ON MAY 14, 2018

Scaling Up: What Summiting Everest Can Teach Us About Building a Business

When it comes to doing something difficult, whether it’s building a business or climbing Everest, there are no shortcuts.
The goal may be clear but the path isn’t.
No one knows this better than Tony van Marken, a serial entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and mountaineer who has reached the top of both the professional world and the physical one. At ThinkData Works we recently had the pleasure of hosting Mr. van Marken at our new office, where from the safety of sea level we were captivated by a recollection of his two month trek up Everest and the storms, setbacks, and self-doubt he endured along the way.

There is less of a difference than you might think between scaling the world’s highest peak and scaling a startup. Grit, innovation, tirelessness, and bloody-minded determination will keep moving you forward, but it’s the people on your team who help you reach the summit. It’s not hard to see this from the context of growing a business, where despite the difficulties in our path we keep strategizing, reflecting, innovating, and growing; sharing our successes, learning from our failures, and picking each other up when we falter.

When you’re climbing a mountain, you’re connected – literally – to the other members of your team. The rope between you helps to keep you on track and not veer off course when the going gets rough, but it’s also a lifeline: if the ice breaks away from under your feet, it’s the people on the other end of the line who can pull you to safety. The problem is that if there’s any slack, if you’re not in step, you’re all going down.
The key, says van Marken, is knowing who’s on the end of your rope.
Any successful founder will tell you that you can’t do it alone. Businesses are built on the backs of people who aren’t merely good at what they do but want to be part of the journey, to carry their own weight and make everyone around them better. Whether you’re a new addition to the team who’s full of energy or a founding member who’s battle-hardened by experience, it’s critical that everyone is pulling in the same direction, moving at the same pace, and relying on each other when you can’t see what’s ahead.

Here’s the thing: if it was easy everyone would do it. There’s no fast-track, no shortcut, there’s only hard work and trusting the process. You don’t become a CEO overnight. You don’t become a Team Lead without earning your stripes. Whether it’s building a world-class business or ascending the Hillary Step, you can’t breathe the rarified air unless you’ve acclimatized to the altitude.

Working at a startup is not a walk in the park, it’s scaling a mountain. At ThinkData, we can’t promise you an easy trek, but we can promise you that we’ll reach the peak together.


Want to join the team? We’re always looking for the right people to help us reach the next level. View our open positions here.

Juniper Fund
There are countless people who contribute to the success of every summit. Without the support of local individuals and communities, no expedition would be possible. Unfortunately, many are injured or lose their lives in the course of helping adventurers find their summit. The Juniper Fund helps families of those who have been injured or killed in the of work, specifically in Nepal, by providing extended support and education. If you would like more information or to donate, please visit their website: www.thejuniperfund.org/


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