Startup Lessons from the Death Star

Death StarIt may have been a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but a lot can be learned from the launch and explosive failure of not one, but two Death Stars.  Here are five startup lessons that the Death Stars taught us.

1. “We’re here to put a dent in the universe.” -Steve Jobs
Perhaps the Galactic Empire took this advice a bit too literally. You do have to admire the fact that they went all-out and took disruption to a whole new level.  While most startups sit around kidding themselves that their iPhone app idea will change the world, the Empire went out and built something that actually could change/end the world.  More startups need to think big.

2. “Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” – Emperor Palpatine
Do you realize how many entrepreneurs and startups are vying for the attention of investors, customers, and recruits?  The short answer is A LOT.  Rarely does a powerpoint presentation cut it when trying to stand out.  If you want people’s attention, then take it by doing something amazing.  The Death Star demo was certainly attention grabbing.

3. Just because you can shoot lightning from your fingers does not mean you are good at making a schedule
The second Death Star was going to launch late, and corners (huge sections) had to be cut in order to get it ready in time.  There were complaints that more people were needed and management was forcing (by threatening to use the Force) employees to work overtime. Workers were (justifiably) scared to tell upper management about the issues at hand.  You never saw Vader take the team out for Happy Hour.  If you are disconnected from your team as a leader and people hate working for you, failure is inevitable.

4. Expectations rise with each release
It does not matter if your first product launch was a success or failure.  Your second launch has to be better and even more impressive or you will get passed up by competitors (or blown up by the Rebel Alliance).  You have to do a lot better than just sticking an invisible forcefield around the outside of version 2 if you want to impress the tech media.  Even that was hacked in a matter of hours leading to #5 … 

5. Test is the most important part of development
How well you design your product will determine if you get people’s attention.  How well you test your product will determine how long you keep people’s attention.  Products that are buggy, unstable, or in some cases, able to be blown up by a kid flying an X-Wing are doomed for failure.  As the complexity of your product increases, testing your product/Death Star becomes exponentially more difficult.  If you ignore the importance of test, your market share/Empire will eventually go up in flames.   

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