic of the paintings.

          2. William Mougayar

            I will dig it’s somewhere in “storage” with other things from the 80’s prob πŸ™‚

          3. JamesHRH

            you have enough on your hand – I will let my imagination suffice!

        2. Rick Colosimo

          Thanks – I’ll add those references to my research pile.

    3. JamesHRH

      The best marketing theories are all based on von Clausewitz.



  18. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    This reminds me of something Eric Ries said during one of his talks. He basically said that pre-product release questionares are kind of useless because most of what your ‘customers’ say they would buy or not buys is usually false. It is only after the release of the product and first contact with the customer that you get your answer.

    1. JamesHRH

      don’t listen to what customers say; watch what they do.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen


      2. ShanaC

        most people are bad at watching. Same reason we’re all prone to misdirection – we want to see what we want to see

        1. Rick Colosimo

          Revealed preferences meets confirmation bias => lower than expected free cash flows for the unwary.

      3. Scott Barnett

        so true…. you can talk all you want, but peoples actions will always tell you a lot more than their words. I’ve seen too much analysis paralysis and not enough actual watching and real data gathering

    2. muratcannoyan

      Could not agree with this more.

    3. Kirsten Lambertsen

      True that.



      1. ShanaC

        not necessarily the case. There are many things I want that can’t be sold. I’m sure I am not unique that way either.

      2. LE

        Insert “enough” into above thought.

  19. Tommaso

    It sounds good, but I disagree. You need a plan, and a direction of where you going, otherwise you will never get there. Have a plan, go out, measure against your plan, and keep going. Having a good sense of resource allocation, we enable you to grow, without a plan you will die under your enemy fire.

  20. andyswan

    The corollary to this is that you must have a core. Something for which your business stands for.Something that you can literally etch into marble today for display at your company HQ 50 years from now.Without a core, enemy fire turns you into a “pivoting”, screaming little girl. I’ve seen it a hundred times…it’s awful to watch the ROOMBApreneurs. Always a new idea.With a strong core, things like enemy fire, battlefield conditions and other unknowns are unlikely to cause panic. You know where you’re going…you’re just not sure how to get there yet.Define your core first. Then make your product. Then go to market. Then make your product good.

    1. Aaron Klein

      Did I mention that If this “revolutionizing how we invest” thing doesn’t work out, Riskalyze is going to pivot into a social mobile local dating app to assess your risk of a date going poorly?And if that doesn’t work, there is always gamified photo sharing, perhaps with some daily deal thumbkissing for good measure.It reminds me of one of Dwight Schrute’s first tweets: “Attention deficit disorder is a real malady that affects millions of Ameri…oh look, a new kind of moth!”

      1. andyswan

        You were 0.5 buzzwords away from a Swan angel investment! Do you think perhaps that your pivot might focus on the BIG DATA opportunities in the emerging open computing space?

        1. Aaron Klein

          When one considers the opportunities that socially gamified big data virtualization presents when merged with consumerized enterprise cloud computing thin client architecture, you just want to throw money and time at things with reckless abandon.I take checks or cash.

          1. baba12

            That’s how FBI Sentinel was built for $600MM. Use of words & many powerpoint presentations by the boiz/gurlz of the Big 4 consulting companies milking the udders of of government.Yummy.

          2. Aaron Klein

            Indeed. Governments are unparalleled in their ability to throw money at buzzwords. πŸ™‚

          3. baba12

            also private companies get a bulk of their revenues from Federal State & local Govt’s.Oracle, IBM & Accenture to name a few get about 40% from those silos, yet they all want less govt too.Really funny.Well coming to what Mr.Wilson was talking about, which is more or less agile development etc works in certain conditions, even Oracle can’t deploy their latest SQL server without running through a whole bunch of testing as the costs for failing are much higher for them than say a twitter deploying a half baked code at most they have to put up an image of a whale, Oracle’s of the world would not be able to get away with a “fail whale” image.Context is important.

          4. Aaron Klein

            Private companies as a whole do not get the bulk of their revenues from governments. You are certainly correct that many enterprise software companies do. Oracle made a habit of ripping the State of California big-time in the last decade. Those two really deserve each other.

          5. baba12

            well I should be more specific, I’d say many private companies especially in the Technology services business like IBM or Oracle/Dell etc along with their consulting brethren get a good chunk of their revenues from Fed,State & Local govt’s

          6. karen_e

            God, that is depressing.

          7. ShanaC

            that is sick, that amount of money and the people involved.

          8. PhilipSugar

            Totally agree

          9. JamesHRH

            You should take this act on the Tech Conference road….

          10. Aaron Klein


          11. Donna Brewington White

            We are such an irreverent bunch! I can’t believe @fredwilson:disqus puts up with us. A saint he is.

          12. Donna Brewington White

            You left out mobile interface.

          13. Aaron Klein

            Dang! You know that knocked a lot off the valuation.

          14. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            +1what did you have today? I want one of that.

          15. Aaron Klein

            That early in the morning, it’s just coffee. I don’t switch to coke zero until noon. πŸ™‚

      2. ShanaC

        I actually want that – most algorithm driven dating actually doesn’t work!

        1. Pete Griffiths

          neither does most dating πŸ˜‰

          1. LE

            Beg to differ. It’s a mismatch of expectations on the part of both parties. And a matter of putting in the effort. You are only trying to find one person. Of course it’s difficult. If it were easy everybody would be compatible with everybody and that’s not in the design of people.One person’s steak is another person’s hamburger. Not everyone loves Lox and Lobster.For some reason when people purchase objects they understand what they can afford. They don’t get frustrated trying to buy a $1 million house when they can only afford a $500,000 house. Same with cars. They are happy with what fits them given their purchasing power. Generally. They learn to temper their expectations with what they are entitled to based upon their resources. We know what happens as well when they try to go over their head.I mean this with no disrespect to people on this blog who are trying to date and can’t find someone. I understand that some of you (say Shana) are simply located in the wrong place where the supply and demand are not in balance. You are excused (although I’m sure I could improve on it even given that [1]).I’m speaking to the rest of you who are living where the supply and demand are closer together and don’t have some weird reason why they can’t date. It can be done. But don’t expect it to happen w/o kissing a few frogs and, most importantly, getting your expectations in line with what you are able to offer. And don’t go down any roads unless you are willing to take the positives and negatives of that journey. Think about the consequences in advance. And see if it’s doable. [2][1] You are a train ride away from a zillion guys. You may have to decide between living in NYC and having a special someone. Or find that special someone that can and will move to NYC. NYC is a great place to be single. You just have to decide what is important to you. Having fun or having a person you can live with for the rest of your life. (And remember, TMI on the first date is a killer..)[2] I know a person who is married now. After the first date (which went well) he researched the area the person he ended up married to was living in and saw the real estate prices and what it would cost to move to that area from where he was. As well as his business. Only after he determined it was something he could, and would do, did he go out on more dates. No sense in wasting time, right? (One day I might say who that person is..)

