Failing Forward and regression lines

It’s been a really productive two weeks in North Dakota, installing our game in schools on two reservations, in tribal schools and public schools. I didn’t write this post to talk about that. Rather, in keeping with some of the really useful posts I’ve read about start-up failures, I wanted to share with you the one thing that didn’t go right this week.

Just spoke to the Chief Marketing Officer for our 7 Generation Games start-up and she told me we did not get accepted to the playco lab accelerator. She felt bad about that since she really does think we are a terrific company, we already have traction with games installed in the schools and paying customers, and the fact that she lives in the Bay area meant it would have been very convenient for her.

The Invisible Developer and I had mixed feelings on this. On the one hand, we think our company is awesome and going to be incredibly successful.

We’re really pleased with the work we do and an accelerator (or anybody) saying they don’t want us gives us kind of the same reaction when somebody calls your baby ugly – how dare you!

On the other hand, we’re just coming back from two weeks away from our cocoon-like home offices by the beach, and The ID has said approximately 2,982 times that he doesn’t like to travel. When I told him that Maria had called and said we were not accepted, he did a reasonably good job of hiding his glee.

I don’t mind travel but I am mindful of the sage advice I received from Jenny Q. Ta of sqeeqee to never give up a half a percent of your company before you have to, and we are not at the point where we need outside money. Although having some validation from an outside group might be nice, it might have helped our marketing to have access to a network within the acceleration, we still have 19 months of SBIR funding, as well as our own funds from The Julia Group. All of that being said, yes, it does bother me that we didn’t get it, because, I think we’re awesome and I want everyone on earth to share that view. Also, whenever I read these articles about people who cannot find start-ups outside Silicon Valley/ with female/ minority founders and they are supposedly really looking , I think, “Gee, we must really suck because we are all of those things and they don’t want us.”

Then reality sets in. I am a statistician, after all, and not too many people know regression lines better than me. (Yes, you may be a far better statistician than me , but 99.99% of the population has no clue what a residual error is and the fact that I just made that percentage up makes it no less true. Try to parse that statement for a moment.)

Years ago, I was listening to (okay, eavesdropping on) a “top executive” at a Fortune 500 company who was discussing his next career move, he said,

“It has to be perceived as bigger, better and then I’m still on the path to CEO. If it’s seen as smaller, worse, then I’m fucked.”

Maybe that is true in his career path, but in my experience as a statistician, small business owner and human being, life seems more like a regression equation. Even though you may have a straight line in one direction or another, there are ups and downs. Take for example the regression line I just happened to have laying around with 100 data points

regress Overall, the trend here is very positive – about .70, to be precise. If you looked at either of the two low points shown with arrows, you’d say, holy shit, the trend is really going down, I’m failing. In fact, though, if you compare the initial low point, you can see that each of these new lows is higher than the previous one.

In my life, I have seen far more trends like this one, if you are lucky, and really none where every single point falls on the regression line.

Statistics imitates life. Or maybe it’s the other way around. How about that?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *