I recently talked about the similarities between a startup and a frat house. Here’s another analogy. Sometimes being part of a startup can be like being in a crucible.

What’s a crucible?

It’s perhaps an antiquated term. Folks don’t use crucibles much anymore – except for large industries that need to melt or calcine metal and ore.

With Crucible by Anne Petersen, CC BY 4.0.

With Crucible by Anne Petersen, CC BY 4.0.

Here’s a definition:




  1. A ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures.
  2. A place or situation in which different elements interact to produce something new.

The purpose of a crucible is to subject what it contains to such high heat that anything combustible is burned away. Anything that that can be altered by the high heat is transformed. What’s left is, for all intents and purposes, pure. It’s been tempered. The only thing that can impact what remains again is the reapplication of the crucible. If this happens, after the heat has abated, the contents of the crucible again reforms to the pure substance.

When challenges hit, they can bring a startup to a dead stop. One of the biggest challenges for startups is running out of money. That’ll definitely bring the startup/frat house feeling to an abrupt halt. Then it really does feel more like being in a crucible.

One of the most impactful consequences of a startup going through a crucible event is that some people leave. The bonds created between people in a startup are deep. Losing members of the team hurts. But the crucible effect is cathartic. What’s left – who is left, though, becomes stronger.

Challenges can also force a startup to become something it didn’t set out to be. Into the crucible goes the uniqueness of personalities, ways of doing things, qualities of measurements. The differences interact to produce something new.

The frat house analogy is preferable. Don’t fear the crucible, though. Both teach valuable lessons and lead to success.

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