At Sydney University, I ran a startup experiment to show that we often don’t think about the choices we make.

Instead, we act impulsively. But, there could be a better way to do things, giving you more options.

What’s the secret? Data.

  1. People think differently.
  2. We act out of impulse.
  3. This test can be applied to startups everyday living too.
  4. Brainstorm with your team.
  5. Prediction is one part of the execution.

We often have our ideas, and forget to look outside of the box.

During the class, students formed mini groups with their peers. All separated by sex.

Startup Experiment: Females

With $30 to impress your boyfriend, what would you do? 

Startup Experiment: Guys

After brainstorming, and talking to friends, the girls in the class answered with things like:

  • Use it to make myself look cute (yes a girl said this).
  • Buy a video game.
  • Make a home cooked meal.
  • Buy a ticket to a sporting game.

    Startup Experiment: Males

    If you had $30 to impress your girlfriend. What would you do with this money? 

Startup Experiment: Girls

The boys then had their turn to speak, and said things like:

  • Buy some flowers.
  • Take my girlfriend out to dinner.
  • Spend a romantic night inside with a bottle of wine.
  • Cook for them.
  • Buy them some makeup.

All answers were called out in class. Starting off with the girls first, followed by the boy’s responses.

Findings From the Startup Experiment:

1) All of the girls in the class (except for one) – did not want flowers. Most girls preferred to have a romantic night inside with wine; or have their boyfriend cook for them.

2) Most of the guys (not all) preferred a video game or to be taken outside to watch a Rugby game.

3) Girls were looking for something romantic and thoughtful (aka the guy spent some time and effort thinking about what they would buy).

4) Guys preferred fun and entertaining gifts.

I Think, Therefore I do:

People do things by instinct: “I think this. Therefore I’ll do this.” A good way to imagine this is the boyfriend and girlfriend case.

Students quickly made up their minds as to what they would buy for their partner, without putting much thought into it.

However, adding data into this scenario shows a different angle altogether. Data creates probable outcomes.

You can predict why certain things may work better than others by collecting, brainstorming, and using data.

Source: Science4all
Source: Science4all

With the class experiment, over 90% of girls preferred not to receive flowers from their boyfriend’s.

If this was a real-life scenario, and the guys knew that most girls prefer ‘thoughtful’ or ‘romantic gifts,’ then would they be buying flowers?

The answer would probably be a no. And that’s the thing, often we don’t have a decision-making process, and act on impulse.

People Are Impulsive by Nature:

When both guys and girls heard in class what the opposite sex prefers, this altered their perspectives and gave them some valuable insight.

Before students were just acting on impulse: “I think they will like XYZ, so I’ll buy XYZ.” But, once hearing what the opposite sex had to say, it challenged their beliefs.

The students came to realize that they had no strategy as to how they would spend that precious $30.

But if they had access to data, this would have likely changed.

Data allows you to readjust your position, and you can use probability to create multiple outcomes. Then you can decide which strategy is the best route to take.

Then you can decide which strategy is the best route to take.

Probability, Position, and Strategy:

A good way to think about position, chance and strategy are like playing Chess.

The longer you play Chess, the better you get at predicting moves in advance. And this is related to startup execution.

The longer you play Chess, the better you get at predicting moves in advance. And this is related to startup early performance.

Startups need to sit down and create an implementation plan and deal with crucial issues like:

  • How am I going to bring this to market?
  • How will I grow this?
  • How will I get my first users?
  • How long can I last before I need to raise some capital?

Students didn’t have a strategy as to how they’d spend that money on their partner; but they could have formed one by using data, teamwork and using probability – then use this information to create strategies to achieve their goals.

The primary goal for students was not really to spend $30; it was to make their partner happy and to challenge their actions.

However, the students acted on impulse, and startups are often impulsive too.

Use Prediction to Plan Execution:

Early stage startups can use prediction to plan how they will execute their startup.

Don’t act impulsively and rely on gut instinct. Instead, sit down as a team and brainstorm. Things like:

  • Collect data, and use this data to create different outcomes.
  • Predict the results of these outcomes (probability of the success).
  • Analyze the data that’s available.
  • Choose an execution strategy based on your findings.
  • Reflect on results, readjust if necessary.

Possible Biases in the Findings:

It’s important to mention that the findings likely have some bias. As some students could have felt subject to peer pressure.

They may have opted for answers that seem cool or trendy. Rather than answering the question truthfully and honestly.

The class itself was quite small, and it appeared that everyone in the class was straight.

Had there of been more diversity in the class, I would have constructed this experiment completely different.

Perhaps that’s Part Two of this experiment?

Key Points to Consider:

  • People are wired to think differently. You cannot assume that everyone thinks or feels the same way that you do.
  • We all need to fight impulsive behavior. People tend to make a choice off gut instinct, but by adding teamwork, data, and probability – things can be assessed in more detail with open eyes.
  • This experiment is not only applicable to startups, but everyday living too.
  • Work with your team to plan and create different outcomes. Once you have
  • Before startups go-to-market, they should make a strategy on how they will execute based on data.


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