(If you did not watch or read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, things I will mention in my blog will make no sense to you. Also, come on… You didn’t watch that masterpiece yet? You need to. Otherwise, you will get spoilers. *SPOILER ALERT*)
In a previous blog that I wrote, I mentioned “3 Idiots” as my favorite movie of all time (and now I remember that we deleted that part). But for me, that’s because the Lord of the Rings trilogy is in a completely different class than movies. I probably watched complete trilogy more than 5 times; and every time I watch the extended version, I notice something new.
There are lots of myths about the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some say that J.R.R. Tolkien got influenced by Norse mythology, some say he got ideas from Epic of Gilgamesh and some even say that he got influenced by early nomadic Turkic tribes while creating orcs. But today, we will assume that he foresaw entrepreneurs and their problems.
The main characters in Lord of the Rings and their roles in your startup
I think almost all of the main characters in the Lord of the Rings can be applied to a startup in various ways. I will tell about them in detail and what you can learn from them in the following paragraphs.
Samwise Gamgee = The Founder
Frodo Baggins = Your Product
The One Ring = Your Growth Strategy
Merry and Pippin = Your Team
Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli = the Accelerator Team
Gandalf = the Mentor
Lord Elrond = the Investor
Sauron = the Corporate
Gollum = Your main competitor
It starts to make sense now. Right? There are a lot of side characters that you encounter on your way to success, but we will talk about them later.
Gollum, the Fuckup Story
You might be asking “Why are you starting with Gollum?”. The reason is that Gollum and ring bearers before him are all bad examples. Gollum came across the One Ring by chance and for that power, he even killed a friend for the love of this Ring.
Gollum has been carrying the ring for ages before he lost the ring. He fell in love with the idea of power that the Ring provided, he didn’t even notice that it is killing him from the inside. One Ring gave him an eternal life, but he was just surviving.
Gollum still had a good side of him, before he was Smeagol. But he lost all of it during the time he carried the Ring. He can be helpful to you, but not to be trusted. You need to stay on your feet during your own journey. He lead Sam and Frodo to a secret path, but that path might lead to Shelob.
Lesson to learn: Do not fall in love with an idea. Fall in love with your business. Learn from the mistakes of other startups who failed while trying what you are trying to do.
Samwise, Frodo and the Ring
If you ask people about the main character of the Lord of the Rings, you will see that most people think that Frodo Baggins is the lead character. But if you ask the real fans of the series, you will probably hear that Samwise Gamgee is “the one”. And also as a fan, I can relate to that.
Samwise was the founder of the startup to solve a problem. The problem is that One Ring needs to be destroyed, to give the power back to free folks of Middle-Earth. There is a lot of potential in Frodo, but he is yet to discover. He needs to destroy the Ring with Frodo so that Frodo can be free of his chains. The One Ring is Frodo’s burden, and Samwise needs to carry this burden to lead Frodo to success. Sam needs to carry Frodo to Mount Doom to get rid of the One Ring. Sam takes a leap of faith while in cornfields outside of Shire, as he gets as far away as his home he has ever been.
As you can see from the whole paragraph above, I’m not very fond of Frodo. Frodo is a useless pile of shit without Sam’s guidance. Sam needs to shape Frodo as a character. And one-time he gets so bored of his bad trips that he abandons Frodo, only to save him from death later on.
As the founder (Samwise) of a startup, you need a product (Frodo) and a growth strategy (the One Ring). Your growth strategy is not always a pretty thing. It might help you grow, help you get more people around you, but it is not necessarily the main thing you want out of your product.
I don’t want to name any startups, yet I can use them as an example. One of our beloved startups are trying to create a platform for their customers to use, which aims to be an autonomous system them fulfill their needs. But while they are growing, they are working just like an agency and they are completing tasks for their customers that their platform is supposed to do. That’s their growth strategy. But when they reach enough customers and show people that “their platform can do that”, they will abandon their “working as an agency” strategy and move people onto their platform. They are looking for the day that Frodo throws the ring into the fires of Mount Doom.
Lesson to learn: Your growth strategy is not necessarily a thing you want to do at the end of the day. But if it will move you to the top, you need to go for it.
The Team: Merry and Pippin
Merriadoc Brandybuck and Peregrin Took are overlooked characters in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They are friends to Frodo and Samwise, but they were not supposed to join the journey of the One Ring. Their paths have crossed with Sam and Frodo and the situation made them form a team. Another interesting fact is that in LotR lore, Merry was aware of the One Ring, way before Frodo and Sam started their journey. Merry saw Bilbo use the ring once and then read Bilbo’s journal to learn more about the ring, But he kept this information to himself, probably thinking that no one would believe him.
In the movies, Merry and Pippin were the ones who took care of Frodo, Samwise and the Ring at the beginning. While Ringwraiths were following them in the woods, Merry and Pippin got them out of a sticky situation. Merry and Pippin was not parted with Frodo along the way, even in the council that formed the Fellowship of the Ring. They even brought down Saruman without help from anyone but Ents, that they convinced that Saruman is hurting their forest.
They have fuckup stories as well, of course. You remember the fire atop Weathertop? Because of their foolishness, Ringwraiths found their place, but thanks to Aragorn, they got out alive. And the reason they got alive was that Aragorn convinced Arwen to help them.
They fought for Frodo till the very end and they did everything they can for Frodo. Did they cause problems? Definitely.
