Startups are like Elephants

Naveed Ahmad
3 min readMar 14, 2016

I worked hard on a startup and it failed, like every other failed startup I learned my lesson, analyzed what went wrong and then I put myself into recovery mode to get ready for a new adventure. It took a lot of discussions, long walks, a ton of coffee, reading about successful people, working out at gym and some times even listening to the sad country music. Finally I made a full recovery out of it and now I have already started a new journey with a new startup. I will write about my new startup in the future.

lets get back to the topic. Last night watching a documentary about elephants on TV I asked myself can I keep an elephant as a pet and my brain without even thinking for a second said NO. Some where in-between these thoughts I started thinking about my startup life and then soon I started comparing elephants with startups and I came up with a comparison which I thought would be worth sharing.

Disclaimer: I don’t know much about elephants my knowledge is limited to a couple of documentaries I saw about elephants. First time when I saw a live elephant was in a zoo in Denver and he was not in a good mood and was walking around in a full boner situation. I would compare that with one of our demo days when we were on the stage presenting our Idea for the first time to general audience and our music system went down. Now you might ask whats wrong with an elephant in a boner situation ? Absolutely, there is nothing wrong with a music system going down on demo day.

Lets start our comparison.

Owning an Elephant.

I am sure you don’t want to own an elephant, they are big, eat a lot, need a huge space to live and they shit a lot on average 560 lbs of dung per week. If you think you can handle this congratulations you are ready to start a startup. You need a lot of energy and resources to feed your startup and in return you will have to handle a lot of shit i.e; running out of money, broken hearts, partners crises, failures and a billion other things.

People get excited when they see Elephants.

Yea that is true a lot of people will get excited when they will see an elephant for the first time but they still don’t want to own it. That’s exactly what happens when people see your startup they get excited but it doesn’t mean they are willing to invest in it.

Elephants are social

This is the thing I really like about elephants they are social and they enjoy there life. They play with each other and they protect each other. Most of the successful startups do really collaborate with other startups they go social they help other startups and get help from them as well. I mean really collaboration is the key of success. Once I started an aggressive competition with other startups in the same domain and soon I had to give up.

Is that all really bad to keep an elephant ?

NO, elephants are intelligent. I have seen videos on YouTube where elephants can paint, they can stand on a small bench and even ride a tricycle. In some religions they are even Gods. People who keep elephants make a decent amount of living. You just have to keep them healthy and train them well. That is exactly the same thing you have to do with your startup you just have to keep it healthy.

What happens when an elephant dies?

It depends, if it was the elephant you kept and trained you will be really upset. But if it was not related to you then may be you won’t feel a thing. Startups do fail or die and no one cares about the failed startups. Sometimes people will tell you that its OK to fail but I won’t support this argument its not OK to fail after everything you did. Don’t get an elephant if you are going to leave him to die. Be ready for all the shit and hard work and make sure you keep your elephant healthy and train him well. But even then if your elephant died the last thing you will be doing is you can sell his teeth or donate the body to a science project. That’s what we do with failed startups we learn a lesson.

Any word of advice about elephants?

Yea, don’t let an elephant sit on you.