Surrounded by The Unfamiliar

“How was your trip to Italy?”

I beamed. “It was amazing. We gave ourselves a schedule that had the right mix of relaxation, sight-seeing, and random wandering.”

“That sounds great. It’s good you guys had some time to relax too.”

“Hells yea,” I nodded. “I also stayed away from anything technology or business-related. It felt good to step away from all things Silicon Valley and take a break from for a while.”

“That must have been hard.”

“You know? It was at first. But after a few days, it was easy. We relied on paper guidebooks, advice from fellow travelers and people at the hotels, and some well-worn folding maps to get around. I’ll admit, I felt like pulling out my phone and looking at TripIt, TripAdvisor or Google Maps (GOOG) a few times, but I didn’t.”

“I would’ve been using those like crazy. I’ve grown so dependent on those apps.”

“Back in the States, me too. But I didn’t have an international SIM card and didn’t want to pay the roaming charges, so admittedly, the frugal side of me helped curb my app addiction too.”


“But you know what? I always enjoy being surrounded by the unfamiliar. Unfamiliar words, unfamiliar signs, unfamiliar cultures.” My hands waved around to punctuate each sentence. “I mean, Italy isn’t as foreign as, say, a village in rural China or the dunes of the Sahara desert. But it’s still exciting to be in a wholly different place than I normally am, then gradually learning enough of the language and customs to get around.”

“Hey, that could be a good analogy for a startup.”

“Oh yea? How so?”

“When you start a company, you’re doing something unfamiliar, right? Maybe it’s entering a new market or creating a new spin on something. Either way, it’s something new and unfamiliar. Then you gradually learn about the market, and as you do, you compete in it that much better. You navigate in it that much better.”

“Right, right. Traveling someplace unfamiliar involves some level of risk, just as entering a new market does. Some cities and countries have less risk than others, just as some markets have less potential than others. The companies that do well are the ones who have the ability to learn and understand their market. The people who enjoy their trips are the ones who have enough of an understanding to get around and not wander into a back alley somewhere and get robbed or something.”

“Yup, totally.”

“That IS a good analogy.”

“You should blog about this.”

“I think I will,” I smiled.

Author: Mike Lee

An idealistic realist, humanistic technologist & constant student.