The Loop

Why startup business culture has little time for golf


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June 30, 2016

The golf course as a makeshift conference room has long been a staple of business culture. When we think of golf's deal-making potential, we think of two CEOs hashing out a merger while lining up par putts, or a sales executive wooing new clients by way of a plush tee-time. In 2011, when President Barack Obama and then Speaker of the House John Boehner sought to find common ground, they met for a cordial 18 holes.

You've heard all of the selling points for the game. Golf is a window into a person's character. It measure one's ability to handle adversity. Plus, there's just so much built-in time to get to know someone.

So why is it that the modern entrepreneurs don't play as much golf? Perhaps because the new economy doesn't present the same set of needs. In a story on, called "The Real Reasons Entrepreneurs Don't Play Golf," writer Chris Heivly explains why startup culture doesn't value golf the way traditional big business does.

As Heivly, an expert on startups who was one of the co-founders of MapQuest, writes, one reason lies in the general feeling of impermanence around a startup. As important as relationships are to any business, the startup is first consumed with the bare essentials of surviving.

"Startups are worried if they even have a customer, if that customer is willing to pay and for how long," Heivly writes. "Startups are concentrating on building out a product or service that has obvious value and does not require outsize sales or marketing efforts to create awareness. Startups are concerned with the amount of capital required to scale appropriately given all of the variables mentioned above. For many reasons, golf is not important to startups."

Ultimately, the challenge golf presents has to due with time. There is the short-term time challenge of carving out five hours during the day when other works needs to be done. But there is also the more daunting time consideration, which is there's no point in building out a relationship when you don't know how long you'll be around.

"Startups are first trying to survive and their moves made are based on a three-to-six month view. These change all the time as the startup's vision morphs," Heivly writes.

Mind you, it's not all bad news for golf. There can come a time when the game can play a role, particularly after a company survives through its early, formative period and can start looking beyond its immediate future. At some point relationships do matter in helping a business grow, and that's where golf can be a valuable tool.