          2. Pete Griffiths

            I think you may have misunderstood me. I was simply (light heartedly) pointing out that whilst in ShanaC’s opinion algorithmic dating doesn’t work, neither does a lot of non-algorithmic dating. It’s not a science and no matter how hard you work algorithmically or more conventionally, results may vary. πŸ™‚

        2. baba12

          what works with dating is similar to covalent bonds that exist in nature. Figure that out and you have a wonderful partnership else you continue to find a new combination.

          1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            @baba12:disqus ionic bond is the strongest bond in chemistry … covalent is weak … sharing…not attraction.

          2. baba12

            well I was not referring to the strongest bond in chemistry but merely pointing out how dating could become a partnership (sharing). Ionic bonds are strongest but work specifically with metals bonding with non metals for one and two they don’t work well if the valence electrons are more than 2, more energy needed to transfer to form the octet. In any case the idea was if two people date and form a covalent bond that is pure it is pretty long lasting. there is no transfer but sharing that happens.Now back to the regular programming…

        3. Mark Essel

          Dating is like investing, if you have only one big return you’re successful.

          1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

            @43c427f1fe62eb5f74fe6782a257f2ac:disqus I would rather look at it as ‘start-up’ … flirting first with idea… and then consume yourself into it …if it works :-).btw, what r u doing at this odd-hour?

          2. Mark Essel

            That’s my reading/commenting time, 4-5am

    2. awaldstein

      Companies that understand who they are evolve with more grace and athleticism.I’m not a big believer in cool ideas. I’m a huge supporter of thoughts that evolve over time and find some balance even before they have a market.I try to choose my clients and projects with this top of mind.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      “Without a core, enemy fire turns you into a “pivoting”, screaming little girl.”I am requesting a @FAKEGRIMLOCK illustration of this wonderful visual you just gave me… and I would wear a shirt with this on it.



        1. Brandon Burns

          HA! Yes, Disqus mobile has a habit of doing that (all too frequently). Feel your pain.

        2. Brandon Burns

          On another note, how do I get in touch with you outside of AVC?

          1. falicon

            there is an email link on his about page -> …but make sure you reach out when he’s not hungry (he tends to munch on your bones you if don’t).

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          3. falicon

            I swear I saw a little email icon on there when I looked before (can’t turn off your mobile version to check now)…but I am prob. wrong (it happens often). Sorry πŸ™‚

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            DM ON TWITTER.

        3. Matt A. Myers

          Hopefully you can remember it / have time to write it again..

          1. FAKE GRIMLOCK

            MOMENT PASSED.

          2. Matt A. Myers


        4. Scott Barnett

          sadly, I cannot reply on AVC at all anymore from my phone/tablet because Disqus Mobile is just too buggy. I hope they fix that soon!

          1. obscurelyfamous

            It’s been incremental but larger changes are happening right now.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          3. Scott Barnett

            Keep talking… this needs to get fixed. I’m on my tablet right now and I can’t see what I’m typing… this is unacceptable!

        5. obscurelyfamous

          Apologies, Sir Grimlock. Mobile improvements are happening right now.

          1. JamesHRH

            Daniel, as an addendum, my mobile devices are continually getting swept clean – I am constantly having to sign in….. as you likely can imagine, that sucks on an iPhone……FWIW.

          2. obscurelyfamous

            What do you mean by swept clean?

          3. JamesHRH

            I regularly get signed out of Disqus on both my iPad & iPhone.

          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          5. panterosa,

            Blurry or not full letter showing. Horrible

          6. panterosa,

            Me too.

          7. fredwilson

            Yup. Fixing that would be huge for disqus

          8. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          9. fredwilson

            Ha! That is classic, particularly the yet at the end

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I’ll put a “pivoting, screaming little boy” on my shirt, thanks.

        1. Aaron Klein

          Both t-shirts would be best sellers.

        2. Matt A. Myers


          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Thank you for your patience πŸ˜‰

        3. Donna Brewington White

          I have three sons, one daughter. My daughter is the least likely of the four to pivot or scream. Although, she has been known to yell. Mostly at her brothers.

    4. Brandon Burns

      I’m also not a fan of what you call ROOMBApreneurs, always with a new idea.However, having received flack for executing several products that feel very different on the outside, I’m sensitive to the fact that people rarely look at the inside of a product.I’ve been motivated by a singular mission, but I’ve been flexible enough to actualize it in drastically different ways, because it was necessary to get at what users really want to solve their needs.Your product is not a name, a design, or interface or set of functionality. It’s what it *does* for people. And if it is Burbn one day and Instagram the next, then so be it.

      1. Aaron Klein

        A singular mission, and a product that is the same on the inside, is the definition of developing a core and sticking to it.

    5. ShanaC

      “ROOMBApreneurs”I love that.I also don’t know for sure if it the company that has to have a core or the people. You’re company can have ideals and you get no where because you are weak. meanwhile the reverse could be true as well.

    6. fredwilson

      i totally agree Andy. great comment. i will upvote this one!

    7. andyidsinga

      I’l take the other side – ROOMBApreneurs are awesome to watch and be involved with.They are fearless about problem solving and thinking outside the box – sure maybe to a fault – but those a muscles are worth exercising and often.Problem as I see it is that too many of the ROOMBApreneurs 20 somethings will turn into slow processes oriented “core” scardy cats in their 30s and conclusion – core is waaaaay overrated. :)[edit: tpyos]

      1. JamesHRH

        Having personally witnessed the personal, financial and career destruction caused my ROOMBA’s, i wholeheartedly disagree.

        1. andyidsinga

          Please provide an example to discuss.[edit: maybe I don’t really know what a ROOMBApreneur is ..? – I was taking it to be a lighthearted slap against those who come up with, build and deploy crazy ideas like the roomba robots ][edit2: I just read andyswans tweet:… ..which means I had the wrong definition . however I think my original comment applies with the exception that the obstacles for pivoting should not be small ]

          1. JamesHRH

            I don’t think it is fair to name names. Here’s an example. I have, without doing a specific inventory, at least 6 more.I can think of someone who founded a company in 2002, enticed a partner who got really committed, this founder blew through a bunch of funding, they started over 3 or 4 times on angel money the new partner brought in, he left, she, finally, this year, has raised a Round A of 1.5M (roughly 8 YEARS AFTER SHE JOINED).I met with this guy over 5 years ago, told the woman who is now the CEO: ‘I really like and respect you, and you should not work with people like this. He has no ethics, no moral compass and no discipline. You deserve better.’That is a close to verbatim quote.I was brought in by an investor. I spent 4 hours with this guy (twice, 2 full mornings). He was speaking at major events and associated with a big new concept. He was not listening to anyone and did not care that his lack of personal confidence was going to undermine the company and everyone associated with it.He bordered on sociopathic. He got off on his ideas and looking smart. He produced nothing of value.They finally just made him go away. Even then, it has taken a hardworking, smart & capable co-founder over 3 years to turn his idea into <$2M of Round A investment.He has discovered that he is best suited to being a small boutique, SW body shop – basically, just him.If you do not care about how you spend your time, working with him will be fun – he does not care about how he spends your time either.

          2. andyidsinga

            Thanks for writing up that example – I totally respect not naming names etc I don’t disagree at all with you in that context. If ethics and honesty are compromised – a lot of crap and churn will be the result. Point well taken.

          3. JamesHRH

            The real point is that most ROOMBA’s have an underlying emotional issue that precludes them from caring about themselves or others – they just randomly bounce around, in one of two states: panic or exhiliration.They are not manic depressive, they are manic uncertain.If they get certain, they focus and can be great. If they don’t get certain, they put themselves in a position where they will not be there to tally the outcome.

          4. andyidsinga

            My experience is a bit different – I’ve worked for a few startups and a few big cos. ..much less of the emotional / ethical issues ( although I encountered those in a non-tech business activity once .. wow ..bad – so I totally know where you’re coming from )in one effort – we were really good at moving product out the door but ultimately the product was a financial failure and we didn’t pivot before we ran out of money. In fact we didn’t even really have a pivot mindset .. we just continued to push product out the door. I wish we had a thought framework for pivoting back then – it would have helped.In another effort we had a lot of ideas and a lot of tension between deploying as a B2C product vs B2B product. There was considerable frustration on the team because some of us, including me, wanted to get what we had in hand out the door as a B2C product – to use as an experiment and fodder for discussions with investors. The alternative was to not deploy right away and continue to build a more “fleshed out” product, that would target a B2B scenario. Ultimately this line of reasoning prevailed – because it was the founders original idea – but to this day it is frustrating to think about because it felt like a painfully long time without market feedback.

          5. JamesHRH

            We may not be seeing ROOMBA the same way.Frenetic, constant creation & recreation – almost always powered by a fear of being found out to be guessing or just flat out wrong.These are tough spots you have been in. Pivoting is sometimes the answer; retrenching is sometimes the answer; quitting is sometime the answer.That’s why it is not easy.

          6. FAKE GRIMLOCK


      2. PhilipSugar

        I think we’re talking about the same thing. Making a quick decision finding out it is wrong and changing is not being a ROOMBApreneur. Make three bad decisions learn from each and get it right the fourth time, that is being an entrepreneur. Taking more time than all of the above to make a decision, that is called working for BigCo. That’s what Fred wrote about. Make the damn decision and get it out there.What Andy is talking about ROOMBApreneur (anybody see the irony that it has MBA in it?) I hate the word pivot, but at least in Basketball it means you keep one foot firmly planted, which is why I think it is used.ROOMBApreneurs run all over the place: social, mobile, sharing.

    8. JamesHRH

      As @JLM:disqus has stated, you need a mission.

    9. Donna Brewington White

      True in business. True in life.

    10. Dave Pinsen

      There was this great tweet a while back — wish I remember who wrote it. It went something like this,Every time I hear the word “pivot”, in my mind, I hear a toilet flushing.

    11. Guest

      That’s what is so nice about “old economy” businesses; you have a core and they are called tangible assets.

  21. Nathan Guo

    Small nitpick, the URL has enemy misspelled.

    1. Rohan

      Well spotted. My guess is that the title was originally misspelt and has now been corrected.I find blogging long form every day to be a tough test – especially during busy periods that spelling mistakes are almost inevitable. So, I have complete empathy for Fred on this one.. πŸ™‚

      1. fredwilson

        I wrote this post in two minutes because that’s all the time I had today. Based on the discussion here I feel like I got a lot out of that two mins

    2. Trish Fontanilla

      I think it was on purpose. So the enemies don’t know that Fred is writing about them. πŸ˜‰

    3. fredwilson


  22. Rohan

    I like a Jack Canfield example on the importance of ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ instead of the traditional ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ because you could be taking aim forever.That doesn’t mean you shoot with no plans. What you still need is to fire roughly in the direction you want to go but too much planning is overdone.

    1. JimHirshfield

      And I expected you to offer up nothing short of: “Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”

      1. Rohan

        Haha. :-DExpect the unexpected, you should.

