Remember: Lowly Chess Pawns Become Business Titans (Kings)


Chess has a great deal of heroism in it but very few feel good stories on the board. Yet the lowly pawn battling its way up the board to promote into a queen or whatever is needed to win the game–that is a feel good story. The lowly chess pawn teaches us that anyone can make it even when 16 other factors are trying to kills them and the Master can sacrifice them with disdain. A pawn is the weakest piece on the board and yet it is the piece with the most potential and ultimately the most power. Yet achieving that ultimate transportation from a lowly poor piece to the mighty queen that saves the day is a hard fought battle and most do not make it. However, when they make it they do so with a big splash akin to all of the huge tech companies now that were once tiny startups.

Almost all of the top tech companies today were founded by pawns. Because of the universities they were attending they had already leaped two rows ahead in the opening but they were just one or two or three in a sea of other huge talent at that very same university and others like it. They were advanced pawns but they were competing with other advanced pawns too on the other side who were ready to take them out if they could. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and many others were started by socially challenged pawns with a great innovation but even if they had a few more helping hands and had moved up faster up to that point, they had to fight their way up the board like all others. For every row the pawn advances the more potential and the more threat they are so every opposing piece on the board aims to stop it.

Google was just another search engine competing against well-established search engines and they were not even mature enough to manage the company themselves. When they promoted they did not promote as queens they promoted as rooks because they needed “adult supervision” to make the company work. Same happened with Yahoo, and Apple among others. Eventually they grew into kings and queens but they did not promote to that rank right away.

Chess teaches us another important lesson here too, when promoting you must promote to what is needed for the business not always to a queen. VCs and other investors (blinded by some PC illusion that their passion will make them succeed) like it when the founder is CEO but it is rare that tech founders have the skills. Founders, VCs and others must learn from chess and promote the founder to the right position where they can do the most good and find a professional CEO to manage the business. Everyone thinks that being CEO is the way to go with all founders but it is not. I would argue specially with business inexperienced tech founders, this is not the right promotion because they must learn so much before they can grow the business at the same rate as an experienced CEO professional can. Google is the perfect example of how successful this approach can be!

Chess also mirrors life in that most pawns will never promote but they are the backbone of our economy and they are the stepping stones for success of all business titans and large corporations. When a pawn promotes into a business titan she becomes the zenith of a pyramid supported by many other pawns and minor pieces below. Pawns and minor pieces form the base of a pyramid that lets the top stay on top and the world run smoothly. In the struggle of life some pawn gain more and more potential and fight their way up the board and the ladder of success. Although promotion is rare it happens more than most think. Chess is a mirror of the struggles, heartaches, and successes in life and in particular business life. If you are a lowly pawn with a killer innovation, work hard, find the strategy to be noticed and to advance yourself one row at the time and when you make there, do not be in a hurry to be the king or queen. Assume the role where you can help the business best and learn as you go so you can promote to CEO eventually as Google, Yahoo, and Apple have shown us can be done.


1. Chess pawns have more potential than any other piece and have the ultimate power to promote to business titans. Tweet This
2. Any pawn (person) no matter their pedigree can become a business titan with hard work and the right innovation. Tweet This
3. Strategy is important pawns must promote to the piece that is most helpful for the business, not always to CEO (queen). Tweet This
4. All major tech startups and current industry leaders started out as pawns and many did not promote to queens including: Google, Apple, Yahoo Tweet This
5. When a pawn promotes it must never forget that their empire as a business titan is made possible by the support and work of the talent that makes it work smoothly—never forget where you came from and support those who have not made it! Tweet This

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