The Jungle / Dirt Road / Highway of Startups

Earlier today I was reminded of startup stages being described as “the jungle,” “the dirt road,” and “the highway”.  These names have been around for many years (here’s a post from 2010 on it) and the idea still holds true today. Similar to the concept of pilot it, nail it, and scale it (see 4 Startup Stages in 8 Words), these names are more colorful and memorable.

Let’s look at the jungle, dirt road, and highway stages of a startup:

  • Jungle – Lots of searching. No clear path. Distractions everywhere. Very tough conditions.
  • Dirt Road – A path! Progress. Speed is picking up but lots of bumps in the road. Still figuring things out.
  • Highway – Speed! Smooth sailing. Tremendous momentum. Scaling. Process. Repeatability.

Most startups never make it out of the jungle. The ones that do aren’t guaranteed success but cover a good bit of ground on the dirt road. Finally, a select few make it to the highway and go fast and far.

Welcome to the jungle.

What else? What are some more thoughts on the jungle / dirt road / highway idea?

2 thoughts on “The Jungle / Dirt Road / Highway of Startups

  1. Great analogy David. I think the story also holds true with respect to the “fear factor” (for both founders and early investors) and the importance of a trusted teams at these stages too. I can’t help but think of that crazy reality show Naked and Afraid…

  2. This has alway been my favorite analogy. I certainly thrive in the jungle and dirt road environment. I think the one thing that these article miss is that you will need different types of people at the various stages and not all of them will want to evolve for the journey to the highway.

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