Batman and the bootstrap challenge

150robfitzpatrickI heard about this guy who has set himself an amazing challenge: "I’m betting £10k that I can build a portfolio of products which is profitable enough to live off, before running out of money. " And he's posting his accounts and diary on his blog.

It sounds great, we could all use some of that magic. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all watch, learn, and copy his success? Well, after looking at his site, fascinating as it is, I've concluded that he is in fact Batman. And we should all stop watching.

The Batman idea comes from a piece I saw somewhere about whether it would be possible to do what Bruce Wayne does in Batman Begins. With the same resources, could anyone become that superhero?

And the answer was that, maybe, yes we could. But the problem is that as soon as you lose one fight it's game over for Batman. Every sports superstar loses the occasional battle, but they can always try again next time. Not so for Batman. Every fight is a career-breaker. You have to be invincible, forever. And that's out of reach for pretty much everyone.

So, back to 10K-dude. A couple of weeks into his campaign to create a sustainable and sustaining business, he goes to a hackathon. And wins. So he got a prize, a couple of grand, and is ahead of the game. But is that it? Is that his business? It sounds more like a job to me, and it's one that depends on being able to keep going to hackathons and winning. Like Batman, he is screwed as soon as someone badder than him shows up. His super-hero lifestyle will be over, because it depends on him being invincible.

And of course, we can't all be invincible. Winning a hackathon is not a strategy that everyone else can adopt. Reading Batman's diary might be interesting, but it only gives you an insight into one unique individual. There are no scaleable, reproducible lessons from it.

Imagine a hundred guys all showing up at a hackathon in Batman costumes, because they've all read the same blog and think they've found the key to financial independence. 99 of them are going to be disappointed, because, in the words of the late great Freddie Mercury, "there can be only one." Will it be you?

* Footnote: I met some guys at a business plan competition a while ago who were the fundraising team for a small startup. They spent most of their time entering competitions, and using the prize money to fund product development. It seemed to be working for them, and good luck to them, but what would happen if we all did it?