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The Drag Coefficient Scoring System: what size startup is right for you (humbledmba.com)
25 points by jaf12duke on June 30, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

I have to say, this is utter garbage. Or, it's an interesting concept poorly thought out and implemented.

You get "a point" for having a significant other or a serious relationship? Well, what if your significant other (like my wife) is a very smart person you can bounce ideas off of, and makes enough money on their own to pay all your basic bills and living expenses (also canceling out your +1 for a mortgage drag point)?

And you get 1 point for every 5 years after 20? Maybe make 30 the baseline there, but really that whole calculation is just off. When I'm hiring someone at a startup I tend to cringe at the 25-and-under crowd with startup stars in their eyes and no experience. THEY are drag on the organization because the majority of them don't know how to work independently and don't know what the company is supposed to look like in 5 years, so they lack a lot of vision and understanding (sorry if this offends anyone reading this, but I've always advocated that people get some real-company experience BEFORE joining a startup).

I can see how the kids thing might cramp things a bit (in theory I guess, I don't have any kids, so no real experience there).

I also wouldn't recommend that someone rush into their next venture after something else winds down or blows up (as the author of this article did). That seems like a great formula for making poor decisions, fighting some invisible ticking clock.

Ugh. I hope nobody actually takes this article too much to heart.

Yeah, but it's a cute way to kill time while awaiting Knuth's announcement.

Yep, same here waiting. To spice things up I decided to twiddle my thumbs backwards and count in multiples of 14.

Based on people I've seen, I'd replace "1 point for every 5 years after the age of 20" with "1 point for every 3 years in full-time employment". I think a 25 year old newly minted graduate who is used to living a "student lifestyle" has far less drag than a 23 year old who has spent the last 3 years working full-time and enjoying money.

I don't get why drag is so proportional to age. Yes, older people have more drag (family, mortgage, etc.) but these factors are already accounted for. I am 40, so get a drag factor of 4 points right there, but do not own a home. Why should I get more drag than the 25 year-old mentioned in the article with a mortgage?

I'm also pushing 40, and part of my hesitation is the opportunity cost. Will I seriously regret foregoing a year of market rate salary during my peak earning years, when I only recently got a clue and started saving? I'm also less blasé about doing without group health insurance than I used to be, just from watching people age (and CORBA only lasts so long).

Agreed. I'd be more specific and say 'full time work as an (non-startup) employee'.

It's easy to get used to structured work environments where lots of things are taken care of for you (not just the money). However, full-time work spent as a freelancer or self-employed would probably have less drag associated with it.

How about 1 point for every 50k you've made in salary so far.

For what it's worth, I had a 'drag' score of 7 when I founded my startup. Without a wife and a child to motivate me to try harder, and without 10+ years of experience in technology, I would never have been able to accomplish half of what I've done.

Interesting. I would like to know more about your accomplishments. I am pretty sure others here would agree. It's not every day that we find successful examples,and the general consensus has been that people over 40 are "not stupid enough". You can be a role model for us. At least to immigrants, it should be pretty comforting, considering the fact that it takes almost 10 years fo asians (esp Chinese and Indians, I am not sure what the numbers are like for others.) before they get a green card, and are free enough to move from one company/ city to another, without risking getting deported from US.

I am 26, and my professor was quite clear. He said you have maybe a couple of years when you can take all the risks and pursue your startup dream. (Yes, my score is 1 and I am still close to failing. How about that...)

Would really appreciate sharing your accomplishments to inspire and give hope to people, telling youngsters they have more time than they think they do, and more experienced ones the push they might need to make that jump.

I started my business on my own (and that's one of the downside of starting late, none of my friends where up for this kind of adventure, plus I'm an expat, so the people I knew and trusted best were 4k miles away), so I did everything myself: web development, graphic design, business, legal stuff, etc.. I'm by no mean an expert in any of these domains, but it's all stuff I've done at one point or another in my career. I build the thing, got customers, and was lucky enough to find a few good people to help me run this thing.

If you're going to wait before going on your own, just make sure you get the most out of your job. Avoid boring and routine stuff, venture out of your comfort zone, learn skills beyond your own specialty.

I don't think that starting late would have been your issue. Most people tend to avoid risks, and like to live easier life any given day. I am 26, and I asked my friends to join my startup when I was 25, still no one seems to want to take that risk. Also, location might be a big factor. Here in Dallas, Texas, not many people want to jump into startups straight away. In my case, the problem was also not so well defined, and there's not too many people working on this. Except some BIG corps.

