Heroes like the Avengers make us dream of what it might be like to develop superpowers. Part of their appeal is that unlike the X-Men, many of these powers were not genetic but obtained through some fluke event – which means we might just be able to relate to it. More importantly, Avenger characters tend to be unapologetically human, powers combining with personality traits to give each one advantages and disadvantages.
The question is, what is your Startup’s Avenger Personality, and what does that mean in terms of your strengths and weaknesses?
Natalia Alianova Romanoff was born in Russia and started her training towards the life of an assassin when she was just a child. In spite of having no superhuman powers, the Black Widow is an expert martial artist with thorough interrogation skills, a scientific mind, and hacking skills.
She can be particularly charming and sexy, ruthless, and loyal. Career-driven, she is the sole female Avenger and is the only person who can calm the Hulk down to a gentle version of his green self and back into Dr. Banner.
The risk Black Widow runs is that she is a woman in a man’s world and needs to avoid the pitfall of trying to be a man but instead, continue harnessing the fact that being a woman is a strength.
Business & Startup examples: Huffington Post & Thrive Global – Arianna Huffington is changing how journalism works, and now also how we live; Nasty Gal – the whole company is based on the founder being shamelessly herself; and Goldieblox – for taking on the gender gap by owning a skill set typically assigned to men (engineering).
If you’re a Black Widow startup… Own the fact that you might be playing in a man’s world, but don’t forget that you can still play by your own rules and that this is your strength. Don’t apologize. Lean in, connect with other women, and kick butt.
Rogers is old school, literally from another era. At his core are values such as honor and integrity, complemented by serum-induced regenerative powers, stamina, strength, and speed.
A Captain America startup has strong values that dictate its direction, and although some of its attributes may be more classic than revolutionarily innovative, its reliability and integrity make it stand out amongst its peers. On the downside, it may be reticent to accept change.
Business & Startup examples: Nokia – their relaunch of an old but improved model is a potentially brilliant move that might put them back on the spotlight; Alibaba – for taking the concept of EBAY and improving it while targeting the growing and seemingly unquenchable market that is Asia; and Waze – for taking an old school tool, maps, and adding the user base interactivity to make it more performant and reliable.
If you’re a Captain America startup… Don’t try to keep up with your competition by following what they do while lagging one step behind. Dig deep & think of how you can harness your old school flair and core values to do something better and show them how it’s done.
Clinton Francis "Clint" Barton, codename Hawkeye, is the world’s greatest marksmen and is the only Avenger to have a family. This means he has the most to lose if anything goes wrong, which is a unique motivation to succeed every world-saving mission and survive it. Hawkeye is not a leader but always has his friends’ backs and has saved all their lives countless times.
Business & Startup examples: SAS – a software myriad companies use to run their operations; Square Space – which revolutionized website development and design; and Mobilize – leveraging the power of networks and communities for a different kind of people-powered startups.
If you’re a Hawkeye startup… Be one with the fact that you may never be quite in the spotlight, because anyone who knows what you do understands that it’s quietly revolutionary and essential to innovation. You are the catalyst that allows other superhero startups to shine.
Dr. Robert Bruce Banner is a genius scientist who is exposed to gamma radiation and as a result, transforms into the Hulk whenever his heart beats at intensified speeds, often brought on by anger.
Anger management issues aside, a Hulk startup is prone to fast growth and is likely to be science-based. While it risks being reactive rather than proactive, it can also bypass “bandaid solutions” and go straight to the root of a problem. This earmarks it as visionary and potentially transformative.
Business & Startup examples: J&J – big pharma company providing medical solutions worldwide, known for treatments but striving to also focus on prevention; and AlphaMundi Group – an impact investing firm providing innovative startups with capital, focused on both a financial return and a measurable social impact.
If you’re a Hulk startup… Go to the source. Rethink what got us in trouble in the first place, and help the rest of us catch up with this better way of doing things. Just be careful of fast growth and its implications.
Tony Stark is a tech genius, perhaps even a genius all-around. However, he is very proud and stubborn, and because he has a seemingly infinite amount of money, he sometimes assumes money can solve problems.
An Iron Man startup is pushing the boundaries of innovation and changing the world as we know it. However, it also risks hubris – that condition described in Greek mythology whereby humans start thinking they are on par with the gods, which inevitably leads to their being struck down by the gods as a reminder that they are, in fact, mere humans. A worthwhile risk given the chance to quite literally change the world.
Business & Startup examples: Tesla – going from cars to batteries to solar power and roof tiles, and its sister company SpaceX launching rockets into space and preparing for Mars colonization; Virgin – dealing in everything from records to airlines to traveling to the moon, hotels, mega stores, and so much more; Ariana – providing an AI chatbot for personalized health solutions; and Curious AI – a Finnish startup working on solving the unsupervised learning.
If you’re an Iron Man startup… The greatest challenges you face are potentially spreading yourself too thin as well as figuring out your legacy. You have to pick your battles and focus to ensure impact and successful ventures before tackling the next initiative. Additionally, after a founder with such charisma, vision, and genius, a solid team needs to be in place so that any change in leadership stands the test of time
Thor Odinson is an Asgardian warrior-prince, the God of Thunder, superhero and a self-proclaimed protector of Earth. He had an idyllic childhood in Asgard, a futuristic Viking kingdom with warrior culture. As a result, Thor values strength, courage, and loyalty above all else. The eldest son of King Odin, he is a great warrior in line for the throne. However, he is also known to be reckless and can have vain tendencies.
A Thor startup may give the impression of being arrogant or vain but is in fact based on solid core values and has as an integral part of its mission to protect the environment – which, until recently, sounded alien to more traditional capitalistic business ventures.
Business & Startup examples: Patagonia – actively encouraging people to buy less while ensuring their production processes are as environmentally friendly as possible; and Sans Soucie – a fashion brand that uses hosiery factory waste to create beautiful clothes.
A Question of Your Weaknesses and Strengths
The question of which Avenger personality your startup has was intended initially as an entertaining lunchtime conversation. However, if it ends up as a way to constructively bring up some of the challenges you face, as well as learn from other startups or entrepreneurs how to manage challenges (or how not to depending on the case study in question) so you can better dare to be different – all the better!