Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why StarCraft 2 Is Great Practice For Being An Entrepreneur

StarCraft 2 (SC2) is arguably the best real time strategy game ever created. The original Starcraft was amazing, but SC2 enhanced the UI, improved core game play balance, and added great skill based matchmaking. With $60 approximate life time value per customer, Blizzard is going to rake in even more cash with this game.

Games are fun, they just are. I have found in recent years that I get a lot more satisfaction from the games I play. I don't know if running a game company is any influence on that, but I play SC2 like some business people travel. I set aside focused time to play with friends. The scary thing is, I think SC2 is teaching me how to be a better entrepreneur. Koichi wrote a blog post about how Starcraft players are good entrepreneurs, and I am just adding my 2 cents that he didn't cover.

Your attention is your scarcest resource.
In StarCraft, players are clicking madly, and many of them have extremely high actions per minute (APM). These people can perform and execute tons of commands and can just get more done. But even if your APM is high, you still have to choose what you are focusing on. When you are micromanaging those Mutalisks vs building more units, it's all about scheduling your time and choosing when to make the tradeoffs of your time. Too much attention to micro, and you'll let your infrastructure die. I think the same is true in a startup. As the CEO you only have so much attention time, and you have to spend it very wisely and the best practice is actually to balance it. You have to decide when to work on high level stuff and when to micromanage the details of a product design or tech decision.

You have to work within a budget.
In SC2 it really is about cash management and cash flow. Ideally you want to spend all your money as it comes in, but sometimes you save up and manage cash flow between parties of your team so you can have stronger pivots (Yeah, 30 Mutalisks or Void Rays are a pretty devastating force). Good cash management enables these decisions to happen. The same is true in startups - good cash management makes moderate strategies amazing.

Pivoting is one of the most amazing concepts I've realized this last year. It's about pivoting your strategy and adjusting to your competitors, teammates, or opportunities. In SC2, if the other team goes air, you have to counter it. But in a startup, you may realize your product doesn't sell like you thought it would or that a technology doesn't work as well as you thought it should. Throwing away everything could lead to failure, so how do you shift your weight and direction to make your company grow and be amazing? Startups that can pivot are the ones that stay alive.

Moving Quickly
Neither SC2 or startups are for those who like relaxing rides. The bleeding pace of both creatures can be daunting to many. You have to move, think, and act at blistering speed. The amount of work required is insane. And a lot of people just like a slower paced life. No skin off any backs, it's not made for everyone.

How you use your army (positioning, tactics) can be just as important as having the army.
In SC2 this is called micro, such as being sure to keep those Zealots in front of your Marines. In a startup, this includes details of how your product works, such as ensuring the user experience is good and having friendly and caring customer support. It's good to magnify the significance of having these parts. Many entrepreneurs think that just because they have built the product they've done enough. That is just the start. The true successful parts of a business are the details of each high level thing, just like in SC2.

There is a learning curve.
You aren't a great SC2 player out of the gate. Some people have more innate talent, but it's a skill, requires practice, and you will make many mistakes which you can't let get you down. Just reflect and move on. I really think being a great CEO is the same. It's more about skills than anything. Learning, adapting, reflecting, and not letting failure get you down. No one is born a Steve Jobs.

Everything has a tradeoff.
The engineer in my heart warms up when I hear these words. You can't do everything, so choosing your strategy and "what" you are going to do is crucially important and will dictate your success in life, startups, and in SC2.

Delegation, orders, and communication keep the team unified and successful.
In SC2 you have to figure out who is managing the army, who is building what units, who is collecting what resources, when you can take a risk and expand, where you expand to, who gets what money, plus more. Watching a team of 4 SC2 players is almost just as entertaining as playing the game. You can really tell the good team dynamics. No one can conquer the world by themselves. Being a team player and being able to communicate, perform and help makes both startups and SC2 great experiences.