Are startups more like hockey or basketball?

Which startup approach should you take — the hockey or basketball approach?

Image for post
Image for post

In hockey, the more shots you take, the better your chances of scoring and winning.

Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is the NHL’s best scorer, and season after season he leads the league in shots on goal. Shooting percentage doesn’t matter.

Can the same be said about startups? Should you pursue a number of projects and take a bunch of shots to see what works?

In basketball, you want to take the best, highest percentage shot that you can. You can keep moving the ball around until you find that open shot. Shooting percentage matters a lot. Points per possession is a very important team statistic, and the best teams have very high PPP.

Should you take this approach for startups instead? Should you dig deep on one problem or product and keep tweaking until you get it right?

I think there is an argument for both approaches.

A lot of it depends on how you work.

If you’re very stubborn (not necessarily a bad thing), the basketball approach will probably be a better fit. You’ll likely be determined and set on attacking that one problem until it’s solved.

Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, pretty much went bankrupt to keep Pandora afloat until he got that open shot. Things turned out really well, but it could have easily gone the other way. Who knows.

If you’re more flexible (not always a good thing), the hockey approach may work better for you.

Game developer Rovio created 51 games before launching the hit Angry Birds. Things turned out well, but maybe they could have found success earlier if they stuck with one game for longer. Who knows.

With startups, you just don’t know what the best approach may be. That’s what makes them so exciting and frustrating at the same time.

Startup founders, have you taken the hockey or basketball approach? I’d love to hear from you. Write your thoughts in the comments, tweet at me @mikewchan, or email me at

Photo courtesy of Radio Kenai

Written by

Dad and husband! Growing @meter_io and @utu_trust. #crypto, #startup, ex-marketer @capitals, power napper

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store