Mario Kart 8 Exemplifies Startup Culture, or, How to Stop Worrying About The Spiky Blue Shell and Enjoy the Hustle

Mario Kart 8 is a simulation of how a start up operates. In startups, there are often grand ambitions about saving the world, and in Mario, the end goal is saving the princess from Bowser’s nefarious plots to trap her in Mushroom Castle forever. However, when boiled down to the essentials, Mario Kart and start ups are about one thing: stiff competition.

Often you’ll be cruising through Rainbow Road, in first place for two laps straight, not a care in the world. Then, on the 3rd and final lap, a pesky spiked blue shell will pop up in your peripheral, destroy you without mercy, and you’ll wind up losing the race in the final moments. This isn’t fair, and neither are startups. Why should the player in last place be given the most powerful weapon in the game? People complain about this all the time. Startups are the same way, where the company with the least amount of vision can attain the most VC backing. This simultaneously levels the playing field – anyone can win – while super-charging the potential for disruption. If an 8th place player can get a star power up and coast into first place, or a startup with minimal experience can blow the veterans away, then the costs of competition are higher than ever because there’s so much at stake. You almost feel like quitting, throwing your controller on the floor, or joining the corporate finance world – but that’s a copout. Stay and compete.

The new bells & whistles addition to Mario Kart is the anti-gravity mode, and certainly at most startups you’re often defying the same laws of gravity, working cray-cray hours, fighting off delirium with another jolt of caffeine, etc.

No matter how good your idea is for your startup, you can bet someone is working on an app with a similar vision, like when Hooli rips off Richard Hendricks’ Pied Piper in Silicon Valley. This competition may result in you losing a hack a thon, or blowing an expose, even when you feel you were pre-destined to win. This is not unlike watching as your hopes of victory are dashed by a certain blue shell in Mario Kart. There’s nothing you can do about this. All you can do is “draw sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises”, in the words of Samuel Butler. You’re in a plane, or a kart which can fly, and you’re taking off before you know exactly where you’re headed. Don’t worry about it. Strap in, enjoy the ride, and be prepared for inclement blue shells. You’ll do just fine.



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