Lessons from Starcraft 2 for a startup

By Kam Leung


During the holidays I had some downtime and revisited Starcraft 2 (SC2). I played some matches and was relearning a lot of the basics and noticed a lot of parallels with starting a company and playing SC2. Thought this might be worth a share.

Don't fight big armies head on

In SC2 larger and more powerful armies are not very mobile, like late game Terran mech or sky toss. The best way to counter them is to be more nimble and avoid fighting them head on by building a smaller but more nimble army.

In startups you are always the underdog and going against entrenched competitors. You should not go toe to toe and try to compete in number of features. You should focus on areas of the market that are niche, growing and are being underserved. Being a small and nimble you can adapt to market changes much faster than the giants.


Scouting is a fundamental aspect of SC2. If you don't scout you are vulnerable to cheeses(surprise attacks) from the opponent. It is much easier to defend and counter an attack if you know it is coming. Scouting is important all through out the game but especially important in the beginning since thats when your opponent has the most options.

Startups should constantly be talking to their customers and getting feedback. Building in a vacuum with no customer feedback is like playing blind. It will be much harder to build the proper product with out scouting (customer feedback). As a startup you should be constantly talking to users. A hack: YC companies will set up shared Slack channels with their customers to get immediate feedback.

Always have a strategy in mind

You should always have a strategy in mind on how do you win. Either turtling and building the ultimate army, or well timed attacks you should have a plan in mind. If you don't have a strategy in mind when you go in to the game you will meander and try to build a little bit of everything. This will make your army and attacks weak.

To build a huge company you need to have an answer to how you win and maintain that lead in the long term. You should have a strategy on how you can build your moat and stay ahead. Whether it is right in the early is actually less important that you have a direction you can stick with so you can align your team and company.

Focus and start with a single tech tree

You start out with limited resources in the beginning of the game and you have to make sure you spend it wisely on tech that compliments one another. You are better off spending several upgrades that improves a single type of unit than a single upgrade on several types of unit. So make sure you have the unit in mind you want to optimize for in the early game.

You should focus your features on improving the experience for a specific type of customer persona. It's much better to build several features for a single type of persona than build a single feature for multiple types of persona. 100 customers that love you is going to be better than 1000 customers that like you.

Papercups is an open source customer support tool and an alternative to Intercom and Zendesk

GitHub repo: https://github.com/papercups-io/papercups