SOS! Your Curiosity Can Kill your Startup!

Raymond Hannes
4 min readMar 23, 2021

Every founder has it and you have to learn how to deal with it. It is a result from not being able to moderate our entrepreneurial curiosity. It is called Shiny Object Syndrome or SOS. Shiny Object Syndrome is very damaging to your startup, your career and your social life. But don’t worry we have the antidote!

There is no one-size fits all description of founders and entrepreneurs. But there are some traits that we share that make us more effective:

  • We tend to be curious to the extreme. We have to be. It is our curiosity that drives us to understand the world around us because understanding the world is what allows us to discover new market opportunities.
  • We tend to be highly motivated to fix things. Once we have discovered market opportunities we go out of our way to go all in. We want to understand everything there is to know about the opportunity. That is where our drive to learn new things come’s from.
  • We Love to learn. We have a natural drive and ability to learn about new technologies or new developments, about new business models, or whatever triggers our curiosity.
  • And finally we aren’t afraid to start new projects and create new things. We have confidence in our ability to drive change.

It should come as no surprise that we share these traits. Ordinarily, these are great characteristics when building companies, but when SOS sets in, it forces you to chase project after project, and change after change, never settling with one option. This can eventually kill your startup!

What is SOS

Shiny Object Syndrome or SOS is the term used to describe the ease by which founders get distracted. SOS affects founders specifically because of the characteristics that make us effective.

I have a confession to make. Like almost all founders I know I have SOS and I have to be very aware of everything that distracts me. The downsides of not being in control of your SOS are crippling to the growth of your business. Just some examples of how SOS can limit your business:

  • It keeps you from finishing projects before you can see meaningful results. The day you plant the seeds is not the day you eat the fruit. If you don’t put in the effort to see a project be completed you might miss out on its true value.
  • It confuses your stakeholders. If your stakeholders (Team, Family, friends, investors, etc) are confused by what you are doing maybe it’s a sign of SOS. By focusing on 1 thing you will notice that they can more easily align with your venture.
  • You will burn through cash. Every new technology/development is almost impossible for me to ignore. I want every new phone and I will find a reason why it is important for me to have that phone. Same with software, tools, cars, etc. Sometimes it definitely helps to change your tools. But be aware if its not a result of SOS.
  • You will have a difficult time creating long term value because you are distributing your energy on multiple projects. Growth required focus. Focus on one goal where you put all of your energy. One point on the horizon. Founders with SOS will often have multiple activities in their live that each require energy. In a recent reflection I became aware that I personally have 8 different projects that I’m involved in each with their own goal. Too much if I want to become successful at any one of them.

But there is an antidote for SOS. It is a 5th characteristic that successful entrepreneurs have developed along the way and it is called Entrepreneurial Focus. You can learn to develop entrepreneurial focus. There is a set of tools that you can use to reflect on your work and bring back focus.

Tools to bring back focus

There are a couple of tools that function as an antidote against SOS. They force you to reflect on your goals and where you spend your energy. None of these tools work on their own. Together they become more powerful.

Here are just a few of them that we use:

  • Entrepreneurial Leadership Cycle
  • Start, Stop, More framework
  • OKR’s
  • GTD

If you want to learn more about these tools go to our website! In the coming weeks we will publish a course about how you as a founder or innovator can keep entrepreneurial focus!