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A Man, his Ant & Start-UPS

Source | LinkedIn : By Ramesh Srinivasan

A man was convicted and thrown into solitary confinement for 18 years. Put in a crude cell with almost no facilities, it took his eyes a couple of months to get used to the pitch dark surroundings in the door-less, windowless “room”.  The only occasion he got to see a ray of light was when the guards moved the stone outside to push his meal plate in. With his eyes beginning to ‘see’ in the dark, the man got familiar and friendly with his environment.

He identified an ant that seemed to know its way around the place, and started talking to it. Over the years, he taught the ant to speak in his language. The ant and the man made many an interesting conversation over the many long years of his incarceration. With all the time in the world on his hands, and delighted to have a companion, the man went on to teach the ant to recite the Bible. In being engrossed in such endeavours, the 18 years simply flew by, and the day of the man’s release from prison arrived.

When set free, the man carefully picked up the ant, put it in his pocket, and walked out of the jail. He had a song on his lips and a huge smile all over his face. He was certain that the world must have progressed a lot during the 18 years that he was condemned to of his spending time in darkness and isolation. But he was very sure that a talking ant will still be a novelty, maybe a money-making opportunity as well.

He was bursting with this ‘never-seen-before’ wonder in his pocket, and dying to show off his labours of many years. He walks into the first crowded bar, perches himself on the high stool close to the harassed bartender, and orders a beer. As the bartender turns with his beer in hand, our man could contain himself no longer. He pulls out the ant out of his pocket, puts it on the table, and says, “Now, look at this!” The tired and wary bartender takes one look at the ant, says, “Sorry, sir!” and squashes it hard and flat with his open palm. He pulls the dead ant towards himself, throws it into the trash can, and goes on to serve the next customer.

At a meeting with a few enthusiastic founders of start-ups, I got to see the same, “Now, look at this!” moments again and again. They had their ‘product’ or ‘app’ ready, and were very eager to show its features. Much like what Max Frisch says “Technology is a knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.” Unlike the bartender, not wanting to squash their high-energy presentation, I had to have them gently step back, and tell me the market requirements that they have discovered. The real world problem(s) that they want to solve.

The man with the ant came to grief, and has only himself to blame for having to watch his lifelong efforts destroyed in a jiffy, right in front of his eyes. When you have a great idea, it needs to be presented well. All good ideas need to be placed on a good pedestal, some interesting and intriguing build-up to the story, and finally, have a spotlight shine on the clever parts.

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