Wizard of Oz Syndrome

Wizard-of-Oz-w24Most entrepreneurs end up enduring  the “Wizard of Oz Syndrome” dozens of times before they develop their own sense of wisdom – or cynicism born from experience.

The Wizard of Oz Syndrome goes something like this:

Entrepreneur is standing before Big Influential Investor or fill-in-the-blank [Big Influential Customer, Big Potential Partner, or Big Venture Capitalist or Angel Investor].   The feeling is like proverbially standing before “The Great and Powerful Oz”:

Your very future depends on having him granting a wish that only he can make happen.

But there is a catch.  The Great and Powerful Oz wants proof that you are worthy.  You have to jump through a hoop.  He commands you to go and perform some extraordinary feat:  “Bring me the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West.”

You leave, and spend a torturous expedition and finally, without resources and against all odds, retrieve the broom.
Triumphantly, you return before The Wizard to proclaim your accomplishment and to have your wish granted.
Only then, The Great Wizard bellows that you now must go and retrieve the witches hat too.

You know this will never end.  Oz never had any power or intention to grant you the wish.  Making you jump through hoops is just the way that The Wizard maintains the illusion of power, and obfuscates the fact he has no power and no ability to grant you any wishes.

And so it goes with many investors, big customers, potential partners – and even with certain managers and employees.
  • They say “I’ll invest when you have a prototype” – you create a great prototype, and then they say they want to see actual users of your product.
  • You return with users; now they say they need to see a million users.
  • You return with millions of users, and the investors now want to see revenues.  And so on.

Countless entrepreneurs have endured the Wizard of Oz syndrome – and probably even more will repeat this syndrome.  As long as there are people who thrive on the appearance of being able to grant wishes (money, access, customers, or other vital resources) – there will be entrepreneurs naively willing to take unnecessary expeditions.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain?
On the contrary: Pay no attention to the billowy giant image of the magical Wizard.   Get to know “the man behind the curtain” – often they have some ability to grant your wish  (provide you with the resources or access you need).  It’s just that they have their own limitations, fears – and unique methods of providing your wish.
As an entrepreneur, remember when facing the big investor or big customer – it is indeed OK to ask for specifics:  “If I provide you with a prototype – is this what you need in order to close the deal?”, “Exactly what else is required in order for use to have a deal?”
Customers, partners and investors unwilling to provide you with specifics are either not serious, disingenuous or deliberately deceptive – and they have no intention or ability to help you.  They are false wizards.  Save your energy. and your broom-hunts, for the real thing.

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