Startups and Photography

My principle creative outlet is photography. I’m (slowly) getting my photos up on Flickr – but most of my photos are up at @tvladeck on Instagram, and on tomvladeck.tv – my “media” domain.

I’ve noticed recently that there a number of philosophical parallels between running an early-stage startup and being a photographer:

Two things really matter.

A photo captures a moment in time through the view of a composition. A startup attacks a market with a product designed to solve a key problem. In both cases, there is a function of perception, and a function of action. You perceive the moment, and then compose the shot. You find the problem in a market, and design a product to solve it.

Category Photography Startups
Perception Moment Market
Action Composition Product

So what about the team? And marketing? And… everything else? Remember I’m talking about an early stage startup. You are the team. You haven’t achieved product/market fit yet. And until you do, nothing else matters.

There are lots of things to worry about.

And even though only two things really matter, there are so many things to worry about. Especially if you’re really interested in photography or business more generally. But remember, these things only matter if they help you do better in the two things that really matter. These are means to an end – not ends themselves.

Photography Startups
Lens Tech Stack
Aperture/shutter settings PR
White Balance Finance
ISO Settings Accounting

It is an art of exclusion

You define a photo by what you decide to leave out of the frame. You can’t create things in the frame, you can only eliminate all but a certain portion of the view in front of you. That portion becomes your shot.

A startup is in a similar place. Instead of a hemisphere of light to whittle down, there are endless problems and markets to choose from. But you can only choose one. You have to exclude.