The spirit of startups is best embodied in music by Jazz.

  1. Every next note [or day] is quite unpredictable.
  2. Not everyone gets it, so can make many uncomfortable.
  3. The room to improvise is unlimited.
  4. Miles Davis says: If you’re not making a mistake, it’s a mistake. To be make innovative products, you will make mistakes
  5. Find your own sound. Coltrane teaches us that you have to find what is right for you, leading to finding your own place of uniqueness. What Coltrane and entrepreneurs share is the ability to address complexity and thrive in messy spaces. He said: “I start in the middle of a musical sentence, and move in both directions at once.
  6. It takes an enormous effort up front to make it seem effortless.
  7. When it all comes together, the result is super beautiful.
  8. As Miles Davis said, “Anybody can play. The note is only 20%, the attitude of the person who plays it is 80%.” The attitude of startup founders is critical.
  9. Listening to those around you is more important than what you play yourself. If you are the one talking, you are not learning anything. Listen, absorb what you hear, and use the information to make a conscious choice about whatever you are facing. Listen to your teams members, and importantly listen to your customers.
  10. There is a time to stand out as a soloist and a time to be a team player You rocked a project. However, it is more likely the case that your team rocked a project, together.


11. Expect surprises and adversity, since jazz [and startup life] is about how you respond If running a startup was always smooth sailing, and it followed the notes on the score, everyone would do it. The old adage applies, that ‘a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor’, so anticipate challenges and maximise learning from them. The bigger the challenges, the bigger the lessons.

Image: The Joni Mitchell Project, Tutu Puoane -vocals, Ewout Pierreux – piano, Jasper van Hulten – drums, Guus Bakker – bass, electric bass guitar and Nicolas Kummert – tenor saxophone

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