  23. Robert Holtz

    I WANT to agree with your post wholeheartedly but I can only meet you half way. Indulge me for a moment and tell me if we’re still on the same page.Sure, there is the problem of “analysis paralysis” where all of the energy / momentum goes to planning out what-if scenarios to the nth degree and the entrepreneur never gets off the block. That’s bad.But there is also the problem of the entrepreneur going off blindly without much of a plan at all and, in keeping with your metaphor, and they find they’ve brought a butter knife to a gunfight. In my book, that’s worse.A lot of stress, drama, and wasted effort (and often wasted money and credibility) can be better directed towards thing that actually matter and yield results with just a little bit of planning and strategy so there is at least a rough sketch of what success looks like. In my advisory, I call it the difference between “business” and “busyness” — being able to discern between “action” and “distraction.”Just at the start of this week, as part of your MBA Mondays series, you hosted a great guest post from Chad Dickerson. One of his key points of advice was “Communicate the company vision broadly and directly.” There are a lot of startups out there that basically chase anything that moves and don’t really have a core vision per se so they waste tremendous resources and more importantly they squander internal momentum from the team because everyone feels at cross-purposes. The energy does not congeal purposefully as it does at great companies.In my view, it proves that some planning and discussion goes a long way. The metaphor I like to use is that of building a house. It is important to have a rough blue print that unifies everyone and informs some sense of priorities. You have to build the ground-floor foundation before you can build the third-floor bathroom. And it is progress even to know there will be a third floor. Imagine a construction crew going out a trying to build a house without any blue prints or any kind of plan. Think about how many things need to be built, taken down, and rebuilt, and think of the chaos. Well, entrepreneurs put their companies and their teams and often their customers and investors through many of the same kinds of hoops.This is the big difference between strategy and tactics. Strategy is big picture planning and plotting but tactics are operational and in the trenches. It often happens that what you planned for at the strategic level won’t work tactically. You need to dig a huge hole through what turns out to be a water supply line you can’t touch. That is where companies that are ALL strategy and NO tactics drive right off a cliff. Tactics or operations needs to be able to make on-the-spot course corrections and sometimes force a complete revisiting of the vision.And that’s the part where it is good to have the imperative and the understanding that you can’t possibly plan for every scenario and every unknown. At some point, you gotta get off the blocks and “start ‘er up.” In programming terms, move beyond design-time and jump to run-time. That’s the part of me that agrees with you because the pendulum can go to either extreme as well.My best advice is “plan your work, work your plan” and that goes hand-in-hand with another piece of advice I’ve always liked which is “fail to plan, plan to fail.” Success happens when you do both…. ideally forever:Set a vision. Work the vision. Rinse. Repeat.



      1. Robert Holtz

        You have a remarkable talent for cutting to the quick, my friend. πŸ™‚

        1. LE

          @FakeGrimlock:disqus says little and as a result he limits the attack vectors.By saying so little he also takes advantage of the fact that people will lock into the positive that he is saying, and agree, as opposed to finding faults that would might be apparent with more words.(Take what I just said say if I had only made one sentence vs. the additional paragraph explanation as an example of that..)

          1. Robert Holtz

            You are trying to liken @FakeGrimlock:disqus to the character of “Chance” played by Peter Sellers in the 1979 movie “Being There”.Your suggestion is that the recipient assigns their own perception of genius and brilliance to plain statements that are simply so paired-down and minimalistic that they become impossible to invalidate if for no other reason than the lack of any place to hold an internal fallacy… an “attack vector” as you termed it.My own observation is that there is a LOT more depth to him than that. I don’t always agree with him. In this discussion alone, his remark vastly oversimplifies what “BRING ALL GUNS TO ALL FIGHTS” entails with respect to infrastructure costs and responsiveness to many simultaneous and scalar challenges.What I always appreciate about Grimlock’s comments is that he gets to the “Meta Truth” of almost any subject matter we’re discussing. Agree or disagree, he consistently makes his point resolutely and succinctly — a skill which, from the length of my typical posts, one can clearly see I don’t possess. Hence my admiration for his ability to ‘cut to the quick’ which was the full scope of my compliment.He is a good and necessary part of AVC and I’m glad we have him around. I sometimes wish he could be part of other discussions and debates I deal with elsewhere.

          2. LE

            In the garden.Never forget the book which we read in high school. I didn’t see the movie.You are totally on target.”Hence my admiration for his ability to ‘cut to the quick’ which was the full scope of my compliment.”I agree it takes plenty of effort to cut to the quick. But to me the devil is in the details. (see how easy it is to go that route?).By reducing things to a simple thought people who are learning don’t get the full reason behind when the idea is applicable and when it’s not. It’s simplistic (not a critque of FG so much as the con of that type of quick take). FG is an easy read.”Agree or disagree, he consistently makes his point resolutely and succinctly — a skill which, from the length of my typical posts, one can clearly see I don’t possess. “I certainly don’t look at that as a negative in any way at all.

          3. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          4. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          5. fredwilson

            Hmm. I guess my verbosity has left me wide open

          6. LE

            It all depends on what you are trying to achieve. [1] What you are doing at AVC works so that’s what’s important. The cliches go “don’t use x words when x/2 will do” but that doesn’t apply everywhere.Related, I remember learning at a very young age the following concept:”After you make the sale, get your ass out of dodge”. (That’s essentially a translation of what was actually said.)When selling (and writing is selling) the more you say (definitely if someone has already decided to “buy” but even if they haven’t decided) the better chance you might raise something in the minds of a that “buyer” that they hadn’t thought of.Not to mention the fact that buyers can overreact to something in a way that is not in their best interest because of lack of seeing the big picture. Or just being stupid.So you need to protect them from their folly (which sounds like a rationalization for lying I’m guessing but it’s not).[1] In your replies to comments you say practically nothing. Sometimes just a word. Which makes sense because if you said more (or even if you disagreed you tend to agree mostly in your replies) you would just invite replies to the replies and you don’t have the time for that.Like what I just did…

          7. fredwilson

            why do you feel that way? πŸ™‚

      2. Pete Griffiths

        Guns? In a knife fight?

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. Pete Griffiths

            Works for me, Butch.

  24. pointsnfigures

    I use a similar analogy. D-Day changed once they hit the beach. I am uncomfortable using it, since I have a friend who was there. But, in fact when he tells me his story of being in the first wave at Omaha and how screwed up everything got, the metaphor is clear.

    1. JLM

      .The story of D-Day is a huge canvas upon which a great work of art was fashioned. The fact that the greatest armada and invasion in the history of warfare was able to achieve tactical surprise is mind boggling.More intriguing is that the Germans had the combat power — armor units — on hand to crush the invasion and only human folly and misperception as to whether this was “the” invasion kept them from attacking in force.Had Hitler not have been insane and not have held the decision to counterattack immediately unto himself, most war games post-invasion suggest the German armor would have crushed the invasion at the tide’s edge.The guy who really planned D-Day who is often overlooked was Omar Bradley. He had been a key or primary planner for N Africa, Sicily, Italy (moved to England before Anzio which was a good plan and a poor breakout thereafter) and now Normandy. The most skillful and lowest key invasion planner in the history of warfare.Funny — he is remembered as being a “soldier’s general” when in fact he was a very accomplished military scientist and planner..

