Building An Airplane

« Blog — Building An Airplane

Posted Nov 15, 2018

“An entrepreneur is someone who will jump off a cliff and assemble an airplane on the way down.” That’s a quote from Reid Hoffman, founder of LinkedIn, about what it’s like to start a business. It’s a nice quote. It’s witty and insightful, and fun to say at parties followed by a laugh and a clinking of glasses. It’s also very bad advice.

We’re no experts on aviation but we’re pretty sure The Wright Brothers would disagree with Mr. Hoffman’s guide to airplane manufacturing. Had they jumped off the cliff first they would be remembered as the Wright Brothers, and not THE Wright Brothers. Instead they did research and made plans and hired smart people to help them. Eventually, after a lot of trial-and-error, they built a functional airplane! An airplane, which, by the way, they built on the ground.

A representation of The Wright Brother's first successful flight

What Mr. Hoffman is trying to say is there are risks involved with starting a business, and you need to learn to adapt quickly or you will fail. That’s true, but it’s not as dramatic as he makes it out to be. Starting a business is risky, and it can be scary, but it’s almost never life threatening. What Mr. Hoffman is describing is a leap of faith; it’s dumb luck. Money and time and confidence are rarely invested in leaps of faith.

There was risk in building Last Spike, but it was calculated. We planned as best we could. We prepared for setbacks. We had to learn quickly and adapt to changing circumstances. What we did not do is throw caution to the wind and plunge to our deaths in the hopes of miraculously building a brewery. We figure we’d follow the advice of the guys who actually invented the airplane, and not the guy who re-invented Facebook, but for business.

Brewers take risks as both business owners and artists. They share their creations with the world in the hopes the world will reward them. To say you took a leap of faith and lucked into success would be a disservice to your hard work and your planning and your skill. We understand and are inspired by the risks you took to build your brand, but why should you keep taking risks? We’ve built a great airplane, so why don’t we jump off this cliff together?