Business Startups: It’s not a marathon, it’s Parkour

By: Ken Bautista

“Slow and steady wins the race.”

Well, that’s assuming you know exactly how the race should be won and what it will take to get to the finish line. And in business, particularly in a new venture, that is often never the case.

Proponents of business plans will tell startup entrepreneurs that proper planning, patience and endurance are the key to surviving the beginning phase of their new venture. It’s the “slow and steady wins the race” kind of thinking that locks a startup entrepreneur into a mindset that they’ll be prepared for the road ahead because they have a solid business plan and road map in place. The answers and solutions are all laid out.

But once they come out of “stealth mode” and their product is in the hands of real customers, they quickly realize that what’s happening isn’t exactly the way they outlined it in their business plan.

Startups are a different breed. They’re in the business of innovation – bringing something new to market, something different, something more efficient and more effective than what currently exists. Startups, as Steve Blank puts it, “are about the search for a scalable and repeatable business model”.

A search, meaning, one can’t know the answer yet.

And so, the most effective startup entrepreneurs don’t need to be built to run marathons. Instead, I believe startup entrepreneurs should be built to play the game of parkour.


You’ve probably seen it on YouTube. Modern day ninjas and spider-men run and leap from walls and over gaps, making the urban landscape an obstacle course.

Parkour is a sport and hobby best described as the “art of forward motion in spite of obstacles”. In parkour, your chief aim is never to move backward, but instead to overcome obstacles fluidly, with strength, originality and speed. You often don’t know the path, but instead rely on conditioning your body and mind to adapt to whatever the path ahead might be.

In the quest to succeed as a startup entrepreneur, I’ve learned that you’ve got to move fast, you’re always dealing with a never ending stream of obstacles, and you need to keep moving forward no matter what.

1. Learn to overcome obstacles. Running into obstacles and learning how to deal with them the next time creates efficiency. But you’ll only learn if you get out there. Don’t be afraid to launch your product and get real customer feedback sooner and often.

2. Never move backward. It’s easy to keep talking about the things you should have done in hindsight. It’s easy to let someone’s negative feedback shake your confidence and question your judgement. Dwelling on the past keeps moving you backward. Fix it, refine it, try again, and keep moving forward.

3. Adapt to your environment. Parkour traceurs (one who practices parkour) learn to adapt to the environment around them, constantly analyzing surfaces, elements and possible patterns. In a startup, your environment includes the market and you need to understand who’s doing what and what exists so you can learn to adapt and create advantages.

4. Move with originality and strength. When you’re about to jump across a gap fifty feet above the ground, you better do it with confidence (that you can make the jump), strength (to commit to making the jump) and originality (so you’re not just making the same jump that someone did before you). When you’re in your startup, you need to run with the same level of strength, confidence and originality.

5. Move at full speed. Parkour isn’t for everyone, particularly if you’re apprehensive or scared that something bad could happen. Don’t tiptoe, just run. Going through a startup is the same. You just need to know what you want. Don’t hesitate, just go for it.

So will you be like a marathon runner, preparing, planning, and training, getting ready to last the big race? Or will you be a parkour traceur, ready to play – always adapting, always hungry, and always hustling in the quest to succeed?

Ken Bautista is Co-Founder/CEO of Startup Edmonton, a campus and co-workspace, and Flightpath Ventures, working to activate and invest in local startups. Ken has been in the creative/tech industry for over 10 years, co-founding several interactive companies, most recently Rocketfuel Games, an educational games studio. Ken was recognized in Avenue Magazine’s inaugural “Top 40 Under 40” issue, earned a Horizon Alumni Award from the University of Alberta, and was named one of “Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People” by Alberta Venture Magazine in 2011.

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