I am also doing everything myself, until this point at least. i do have a co founder, but he is a busy man (Department head of CS form my university.)

I am also doing everything alone, that too on the side (I had to start doing a job some 6 months after starting my startup, due to financial and immigrations issues).

So, here I am , a 26 year old, immigrant startup founder, who doesn't know how to get more people (or if I want more people). I am getting to know and learn a lot more, and I am doing it very cheap. So successful or not, personally I think I will gain a lot. My question really was due to the fact that I might be failing soon enough, and more and more I see my friends and they all SEEM to be enjoying more and relaxing more doign their regular jobs. So, I am more afraid I might not be able to do more later on, and do any more startups if this one fails.

Somewhere in my head, at least I know one person who did it in his 40s. Gives me some level of confidence that it's not too late. Also, hearing all these stats about younger guys doing it and succeeding, Zuck and the likes, doesn't boost confidence either. Quite few times, I end up thinking, maybe this is it, after I am old, I might not be able to do it, since not so many people seem to be doing successful statups, or at least we don't hear about them much.

what are you working on?

I'd subtract two points for every startup you've already worked in, especially the failed ones. Every time you do a startup it does get easier. I've met a few people in Silicon Valley who were shoulder deep in their thirties, with kids, and working at their fourth or fifth startup.

Then I come out negative!

He forgot at least one... In my case:

Medical Issues: +1 to +inf points, depending.

i.e., I have migraines, 5+ docs to see about them, lots of pills and meds to buy, etc. Definitely getting good use out of my megacorp insurance plan & psuedo-unlimited sick leave.

Ignoring the migraines, I only have 1 point in his system, but there's no way I could do a startup right now... I had more sick hours than work hours last week.

If you have a spouse (+1), subtract two points if she has a good enough job to support both of you.

The trouble with a spouse is the amount of time and attention he/she takes up in your life. If your spouse is ok with not seeing you for long stretches then I agree with you. If he/she demands a lot of quality and family time, then +1 is perfectly appropriate.

It's deeper than that. Taking time off, clearing your head, and enjoying other parts of life can allow your mind to relax and will often lead to better overall productivity.

Everybody has this idea that for a startup to be successful EVERYBODY must be thinking/working only on that business for the 4 hours a day that they are not asleep. I do not believe that argument.

Nice to know that age and experience count against you, as does the potential 2nd income that a spouse brings in.

Subtract 5 points if you studied fluid mechanics and know what a drag coefficient really is.

There's something about this approach I don't want to grok. This would mean that if you are young with little experience, you live in an apartment and you're alone - you should be a founder, not a part of the "hiring wave" for a more mature start up.

This also means that a more experienced, successful, and wealthy man with a small family may too be old or have too many children to start his own company. Logic should suggest that its the perfect time, when you have 25 years of experience under your belt.

Personally, there should only be two real indicators of any size start up you take: 1) what do you feel you are capable of and 2) how far you are willing to go (whatever your priorities may be).

This formula is for someone who has relatively little money. Don't discount the impact of built-up netegg or trust fund baby. People who have money don't have the financial pressure to hold a job and can pursue things interested them, like starting a company. And older people who have done well tend to have a large netegg to enable them to strike out, which explain the surge of entrepreneurship in 40's.

The formula is simple: incomings - expenses = netflow; if netflow > 0, you are good to go, else if netegg/netflow > years-of-comfortable-living, you are good to go; otherwise get a job.

So how does the "5 points for every 5 years above 20" stack up against the fact that most successful founders are in their 30s?

Seems like a 20-year-old's idealised conceptions of founding start-ups.

There is a second peak of entrepreneurship for folks in their 40's that this does not model accurately at all. Supportive spouse is a plus. Deep domain knowledge and rich social networks are both a plus that come with age and work experience. I agree with his advice to the newly minted MBA but I think his rules of thumb break down for older entrepreneurs.

Score 1, Still feel like I am close to failing. I hope I was in CA, but then again, my problem was so peculiar, and so tough ( NP-Complete), it will probably take more time to build than it might require doing other parts of business. I certainly hope so. That making it work will pay off eventually. I like to compare myself to Google guys. Only in that they tok close to three years before the search engine was good enough to take investments. Of course, I think they were smarter, so does that give me more years to work on. I hope not..


A few more revisions: First kid: +2 Each additional kid after the first: +1 Single parent with weekday custody: +10

I score an 11. Damn.

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