      1. William Mougayar

        Wow. I didn’t know that the Germans underestimating “the” invasion was the key factor in their defeat.

        1. JamesHRH

          What we learn from JLM is dazzling – so few of us have served (let alone served w distinction).That we get that experience distilled into its purest form is hard to fully appreciate.

          1. JLM

            .”Been there badges” — yes.”Distinction” — no.Those guys are in Arlington. Damn good men..

          2. Cam MacRae

            Lest we forget.

        2. JLM

          .I am not sure it was “the” key factor in their defeat but the Germans for months never believed that the Normandy invasion was the real thing because they were sure it was coming at Pas de Calais and they could not imagine that Patton would not have a key role as they believed him to be the Allies best general and could not imagine he was not in command.He was still in England minding his fake army and waiting for the 3rd Army to be stood up.The decision to invade at Normandy and to endure the bocage country allowed the Allies to get sufficient combat power ashore to make dislodgement unthinkable. Then they had to fight through and break out.This judgement to gamble for a toehold and then to build it into a foothold was a critical element of the plan. Omar Bradley..

          1. William Mougayar

            I’m going to read-up about Omar Bradley. Fascinating. Thanks for the intro.

          2. matthughes

            Wow, never knew that part of the story.Fascinating.

          3. pointsnfigures

            Another great book if you are into intrigue is Monuments Men. Eisenhower recruited museum curators to go ashore D-Day +6 to find all the stolen art of Europe. They also helped General’s plan to make sure they didn’t bomb any cultural icons that would be lost to western civilization. Unfortunately, some did get bombed. The abbey at Monte Cassino in Italy is one of them.

      2. pointsnfigures

        If you really want to learn a lot about it, go to http://www.nationalww2museu…. Not only did the Germans screw up, but British intelligence did a masterful job manipulating them prior to the invasion. Bradley was a great general. Contrast him to Mark Clark who lead the march through Italy. Clark’s planning killed a lot of American GI’s unnecessarily. Can’t wait to read Rick Atkinson’s upcoming book on the battle through Europe. He has written two fantastic books on Africa and Italy.

        1. JLM

          .Great stuff. The New Orleans WWII Museum is great and its focus on D-Day makes it quite unique. It has also been affiliated with some great historians.I love the Trilogy by Rick Atkinson. My Dad fought in those places. He received a battlefield commission in the Infantry and ran a Cannon Company shooting it out with the German 88s across those Italian valleys and at river crossings.One summer I tracked some of his campaigns and spoke to him on the phone from a spot that he could identify. I was speaking to a 26 year old Lt though he was 94.Clark’s failure to get his 5th Army off the beach and inland, an advance the Germans were prepared to concede until he failed to move, was a huge blunder.It prolonged the war. The Italian campaign did, however, tie down German units which could have been transferred to Russia and relieved some pressure there.The Italian geography and weather were very tough. A series of valley, rivers, mountains — all great terrain for defense.Gens Truscott and Lucas were good fighters. Truscott in particular having distinguished himself with the 3rd ID on Sicily under Patton. Why they did not advance out of Anzio is a great mystery.Clark was a big friend of Eisenhower and an apple polisher..

          1. pointsnfigures

            I spoke with Atkinson last October at the Pritzker Military Library gala in Chicago. The last of the trilogy comes out in December. I can’t wait.

  25. Siminoff

    Maybe it is just because of where I have been spending my time lately but this really sums up Kickstarter for me. Kickstarter is like a safe battlefield to test your weapons before going out into the bigger fight.And this post could not be more timely as I sit here about to hit the send button on another version of POP that came directly form feedback in the “messy” real world.

  26. JLM

    .In war, the first casualty is the plan..

  27. Yalim K. Gerger

    “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Mike Tyson

    1. PhilipSugar

      Yes that is one of my favorite quotes, that and “Just when you think you know the answer I change the question” Rowdy Roddy Piper

      1. JamesHRH

        Speaking of genius…..

      2. Matt A. Myers

        What if I’m the one asking the questions? πŸ˜‰

        1. PhilipSugar

          You obviously have never watched a Rowdy Roddy Piper interview πŸ™‚

        2. JamesHRH

          Get your YouTube on Matt.Piper’s Pit was likely 1/3 of the reason that Vince McMahon got to where he is – pure genius.

      3. matthughes

        That is funny.That must be wrestling’s greatest ever contribution to society right there.

    2. ShanaC

      what do you do afterwards is a question

      1. Yalim K. Gerger

        Afterwards @ShanaC:disqus “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” πŸ™‚ Rocky.

        1. JamesHRH

          That’s a very American view.@JLM will likely crush me here, but an ex-military guy I know (CDN) said the British/CDN leadership was better (on the whole) @ ‘not just throwing everything at the problem’.He said – fewer losses, same result.

          1. Yalim K. Gerger

            James, I think the context for this quote is personal life and the curve balls life throws at you. I certainly didn’t have military operations in mind when I wrote the quote.

