Swedish Startup Space

What can Swedish startups learn from football?

Written by on November 19, 2013

We are on the verge of the do-or-die World Cup playoffs, the Swedish national team is hosting Portugal at the Friends Arena in Stockholm on Tuesday evening. While Portugal has the upper hand as it scored on its home pitch last week, anything is possible for both countries. As a big football fan and a tech startups fan, I thought it would be interesting to draw some parallels between football and tech startups.

A Winning Culture

In football, you can win, lose or draw. When you go on the pitch, you only think of winning, when you are in front of the net, you just want to take the shot because you are in it to win it. Football managers come and go, players come and go, but what remains is the winning psychology. It’s the same in a new company. You need to win customers over the competition, win market share, win the talent war, and win partners. You must win to stand out.

Consistency is Key

You might win once but lose three times. Consistency is what builds great teams. A player is selected for a game based on his/her performance during the weekly training and previous performances. To be a great player, you need to perform in a consistent way, and to be able to perform consistently, you need to practice, practice and practice. Consistency comes with practice, you are not born with it but you can learn it and make it a habit. Great companies consistently deliver great products, hit targets and hire the right people.

Perseverance pays off

Every four years the world crowns a new World Cup winner, every year Europe crowns a new club champion, and every year major leagues crown their best winning clubs. Successful teams strive to fight until they hear the whistle. Those who preserve the most, will walk away with the trophy in hands. Same is for startups, those entrepreneurs who persevere in the wind, in the tornadoes, and against failure are the ones who will walk out with their trophies.

Always recruit team players

Zlatan cannot win alone [Editor: or can he…?], Ronaldo cannot win alone. If you put both of them in one team, they may not perform well together either. You need to find your ‘A Players’. ‘A Players’ are not necessarily the ones with the best talent or skills, they are the ones who fit well in your culture and can form a team in sync, in harmony sharing the same values and culture.

And just a little bit of luck goes a long way…

The referee whistles a penalty, but it was not a penalty. The opposing team scored a goal but it was offside. The opposing team scored in extra time at minute 92, or your shot hit the post. Ya, well, luck is needed even in startups.

I will be watching Zlatan vs. Ronaldo at the Friends Arena Live on Tuesday with a strong belief that Sweden will win and qualify for the 2014 World Cup!

I will leave you with these final thoughts:

It’s not about ability, it’s about mentality
It’s not about strategy, it’s about psychology

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