2013-09-05 — Good Characters (Leave a message)
Every public school fourth grader in California has to learn about the California missions. The subject is often taught in the context of social, political, cultural, and economic development from the pre-Columbian societies to the Spanish and Mexican periods.
For a state that is known for its Silicon Valley and is in many ways the world leader in entrepreneurship, are there entrepreneurial lessons to be learned from this period?
I think there are history lessons—economic history lessons—that are worth a closer look.
In the process of working with author Ann Byers for her audio book Stories of the California Missions: 16 True Stories from California’s Early History, it came to me that there are parallels between building a mission and developing a startup.
Ann opened the first story, “Beginning A Mission,” with the following question:
“How do you go to a brand new place—a place that is pretty much barren land—and entice hundreds, even thousands of suspicious people who do not speak the same language you do to . . .”
Reading the story from a startup founder’s perspective, I saw several parallels:
|California Missions||Startup Founders|
|San Diego, 1769||Silicon Valley, 2013|
|How do you go to a brand new place—a place that is pretty much barren land—and entice hundreds, even thousands of suspicious people who do not speak the same language you do to . . .||How do you enter a brand new market—a place that is pretty much virgin territory—and entice hundreds, even thousands of customers who do not have the same vision as you do to . . .|
|accept your faith||accept your vision/want your product|
|construct a massive building complex||help you build a scalable business|
|adopt your language, your clothing, and your way of living||adopt your brand language, your products, and stay in your platform and product ecosystem|
|and let you control every aspect of their lives?||and trust you’ll respect their information and privacy?|
|How do you plant olive orchards, wheat fields, gardens, and vineyards and raise thousands of cattle and sheep where only grasses and wild plants grow? How do you start? The Spaniards had a plan.||How do you plant profitable seeds; develop scalable processes, products, and business models; and hire the best people with limited time and resources? How do you start? Do you have a plan?|
|The Story||The Lesson|
|The Missions||The business plan and the reality. The rise and fall of the business.|
|Beginning a Mission (San Diego, 1769)||The art of the start.|
|Father Magín (Santa Clara, 1794-1830)||Founder’s vision.|
|A Marriage at the Mission (San Antonio de Padua, 1773)||Unexpected finds; partners.|
|Mission Martyr (San Diego, 1775)||Bad things can and will happen to good people (but they don’t stop the venture.)|
|The Indian Girl Who Saved a Mission (Santa Inés)||A skeptic won can be a valuable ally.|
|From Russia with Love (Dolores, 1806)||A great vision is worthy of great sacrifice.|
|Good and Bad Pirates (Santa Inés, 1818)||The story of how one overcomes his seemly impossible obstacle or unjust circumstances can be turned to profit.|
|The Town that Destroyed a Mission (Santa Cruz, 1818)||There are usually people eager to take advantage of your difficulties; don’t let them stop you.|
|Chumash Revolt (Santa Inés, La Purísima, Santa Barbara, 1824)|
|The Indian Who Outsmarted Three Armies (San Jose, 1829)|
|The Battle Nobody Won (Santa Barbara, 1829)|
|The Island Woman (Santa Barbara, 1835-1853)|
|Farewell to San Luis Rey (1832)|
|Murder at the Mission (San Miguel, 1848)|
|The Last Mexican Governor (1846)|