          2. JLM

            .Huge style differences in the Canadian, British and American leadership at every level.Americans were primarily draftees and few professional soldiers and therefore depended upon combined arms a bit more — infantry, artillery, armor and close air support.Americans were good at fighting when they had the benefit of being able to use the entire combined arms doctrine.This “throwing everything at the problem” and the doctrine of combined arms are different takes of the same problem. While I understand the economy of arms notion, me I want lots of artillery power.I am sure I have spent over $1MM a day on fire support when $1MM was real money.God it’s fun to call in big guns. Makes Viagra seem like a sugar pill, perhaps?When you have called in the USS New Jersey — lofting flaming Subarus at the target — on a Highway 1 roadblock, then you have lived.Even the Marines in the Pacific fought with Naval gunfire and air at all times. The Marine campaigns in the Pacific were barbaric and they were the better of the Japs in the most brutal warfare imaginable. God bless the USMC cause absent them we would still be fighting in the Pacific.Exception was Patton who was just a cavalryman in a tank and he had more dash and daring than even the Guderian led German tank corps.The Brits had very, very good NCOs and their officers were not as good. The British NCO takes two generations to develop and they are superb.This is where our current spec ops guys have gotten to. SF in VN to Seals today — keep getting better and better and have a lot more great toys to play with. It is the NCOs and men who are the drivers and they are the best that has ever been assembled. Ever.The Canadians have always had rugged individual soldiers and are great fighters. Their armor formations are long on courage and short on tactics. Study the battles breaking out of the St Lo area in WWII and see that a handful of German formations decimated 4 Canadian armor units which finally wore them down by sheer weight of arms.The Brits and the Canadians had better raw material in general, the Americans had better combined arms and battlefield coordination — maybe better radios.Montgomery was the best set piece commander if you could wait to build up a 15:1 combat power ratio. He could not hold Patton’s jock when it came to driving military formations to perform. Patton, one year at VMI, was a bastard who could just win and win and win.Sometimes it takes a bastard to really save lives. His movement to save Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge was an exercise in generalship and soldiering. He turned his units before getting the order and he made them move and he committed them to fight and win almost beyond the physical capabilities of men and equipment.That is what is required to be victorious.Bradley was the world’s best military scientist and folks don’t remember he planned N Africa, Sicily, Italy and Normandy. No man in the history of the world planned and executed more amphibious landings of that size. All with no drama..

          3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

            I enjoyed reading that

  28. reece

    one of my all time favorite lines, though the thing that’s overlooked is there is still a battle plani like to use this line hand in hand with “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”

    1. Cam MacRae

      At minimum there is comander’s intent.

  29. Zachary Iscol

    Except in the Marines, we plan in order to adjust once we make contact with the enemy. Knowing where your adjacent units are, what your resupply and medevac plans are, rally points to reorganize upon contact with the enemy, the terrain, fire support assets- all of that is learned and communicated in the planning process. Without doing that study, it become impossible to pivot or adjust once contact is made because you literally have not done your homework.As a first time entrepreneur about to launch a product into the market place, I see the iterative product development process more akin to limited reconnaissance than to combat operations. You make an assumption and then you test it. In the Marines through recon, in the startup world through beta testing.

    1. JLM

      .Truth be told, it is the enemy which is doing most of the adjusting when the Marines show up.Lots of Brother Rats in the Corps.Went to jump school with a huge contingent of Force Recon — damn good troops.JLM VMI Abn Rgr.

      1. matthughes

        The marines are good at unleashing hell.



  31. JLM

    .I think that business folks do not do adequate planning and that the framework for planning is simply misunderstood and overlooked. Planning is very tough work.Most folks simply do not know how to do it and therefore the point in time that the plan is mortally wounded is earlier because the planning depth is way too shallow.Plans are strategic, tactical, operational and must be held together by a plan of communication. Communication is the glue.Good planning requires a lot of brainstorming. You have to think through the possibilities — “if….then” or “what if”.Good planning requires a constant feedback loop which is used to update the plan. On the fly. What the military calls — “frag orders”, modifications to the plan based on enemy contact or opportunity.”Exploit the advantage”, throw in your reserves not where you are hardest pressed but where you have broken through and can create potentially fatal havoc in the enemy’s rear areas. It is difficult to do this in practice. Very difficult.”Hey, can you guys hold on over there and maybe have your unit destroyed because we are pouring units through this penetration over here and we may be able to destroy their corps and army HQ and thereby decapitate their leadership?”Good planners know and understand the differences between strategic and tactical and operational plans. They can see the boundaries.Entrepreneurs often make the error of thinking that “vision” — that vision thing — is strategic. It may spawn the strategic plan but it is not the strategic plan. It is a great vision which strategy, tactics and operations must convert into reality.One of the most important elements of any plan is a series of “contingency” plans which anticipates things that can change and plans for the accommodation of that change.This is the game day coaching issue. You look at film for a week, think you know the other team and make a plan accordingly. During the first half you see what works and tweak the plan to embrace reality. Game day coaches win their games in the locker room at half time.Go to go. Great topic..

    1. John Best

      I think its almost a mindset thing. We encourage entrepreneurs to seize opportunities, to fail fast, to disrupt and be dominant. All of which are quite extroverted. Exactly what you reference about “vision”. Maybe the lack of adequate planning comes in part at least from a lack of introspection.

    2. JamesHRH

      Bear Bryant was only half right – ‘game are won on Tuesday’ & tight games are won @ halftime. Adjustments.

  32. Rick Colosimo

    Plans are nothing; planning is everything.Eisenhower’s actual quote was:β€œIn preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”The lesson I give my startup clients is that a well-thought out plan is preparation for what to do once things turn real — a good business plan process shows people that you’ve thought enough about your business to be able to actually do something deliberate to adjust to the realities of the market, instead of hoping it will turn out okay. Hope is not a strategy.

    1. JLM

      .Eisenhower was an extraordinary planner having been schooled by Fox Conner, Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall. An extraordinary legion of bosses from which he learned everything.He developed a system of decisionmaking as an executive that is the envy of any executive. He preached and demanded “complete staff work” — “give me all the facts, all the contingencies, your recommendation and why and I will make the damn decision. Now.”Marshall identified Eisenhower as a guy who would command armies when he was a Major at the Infantry school.Marshall was the best talent spotter in the history of warfare. At the start of WWII he purged all Divisions of older generals and had already developed a black book of their replacements.He was without “ruth” in this..

      1. Rick Colosimo

        The Army briefing style, at least 20-ish years ago (god, am I really that experienced/old?), included information briefings to share stuff (no email in 91-92 at the unit level) and decision briefings.Decision briefings were just as you described. The staff came up with three courses of action, identified and proposed how to weight the various factors, made a recommendation, and, before getting started, told the commander: The purpose of this briefing is to enable the commander to make a decision …. It’s how I deliver legal advice on deals to clients today.

    2. ShanaC

      as long as the plan is a tool, not a teddy bear.

  33. Jim Haughwout

    I love the von Molke reference. It is so easy to find “safety” in planning (even though all plans are an incomplete “model” of reality ). The ability to learn and adapt is critical to survival and growth (especially in technology, where anything can change so quickly).That being said, I agree fully with @andyswan:disqus. You do have to have a core from which your plans (and adaptations) emerge. Without this, you could end up pivoting endlessly, wasting time and money and confusing customers and investors.

