The big bang theory - the astrophysics one, not the sitcom - is a model that describes how the world as we know it came to be. In the 1950s, a clique of crazy-haired, fluffy-moustached, gold-rim-bespectacled mad scientists imaged the universe as a very tightly coiled hot mess of energy and undefined potential. Just like you on caffeine on a Monday. Flying particles, gluons and quarks circled each other like friendly goldfish. They somehow knew where to go next. And they were driven by a strange desire, unseen by the human eye.
For unknown reasons, things went wild after that. The proto-universe experienced a sudden and unforeseeable bad case of cosmic inflation. Maybe all that caffeine was taking its toll. What happened next is the subject of much debate. How fast did it go bananas? Was it a good thing? Was the matter vs. antimatter worth a Hollywood adaptation starring Russel Crowe?
What we know is that at some point, the number of natural laws operating in that rapidly expanding environment multiplied tenfold. There were now multiple variants of the same force acting under different rules. The universe was expanding, and the more it did, the more it cooled.
Now, It doesn’t take an astrophysicist to see the parallel between this and a fast-growing startup. The caffeine probably gave it away. It all starts with an idea, and if it just so happens to be a good one, you can expect it to expand at an ever-accelerating pace.
The Quark Era
In a startup, the original team - say, the first ten to hop on board - usually carve out what needs to be done organically. Everybody contributes anywhere they can to keep hope alive. They quickly earn titles such as Lead Engineer, Senior Engineer, Principal Engineer, and Head Of All Things. Titles they might not have earned so easily had to be chosen to join a more mature work environment. This is part of the implicit contract when joining a buzzing, pre-big bang startup: you take a risk but earn title inflation as a reward.
An early-stage startup is a high-octane environment were creating value against all odds comes at a very high cost — emotional and physical. And as humans, we all seek reward to make up for it - après l’effort, le reconfort. In our world, the ultimate reward comes in the form of the much-coveted start-up Holy Grail - the promotion.
Fast-forward to the moment when the number of quarks and gluons multiply. They were once so close and the environment so hot, matter and energy were not just theoretically equivalent - they were practically the same stuff. Now, there are more of them. By the time you can no longer count your team members on the fingers of both hands, you can also expect the complexity of the tasks they carry out to increase. Skills that were but an extra string on your bow now prove critical.