What Playing Dots Can Teach You About Startups

I don't need to explain what Dots is, because you're already playing it.  Don't lie.

In fact, you're playing it so much, that it better teach you some lessons as a founder, otherwise, it's probably distracting you from your startup.

Here's a list to defend your high score from your investors:

1) Reset the Board: Don't fall in love with your first idea. Find the best possible starting point to create momentum.

2) Expanders: Eliminate as many features and possible directions right away. Clear the board of all the dots of one color in the same way that you focus on less things in your startup to do them better.

3) Buy some time: Raise a little more money than you need because cash (time) always runs out at the worst possible moment.

4) Don't look at the leaderboard: Other people will be dramatically more successful than you--to the extent whether they've discovered a cheat or are playing a different game altogether.  Don't worry too much and focus on your own game.

5) Just make squares: It's tempting to go for rectangles, but squares get you all the points you need.  Just focus on what you need to move your company forward each day.  Great startups are a series of small victories, not giant, pointless wacks at making a lot of noise.

6) Shrinkers: Get stuff off your plate when it's in the way.  It's easy to work on just the things you like to do, but focus on what's really holding you up and tackle it head on.  Eliminate the dots that are directly in your path to making a square.

7) Stay calm: If you start freaking out when things are starting to go your way, or not going your way, you won't be able to focus.  It's a marathon, 65 seconds at a time.

8) Don't freeze: Keep those fingers moving.  There's always something you could be doing--reaching out to one more customer, eliminating one more dot.  You don't have a lot of time, so idle time can kill you.

9) Know your next move:  The moment your thumb hits the screen, you need to be looking elsewhere on the board to figure out where you're likely to find another square.  If you have to relook at the board from scratch each and every time, or if you do that with your market, you won't be fast enough.

10) Don't stop short on a square: You see it, you're running your thumb over it... and MISS!  Nothing.  DAMMIT.  You went over it too fast, too sloppy, and now you totally effed the whole board.  Hit the easy ones out of the park and do what you need to do.  It's easy in a startup to run around like a chicken without a head, but that's going to make you stumble on the easiest of tasks.