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A rhizomatic approach to business (part 1)

A rhizomatic approach to business (part 1)

As you probably know, I don’t run just one project. I run several projects, you might say I run a portfolio of tech startups.

When running multiple projects it’s easy to just add more of them to your business and not simplify. That’s why I recently changed the mission of my company and set some guiding principles.

A great method for knowledge management is the rhizomatic approach, which I’ve been first in contact with from my musical studies.

The rhizome is a philosophical concept developed by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, two French philisophers. Deleuze and Guattari use the terms rhizome and rhizomatic to describe theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation.

I won’t get into so many details, but to illustrate their ideas Deleuze and Guattari use a botanical metaphor counter-posing tree like structures (arborealstructures) and rhizomes (such as grasses). The tree represents the stable structure that changes incrementally, using its resources to grow vertically in order to dominate its surroundings but remaining firmly rooted in its position. Rhizomes on the other hand are characterised by speed and direction and seek to dominate by spreading horizontally into clear spaces.

There are many great principles set by Deleuze and Guattari. The one that I embraced so far is called multiplicity.

Multiplicity is, in the most basic sense, a complex structure that does not reference a prior unity. To achieve this, the idea is to create new projects by subtracting from existing ones.

Practically, I will take a non-essential feature of a current product and create another product in a different market where that feature becomes essential.

It’s important to understand that even if one business derives from another, the project is entirely separated from the other. That also ensures that you are not serving the same market and you are not conflicting with your original project.

Moreover, this subtraction process forces us to answer questions like:

  • What can we create with what we already have?
  • What do we currently have that can be applied to other dissimilar, non-related markets?

These are all good questions to ask yourself.

This approach goes against common entrepreneurial advice like “focus on one thing” or “keep the main thing, the main thing” as some guru would say. But, it works better for me because I’m a starter: I like to build things.

To use the botanic reference again, it also ensures that I’m not growing useless weeds, but I’m growing useful roots. In doing so, it de-risks your business because if you have multiple roots, even if you cut one root, your plant, and your business, will still be alive.

This is exactly what I did launching Treendly. I took a feature (tracking trends) of one of my products (Angage) and I made an entire separate product out of it. I’m trying to apply the same feature to another market (VCs), but I’m curious to see what other interesting markets will arise for it.

Thanks for reading.