  34. baba12

    that is true for the startups that USV invests in, doubt Tesla could deploy a car with things to fully tested etc.I think for online software based services this mantra is good and accurate, everything else has a different set of rules to abide by for deployment.

  35. Brandon Burns

    Amen.I’d like to stress the need to put *actual* product out. Lean Startup disciples can get caught up in validating through surveys, interviews, google ad sense tests, etc. β€” all of which are extremely important, none of which can replace the feedback when a user is clicking and scrolling around on something that’s actually useable.I’ve validated ideas in testing that flopped on product, and invalidated things in testing that people asked for when they saw it omitted from product.Don’t get lost in the Lean Death Spiral. Balance responsible testing with haphazard throwing spaghetti at walls to see what sticks.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      “Lean Death Spiral” – love that.

  36. Andy

    This post can quickly be summed up with “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.”

  37. Kirsten Lambertsen

    A great vivid quote. That said, look at the flood of war analogy it triggered!What if we encouraged a more Zen or Tao way of looking at business? I’m not suggesting that because I’m a bleeding-heart liberal or a woman, but because I think it’s more effective than thinking of starting a business as a war.To me, Lean Startup is about being cybernetic, and that’s just a good way to go through life, period.I think it would be so helpful to people to start thinking about business as a kind of Zen path. In this way you expect nothing and see everything exactly as it is. This clear-headed approach is, to me, the path of least resistance. Obstacles, hurdles, unexpected problems are all there to show you something you need to know. It also makes for healthier, less-stressed founders.So if we really need a combat metaphor, maybe we could go with Kung Fu? I think Yoda would agree with me πŸ˜‰

    1. ShanaC

      I think more people should read the art of war personally. The original makes it very clear that the goal should be avoiding war in the first place.

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        Good point! I’ll have to pick up my husband’s copy and read it πŸ™‚

        1. ShanaC

          that and machiavelli’s the prince are both quick reads πŸ™‚

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Ha! Considering I only read how-to books and New Yorker humor collections, those might feel like “War and Peace” to me πŸ˜‰

      2. JLM

        .This is the classic dilemma.Strong armies do not attract aggressors.Sweat is cheaper than blood. Train hard to avoid having to ever fight.Nobody hates war more than soldiers who have seen it.The most unmilitaristic thing you can do is be have a powerful military.It is a crazy world of contradictions but the real arbiter of value is — how many lives did our policies cost us today?.

        1. ShanaC

          I keep trying to place ww1 in that comment. Some wars are just crazy no matter what

  38. markslater

    hmmm – lets stay with the war theme…….what are your weapons?someone once said this (i think it was sculley)”if we have data, lets look at it. If all we have is opinions, lets go with mine…”

      1. markslater

        thats it. thanks!

  39. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    Amen. Getting on that as we speak…

  40. WayneMulligan

    I prefer Mike Tyson’s version: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face” — which is what it feels like when your product gets no traction, you can’t get an investor meeting if your life depended on it and you realize you’re back to the drawing board after months in development.My jaw hurts just thinking about it πŸ™‚

  41. wsmco

    Mike Tyson “Everbody has a plan until they’re punched in the face.”

    1. Kevin Reilly

      You bet me to it. Mike Tyson as philosopher and strategist…

  42. Pete Griffiths

    Never a truer word.And there is its converse ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail.’

  43. Michael LaValle

    Another good part to this is: “Planning is everything, but the plan is nothing”. Exhaustive preparation, rehearsals and planning go into every military op. Yes, when you hit the ground, the plan will go to sh%t, but one of the things that prepares you for success when it does is knowing all the variables cold.

  44. jason wright


  45. Max Yoder

    I love the quote and sentiment. I recently heard another militaristic saying that I think AVCers will like:”The flak only gets heavy when you’re over the target.”I find myself thinking about that every day now.

    1. matthughes

      Look out below.

    2. JamesHRH

      Great – I like.

  46. jason wright

    Everyone looks for certainty, and there is no certainty.

  47. Ben

    so true

  48. A grasshopper

    Of course all this great advise assumes two very important components. Firstly that your ammo is clean dry and and of the right kind to even go to battle (aka, your product is actually, at least minimally, adequate, desired and affordable by your customers) …and secondly, that your battle plan (and “core” as stated by the other commenter) actually is designed to utilize the product that exists and not some overly optimistic “vapor-ware” version of it. A set seemingly obvious assumptions but make no mistake it’s very easy to proceed to battle I’ll prepared.

  49. Darren Herman

    Absolutely love the title of the post. So true.

  50. rajeshj

    The use of Moltke’s statement to arrive at the conclusion of “Just launch” is misleading. His case was that since any detailed battle plan is bound to be wrong, it is necessary to consider responses to all circumstances at the beginning of battle. Moltke himself planned for the Franco-Prussian war taking into account thousands of variables.The equivalent approach in startup world would be to launch a product which is built with a mind toward evolution. An attitude and a willingness to modify any part of the strategy at this stage is crucial. But, in order to do that, you must have at least thought about the different scenarios realistically.@rickcolosimo:disqus has it right with the Eisenhower quote!

    1. fredwilson

      Great comment/critiqueAs jlm would say “well played”

  51. Youssef Rahoui

    Good one! It reminds me of this quote: “Everyone has a plan until he gets punched in the mouth”, said by… Mike Tyson in his prime πŸ™‚

  52. BillMcNeely

    No battle plan survives the first enemy fire… but if you do not participate in an active planning process that outlines steps on how to to get from A to B and the larger startegic wins YOU WILL BE BE DESTROYED BY YOUR ENEMY/COMPETITION AT THE END OF THE BATTLE. The anti- planning crap coming of the 37 Signals group is disconcerning to say the least.See Netscape/Microsoft Broswer WarSee How the 3rd Infantry Division Shortened the Conventional Battle Against the Iraq Republican Guard for Baghdad in 2003See How the US Military Almost lost this victory against the Insurgency in IraqAmatuers play checkers, pros play chess.

    1. JamesHRH

      Love the last line.Doing without thinking is not much use.

    2. fredwilson

      That is the big takeaway from this discussion. Well said

      1. BillMcNeely

        Thanks! Also Commander’s Intent is important. What is the desired outcome, what does success look like. When the plan blows up knowing the desired outcome empowers employees.

