Ok, well don’t drink too much of it. Here’s a trend I’ve been noticing. I guess it’s not a trend as I’ve seen it in startups my entire career. But I think it’s back again and as critical as it is to startup success, it’s equally dangerous.
We all know the phrase. Drinking the Kool-Aid means you or someone else is buying into something that may, or likely isn’t, entirely truth. In startupville, this false-truth often revolves around what your company “aspires” to do vs. what you’re actually doing right now. As a founder and early member of a startup team, it’s important to brew some Kool-Aid and serve it to investors, customers, partners, media and anyone else outside your company. And, yes, you can even give a taste of it to your employees — but just a taste. If everyone in your company is drunk on the Kool-Aid they may lose track of what’s important, what’s real and what’s not quite the truth just yet.
The real danger comes when the founders drink too much. They start to believe ‘from balls-to-bone’ that the company is doing something that it actually isn’t doing. For outsiders, this is exactly the type of hype and excitement you want to create and the Kool-Aid does it’s job just right. But when you get lost in the dopamine of what you think you’re doing, then you stop doing what you need to be doing.
I think it’s a real balancing act. The best founders can drink just enough to make outsiders believe what you are saying — because in reality, you believe it. But they can also pause and remember what’s actually real and can effectively lead the company toward, and hopefully reach, the thing that you just sold to your investors or next customer.
Otherwise, too much Kool-Aid and not enough Reality Punch, and you start making bad decisions and everyone follows. Soon enough you have no shot at actually delivering on the promises you made to everyone outside your company.
So beware. Everything in moderation.