Madison Job

How Shrek Helps us Understand the Startup Madness


Startups are like onions: They have layers.

There isn’t one layer that’s more important than the other, but it is important to remember they each have their own function.

Remember Shrek? He tries to convey to Donkey that taking the time to fully understand something holds true value and reveals its best qualities. That’s true in startups, too.

Startups may seem unapproachable, or even intimidating. However, when taking the time to peel away the difficulties and set backs, you can begin to view it as manageable and something worth your time- something that starts to generate an audience within a market and even some revenue!

The Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism helps you understand each layer of the startup onion in its article The Roadmap to Digital Media Startups.

To begin, the article talks about a Pre-Launch Basics, which allows the company to asses the skills and resources already accounted for and to figure out how to use them to the best of their ability.

When Donkey and Shrek first meet, they are more of foes than friends. That’s because neither of them really understood each other. The same can be said for a company.

Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the team — even if that’s just you! — will help a great deal to build a long-term plan because you will know what skills you can bring and what skills you need to find.

Donkey served as Shrek’s furry companion on his journey to save Princess Fiona and later contributes in wooing the fire-breathing dragon while scrambling to escape. That is a great example of utilizing individual strengths. Without combining their skills,Shrek and Donkey would have had a much more difficult rescue to execute.

Once you know the skills you have to work with, it’s time to plan out the content of the site. The content have value to your audience. It can’t be something they would possibly use in the near future. It needs to be content that matters to them now and differentiates your startup from others.

This concept was also explored in an article by Paul Graham, How to Get Startup Ideas. Specifically, the article states, “When a startup launches, there have to be at least some users who really need what they’re making—not just people who could see themselves using it one day, but who want it urgently.”

Princess Fiona needed saving. Shrek wanted his swamp. Donkey needed a friend. They all urgently needed something the other could provide. Between the three of them, it all worked out.

For startups, how would you make that dynamic work?

Well, I found a piece of advice in Graham’s article that was especially helpful when thinking about what makes good content.

“When you have an idea for a startup, ask yourself: who wants this right now? Who wants this so much that they’ll use it even when it’s a crappy version one made by a two-person startup they’ve never heard of? If you can’t answer that, the idea is probably bad.”

By addressing these questions, your startup can rock the Shrek-Donkey-Princess Fiona-trifecta.

You must also define your audience that has that need. It was an interesting aspect brought up in The Roadmap to Digital Media Startups because it raises a very important question: Who is this for?

Content can’t just begin to be thrown around and distributed whenever the company’s little heart desires— you need a goal. More than that, you need a strategy to reach that goal. Although, Shrek didn’t plan out his rescue mission too much, the point is important to remember.

This is why I thought the concept of building character personas was a great objective. Do you want to aim for middle-aged women? Or college students? Or students actively searching for full-time jobs?

The possibilities are endless which is why it is important to know your audience and “help you build products that resonate with your audience and will allow you to create more compelling marketing campaigns,” as stated in the article.

Overall, have a plan to back your idea up. Take the time to peel the layers of this process to thoroughly comb through the strengths and weaknesses of your team, address an audience, and if all goes well, we can all enjoy the perks of owning our own swamp.



2 thoughts on “How Shrek Helps us Understand the Startup Madness

  1. I think this is a very good way as well as entertaining to help people who don’t understand, understand the situation with startup ideas. Great post with an interesting viewpoint.


  2. Hello Madison,
    This is seriously so incredible. I really love this reference and wish I would have thought of this. It’s got a lot of style and a fantastic sense of humor. When you said “Princess Fiona needed saving. Shrek wanted his swamp. Donkey needed a friend. They all urgently needed something the other could provide. Between the three of them, it all worked out.” I just about laughed out of my chair. Enthralling read. Would love to see more like this. Thanks for the insights.


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