  53. John Revay

    Great Post.Earlier this year me and friend were fortunate enough to get some time w/ Fred and talk w/ him about an idea that I have been passionate about for several years – some what waiting for the right time…, social etc…Essentially NOW – time is running out.After the meeting I sent around an email w/ notes (to several people/friends) who I have discussed the app w/. – “Meeting w/Fred update”The conclusion / summary advice from Fred that day was as follows;His advice was simple;A. Develop feature timeline (we may have had feature creep)B. Figure out the smallest subset of features needed to launchC. Start with that and specific group/population and see what happens, evolve & grow from thereD. Other option is to consider mobile app to solve the problem- by passing traditional web app.E. Look for other apps that are in the similar space – drive them and see what we can do better – look for an AHA! moment.I have gotten similar feed back from Charlie, LE and William#GetAPoleInTheWater

  54. Marcus Oberholzer

    Great advice. It seems like the thesis of “invest in the team” (as opposed to “invest in the idea”) is the logical conclusion of this post’s thinking. The “idea” (i.e. initial battle plan) will need to evolve over time, and thus the initial idea is slightly less important. It’s the founders/team that will have to be able to navigate the necessary pivot points intelligently to take the initial idea, morph as need be, and end up with a solid product.

  55. Otto

    Fred, when deciding who to invest in is it product, service, and team that is your strongest motivator? If so, is their business plan something you disregard or is it just a secondary consideration for you?

      1. Otto

        Thank you. I read AVC frequently but not everyday so I missed that one.

        1. falicon

          No problem…it’s a hard community to keep up with as there’s always so much great conversation going on (just being able to catch up on the stuff I care about here is a big part of the reason why I even bothered to hack together an initial version of in the first place — which, shameless self-promotion aside, is how I located that link/conversation for you) ;-D

    1. fredwilson

      There’s a 15 second video I posted here a month or so ago where I described the magic combo. I am offline right now but will find it and share it

  56. James

    “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face” – Mike Tyson

  57. derekjsmyth

    Reminds me of Napoleon’s def’n of strategy- Engage and see!

  58. leigh

    i wish i wish i wish i could get corporate clients to think about things this way. Often the process is similar to print — approvals, legal etc. taking way too long to get into market and making sure everything is perfect only to realize that you will almost never get that last 5% right. There will always be someone, somewhere who has an issue you can’t resolve and the cost/benefit of struggling with that level of perfection isn’t worth the time to market.

    1. leigh

      ps. i’m going to be away in N. Ontario for 9 days without cell access so don’t have too many great discussions without me πŸ™‚

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Enjoy! Can’t promise the latter though. Maybe you will need an extra day for AVC catch up.

      2. fredwilson

        Sorry. We cannot comply with that request

      3. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        You will be fresh for new discussions when you come back

      4. ShanaC

        don’t worry, there will be plenty when you come back

    2. Donna Brewington White

      And then there is hiring. Oy.

    3. fredwilson

      Oh god. I have lived it too. It is why I am so bullish on startups that compete with the big guys vs startups who sell to the big guys

  59. jer979

    I thought it was Von Clausewitz who said that, but I think the larger point that he made was about commander’s intent and how a leader must communicate that effectively in order for troops to improvise when the initial plan goes to hell. Sun tzu talks abut this as well.

  60. Esayas Gebremedhin

    that’s right ->> in innovation <<- constant failure is the only way to success. it’s impossible to plan failure. lol. empathy can safe you lot’s of time though. i discovered a rapid prototype method that helps us to fail faster.

  61. Wavelengths

    This sounds like something I’ve seen a lot … You don’t know what you don’t know.You can plan for what you know, and for what your research tells you, and for what your consultants tell you, and the media, and so on and on.But until you get a reality check from sources that tell you about something you REALLY didn’t think about, you haven’t really tested your concept, your product, or your market.After several of the natural disasters we’ve had lately — tsunamis, earthquakes, and other — I thought a lot about people who couldn’t type, perhaps couldn’t speak English, but who were intelligent and who could connect with resources if they had a cheap computer without (necessarily) a keyboard, that had within it a GPS. How do people find each other after a natural, political, economic, or war-based disaster? Yes mobile phones would serve that purpose, but how about something that could have been distributed by rescue agencies after Hurricane Katrina?Mobile phones and apps are way cool, especially if you are in an area that supports 4G, etc. But I remember “back in the day” when “POTS” (Plain Old Telephone Services) were the technology that would take the third world forward into the 20th century. I knew a man who was well respected in that field because of his ability to drop into a community in Indonesia and install a system in a remote location. (Later, I sat in the atrium of a 4-star hotel in Kuala Lumpur and watched people on their cell phones well before the US population adopted the technology. A case of the”third-world” leapfrogging the “more advanced” countries.)I’ve been MIA from Fredland for a while, while doing “field research,” shall we say. I see lots of niche and greater-than-niche opportunities, but they serve populations that may be different from those the regular followers here would define.I really respect the subject of this post. For all the reality we work to inject into the business plan, it is our ability to be nimble, humble, and willing to redefine when we find new information that suggests a new direction.

    1. fredwilson

      Welcome back

    2. ShanaC

      anything you want to share? and welcome back!

  62. Jason Crawford

    I like Steve Blank’s version, “No business plan survives first contact with customers”:

    1. fredwilson

      I may have subconsciously stolen that from Steve

  63. Michal Illich

    Your version is much better than Moltke’s. Probably he hadn’t so much twitter practice πŸ™‚

  64. Travis Bochenek

    In the immortal words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” Your comment and his align nicely, and while the subject matter being addressed is different, they are much the same. A lot of us measure our worth by the number of times we pick ourselves up off of that mat to keep fighting.edit: darn, too late to the party with that quote!

  65. Malte Schulze

    or how Mike Tyson put it: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”

  66. Lauri Pesonen

    Steve Blank also talks about how business plans never survive first contact with the customer:

  67. JimHirshfield

    Do not bleach

  68. William Mougayar

    The 5 R’s of CC. I like that.

  69. William Mougayar

    Oops. I missed that. RLRRR CC…

  70. LE

    Agree.You never make any money if you cover all bases.





  73. fredwilson

    When Andy and Charlie agree, bookmark it, commit it to memory, live it

  74. Donna Brewington White

    Ha!!! This makes my day.