I am a bit of a music nut. I once heard Carlos Santana talk about excellent music realigning the neurons in his brain and taking him to a higher place, and from time to time I have a similar experience. As I sit here on a weekend evening drinking a tasty adult beverage and listening to Sade's new album, I am transformed. In a very metaphysical sense I can feel the stress leaving my body. Some would accuse me of being an audiophile, but I would rather consider that I believe in the quality of music. And I mean 'quality' in the way Robert Pirsig defines it in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, where he considers it the center of all good things and value; what Pirsig calls 'pure truth'.
As I experience tonal excellence here in my favorite chair I am thinking about how much great loudspeakers and a winning start-up team have in common. When I am questioned about what makes a high end stereo and high end speakers worth the high price, I answer is that "it's a matter of phase". In the natural world sounds blend and move in perfect synchronicity. No matter what the tone of the sound or the distance that the sounds travel, they equalize and reach your ears in phase (at the same time). This simultaneous combination of rich and deep high, middle and low tones is one of the things that makes life beautiful and is extremely difficult to reproduce in a living room. The problem is that high, mid and low frequency sound waves move at different speeds and they don't have time to equalize by the time they travel the 10-20 feet from the speaker to your ear. The only way to achieve this natural sound is to have loudspeakers that align frequencies so that they are in phase the second they leave the speakers and making that happen requires a level of excellence that is extremely difficult to achieve and is therefore expensive.
The difference between a $600 pair of Polk Audio and a $30,000 pair of Wilson Audio speakers is that the Wilson speakers produce a sound that blends the very different high, mid and low frequencies so that when they reach your ear you experience the tonal perfection of one powerful, perfectly blended and deep sound. In other words, they produce music that is perfectly in phase. They are separate but move in time with one another in perfect complement.
The metaphor is that in a tight technology start-up team, each member must operate from a different set of complementary strengths - or frequencies. Each one must move in phase with the other as one team, and this takes vigilance. As entrepreneurs we increase our odds of success by working with other smart and talented people (co-founders and investors) but it takes emotional flexibility, patience and a ton of work to reach the goal. The blend must be seamless, yet the frequencies cannot lose their individuality or relation to each others strengths. Once they are moving forward together and properly aligned, it’s difficult to see where one begins and the other ends. Done well, this produces incredible depth of talent, force and efficiency, and an environment where no one frequency is more important than the other.
So, as I am working on and thinking about the process of aligning - and being aligned with - the frequencies of a new team, I consider all the work and talent that went into the loudspeakers in front of me (they're not Wilson Audios BTW) and that the price of quality - explosive growth in a big hairy market - is high. But the result is sweet and so very worth it.