Lesson to learn: Pick guys who believe in you and can give everything they have on your way to success. They don’t need to be superstars at the beginning but have the potential to be one. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Gandalf, the Mentor
Gandalf is the superstar of Middle-Earth. He has a mighty beard, a cool-looking staff. He can talk to butterflies and call-in giant badass eagles. But he has experience that no other mortal can provide, and that’s his main thing in the movies. You would love to have someone like Gandalf in your team.
Rather than taking the Ring for himself, he brings together Sam and Frodo for this opportunity (or burden). He believes that together, they can destroy the Ring, but he is also aware that they will need help along the way. He helps form the Fellowship of the Ring, which can lead the quest to success. Gandalf helps the team of Hobbits meet with “big guys”.
At the end, Sam and Frodo needs to take the journey. Even if they got a lot of help, and certainly would fail without it, they got to Mount Doom by themselves.
Lesson to learn: You need experience on your way to success. A mentor can talk the talk, yet you have to walk the walk.
Lord Elrond, the Investor
Lord Elrond is also one of the overlooked characters in Lord of the Rings. He is the Lord of Rivendell, home of the Elves, and he believes in Sam and Frodo. The reason why is that he believes with his investment in them, they can defeat Sauron by destroying the Ring. So he calls his friends (I know, I know. Dwarves) for aid in this quest. As he also wants to destroy Sauron, he gives a shot to the Fellowship of the Ring. He knows it is not easy to defeat Sauron on a battlefield. That’s why he also doesn’t want the ring in Rivendell. He doesn’t want to piss off Sauron (for now).
In the past, he was in a team which reached the top of Mount Doom and was so close to destroying Sauron for good. Yet his team was not up to the task and rather than following his instincts and experience, he let it slip.
Lesson to Learn: An investor can help you meet with right people and those people can guide you to your success. He may have valuable experience and power that you can use on your quest.
The Fellowship of the Ring: Accelerator
We all know that Frodo and Samwise would lose the ring easily to Sauron if the Fellowship wasn’t there. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir are warriors that can help the Hobbits overcome obstacles on their way. They came across Aragorn while he was still known as Strider in Prancing Pony Inn. Even if they were not very keen on joining him, Aragorn helped them stay alive with his experience.
Except for Boromir, they are all selfless guys who just want Middle Earth to be a better place, so they help Sam and Frodo on their quest. Boromir, on the other hand, wants the power for himself. He thinks that the power of One Ring will be much more helpful for his personal goals.
Lesson to Learn: An Accelerator can put your team and your business on the right path. They also work as one of your team and help you reach your goals faster. (I’m talking about Hackquarters, of course. The article is on our blog. Have you really thought that I would not include Hackquarters in some way?)
Sauron and his Entourage: Big Bad Corporation
Sauron is our bad guy in the movie. He created the One Ring in secret and by distributing his other rings to leaders of Middle-Earth, he became the most powerful guy of his time. He just gave the leaders of Men, Elves, and Dwarves the sense of power and made them his slaves. He lost some of his power as he lost the Ring, yet still controls a lot of power from his prime. Sauron wants back the power, so he sends all of his forces against the people of Middle-Earth, hoping to get the One Ring back.
The One Ring is also dependant on Sauron, which is a pretty bad thing on Sam and Frodo’s quest. But they need to resist his power and use it only when they need it the most.
Sauron sends his lawyers, accountants, marketing and PR guys after Frodo and Sam. Those Ringwraiths also have day jobs. Do you really think that running a place like Mordor is easy? Of course, Sauron has guys like Ringwraiths to do his bidding. Those poor guys followed Arwen to their Doom so that they can use it as a PR campaign against the Elves. Don’t you remember the news after that river incident: “Ringwraith lives matter”. Also, do not forget barbarian Ents destroying Saruman’s R&D center.
Lesson to learn: Disruptive is a word that startups use a lot. Being disruptive helps you make enemies on your way. You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain (What? I love Batman trilogy, too)
Theoden, the Lord that may be of help
Theoden is the Lord of Rohan, who got mindwashed by Saruman to do his bidding. The Fellowship of the Ring (or at least the ones who are left) help him break free of Saruman’s chains. In the end, Theoden helps in the Battle of Minas Tirith, to return the favor for the Fellowship’s help at Helm’s Deep. In the end, he helped them stay alive longer, but if he wasn’t there at Minas Tirith, Aragorn would’ve swept the remaining Sauron forces with Army of the Dead anyway.
Lesson to Learn: Some people may be helpful on your way, but they have their own agenda. Even if they can be of help, they are not necessarily helping you directly. Try to get as much help from them as possible.
Galadriel, the potential Investor
Galadriel is Lady of the Woods. She was a potential investor for the Fellowship as their paths crossed. Galadriel thought about getting the ring for herself, but at the end, she decides that rather than taking it for herself, letting Frodo keep the ring was for the best. She even blessed Frodo with the Light of Eärendil, which helped Sam and Frodo overcome Shelob.
Lesson to Learn: Don’t be shy of meeting people with power. Even if they don’t directly invest to your cause, they may be of help.
Tom Bombadil the “Who?”
As a fan of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, I’m not very familiar with Tom Bombadil. I’ve read about him, as fans of the books were talking about him a lot. But I agree with Peter Jackson on not including him into the movies. Peter Jackson justified his omission of Bombadil from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by pointing out that he did little to advance the story, having nothing to do with the Ring storyline, and serving little purpose when it came to getting the hobbits to Rivendell, and putting together the Fellowship.
Tom Bombadil is the “blockchain” of Middle-Earth. Everyone knows about him, they think that he is a crazy but lovable guy. But they don’t know what to do with him.
Lesson to Learn: Don’t include technologies and features to your startup, just because they sound sexy.