Startup-ing, Fast and Slow

The LEAN idea of ‘launch fast and iterate’ doesn’t work and what to use instead… and how my new startup taught me to startup better.

How it felt

Let me start by talking about how it feels to startup. Often, this is the part of starting up that we gloss over, but it’s the most important.

My startup why:

Startup, Fast and Slow

The big insight is that launching a startup needs us to both move fast (breaking stuff and mopping up afterwards etc…) and slow.

Here’s how moving fast and slow worked for me and my new startup…


Wrote a proposal for repositioning Spanish olive oil for northern European markets. I didn’t even realise I was starting up at this stage…

July / Aug:

Slow, curious thinking, little tangible action: holiday, travelling, photographing olive oil bottles in Spain, France, Switzerland and the UK. Looking at different supermarket brands’ olive oil offering as well as the online offer. Oh, and running price checks. Getting agreement among my family that I will start this business. Defining my brand proposition and the goal: to build a European wide olive oil subscription business that is good for us (healthy) and good for our planet (carbon capture and saving the Spanish mountains).


Speeding up the thinking and delving deeper: researching the academic research on the carbon benefits of olive trees (other fruit or nut bearing trees) and therefore olive oil. Buying sample bottles. Buying sample olive oils. Buying sample boxes. Researching the complexities of goods export / import and looking at different European markets to choose a starting point.


Faster creative thinking: putting everything together in a model and then breaking it down again and rebuilding until it ‘just feels right’: developing different olive oil pack combinations, looking at pricing. Adding and removing VAT according to different markets. Investigating customs duties and legal structures required for moving goods across Europe and deciding that with my existing UK limited company and my Spanish tax residence that the UK is an easier market to reach.


Decision time! This is where all the previous research and (slow) thinking was deployed — but at pace! Now, I’m working 7 days a week and many hours — it is both physically and mentally exhausting. But exciting at the same time! In this period, I’ve committed real sums of money; bought stock, rented a unit, bought the brand domain, bought the boxes, built the ‘experience’, bought the packing materials and iterated on how to box and pack and build the experience messages.

So, where is the fast and slow in all this?

Well, clearly, theoretical research is the slow stuff and buying, packing, sending and selling is the real time deadline driven fast stuff. However, there are two insights here:

  1. I could not have moved so quickly in November if I hadn’t done the preparation work in June to October.
  2. After September, I could not have moved faster if I had avoiding real contact and real investment from October onwards but principally in November.
  3. After this initial launch, there will be more moving slowly as well as more moving fast!

Moving from lean to fast and slow

The early ‘lean’ startup idea was to launch early and iterate fast.

Write everything down

Lastly, when I say I do research, I mean do tangible research. That is, keep an online journal.

Coaching question

As always, I finish my posts with a coaching question. So, the question here must be this:

Where is your collective online journal? Where do you collect your shared knowledge and learning so that you can move forward faster?

Thanks for reading.



Spanish Olive Oil Guy

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