Let’s be real, there’s a reason that Game of Thrones is so incredibly popular – it resonates with the world that we live in. In so many ways we see that launching a business is not completely dissimilar to the chaos and carnage that we see in the world of George R.R. Martin. Even though sometimes the methods are a little different, the results can feel shockingly the same.
1. Vying for domination
When you play the game of Start-Ups, you win, or you die. Starting a business is absolutely like trying to conquer Westeros. Laid out before you–a beautiful, abundant kingdom with great potential for prosperity, but that also has the potential to drag you into the underworld. The only way to win the day for yourself is to build an army and charge over the lowlands and onto the castle that you know to be yours by birthright.
However those castles are dark and full of terrors – they belong to other entrepreneurs and businesses who for some archaic reason seem to think that those customers–I mean lands–are rightfully theirs. How could they ever come to that conclusion? It must have something to do with inbreeding, because they could really only truly belong to you, the pureborn. The crown is yours by birthright!
2. Changing alliances
Part of the reality of business is that it’s difficult to know who your friends really are. Just as in Westeros, people lie about having your back. In fact, they’re often ready to shove a knife into it, or perhaps to chop of your head ala Ned Stark. It’s not always because they have some nefarious intention, thinking horrible and nasty things about you when you aren’t looking. More often it’s that they’re a little like Sansa, caught up in their own life and their own dreams, only to find themselves in difficult situations with difficult decisions.
Taking advantage of those changing alliances can be beneficial to startups, especially if you can effectively assess and pursue the right kinds of connections. Who you align yourself with will determine not only what kinds of resources you have at your disposal, but also what the wider world thinks of you. Are you with the House of Tully or the House of Baratheon? People will think differently of you depending on who’s kid your kid is betrothed to.
As entrepreneurs, we’ve got to realize that we are at the heart of the matter on our own, and that any alliances that we might have are at best temporary. Shifting winds give power in different directions, and in order to maintain your place you’ve got to realize that you can’t really count on anyone. Well, except Hodor. You can really count on him. Maybe Jon Snow.
3. The clothes matter
It’s kind of horrible, but the outside appearance absolutely matters when it comes to finding success. Just look at the Lannisters. Isn’t the whole lesson of Cersei and Tyrion that she gets her way all the time because she’s beautiful and he’s left with crap because he’s not? Sure, he connives and works hard and eventually does find some kinds of success, but nowhere is it easy for him, plus he gets spat upon all along the way.
Early on, startups find out how important it is for that website to look great, for that logo to be awesome and for that suit to be tailored at investor meetings. You simply will not be able to get ahead if you don’t look successful. People will associate you with success or with failure based on outward appearances, though just as with the Lannisters those appearances are quite often sincerely deceiving.
4. Winter is always coming
Isn’t this so much the way that running a business feels? Even when the sun is shining and summer has been blessing you with abundance since time immemorial, there’s always Eddard Stark over there in the corner whispering something about the dark days ahead. Just enough to freak you out and make you feel as though you’ve got to put that next egg back.
To be completely fair, there’s a great deal of truth in the idea that bad days are always on the horizon. Not to be a downer about the whole thing, but ask those guys who felt the boom of the tech bubble bursting whether winter is always coming and they’ll tell you that you’d better be prepared. Even if you’re the king of startups. Even if you’ve got a really cool outfit. Even if you’ve got a direwolf by your side.
What this really comes down to is adaptability. If you get sent out to the Wall in hiding dressed as a boy even though you’re a beautiful girl, you’d better be able to figure out how to hide in the woods, to make your water. Then when it comes time to make your way through the world blind, you can’t give up. Arya could make it happen despite everything, and so can you.
Of course if you can find some dragon eggs lying around then you might be able to more effectively prepare for what’s on the horizon. That’s a longshot, and you might have to muster up some milk to feed them at first.
5. The carnage
There will be blood. And gore. And potentially dead people rising up from their graves. Starting a business is messy business.
Perhaps the place that we most see the carnage is with our own perceptions. All of those big dreams and hardcore ideas that you start out with in the beginning of your entrepreneurial adventure are guaranteed to be sliced and diced and served up to you in a pie that’s made of your own children. That’s actually kind of ok, you’ll still survive and keep going if you choose to.
The trick to the whole thing is to become ok with the carnage. That dude next to you who’s having his gut slit open and his bowels spilled all over the ground? Well his death doesn’t actually affect you in any meaningful way. You’ve got to just keep on walking down the road, holding tight to your sword and trusting in yourself. The people who fare the worst in Game of Thrones are those who are shaken by the fates of those around them. Be like Tyrion. Don’t care.
Defending your entrepreneurial kingdom
Making your way through the brutal world of business as a start-up, all out on your own, isn’t small potatoes. It’s intense, and bloody. And maybe there’s not quite as much frolicking and rolling in the hay as you’d like there to be because it always cuts straight to the scene of someone getting their heads chopped off just as you were getting going.
As an entrepreneur you keep pushing through, and hopefully in the end you find that you do indeed get to rule your kingdom. Or more likely the TV show just keeps going on forever and you don’t ever get any resolution and it starts to feel less and less like a cohesive story and more like it’s just for the ratings. On the bright side you’ll have a great story to tell.
And remember this: If your business is short of stature and still growing, you can always hire a sell-sword to fight by your side. Professional knights of the digital realm can help your website look like a Lannister, while keeping your business ethics as noble as a Stark.
Check out our Game of Thrones-themed video, Web of Thrones, exploring the realm of digital marketing and storytelling, and how our Digital Knights can help your start-up business claim the throne! We are Imaginovation. Mother of Rankings. Maker of links. The unbroken. And ruler of the seven search engines of Westeros.
We share our Web of Thrones video in memory of Earle Wesley Clifford IV, our art, animation, and music genius, who helped bring this vision to life. Your talent and passion made this world a more whimsical, fun, and creative place. Thank you for sharing your imagination with us.