Most of What I Know About Entrepreneurship I Learned from Phineas and Ferb

For those of you without kids, or who don’t spend a portion of your time in and around the content cornucopia that is the Disney Channel, let me introduce you to Phineas And Ferb.

PHINEAS & FERB – In this inventive series from Walt Disney Television Animation, there is no such thing as an ordinary summer day, as step-brothers Phineas and Ferb take their dreams to extremes by building a gigantic roller coaster in their backyard, among other escapades. They always end up cramping the style of their teenage sister, Candice, who attempts to rat them out to their mom, only she’s somehow left with no evidence to bust her brothers. Meanwhile, the family’s simple-minded pet platypus, Perry, leads a double life as a secret agent and faces off with the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz in each episode, on “Phineas and Ferb” on Disney Channel. (DISNEY CHANNEL) PERRY THE PLATYPUS, PHINEAS, FERB

The animated television comedy-musical series follows Phineas Flynn and his English stepbrother Ferb Fletcher on a never-ending summer vacation. Every day, the boys dream up and execute some grand new project, which annoys their controlling sister, Candace, and weaves in and out of B-plots involving their secret agent pet playtpus Perry and the neurotic evil genius Dr Doofenschmirtz. Hijinks ensue.

The series is formulaic, yes. But the characters are wonderful, the dialogue is witty, and the musical/comedic gags are rapid-fire and brilliantly executed. I’m a big fan and so are my kids.

But I’m also absolutely enamored of the underlying themes: Phineas and Ferb are builders. Makers, really. They dream up and create wonderful, imaginative, fantastic stuff – not to compete or profit, but because it’s fun. They never judge, worry, or compromise, and they always have a blast doing whatever they set out to do. In an era  when most characters for kids are self-obsessed teenagers or flaccid cartoon cutouts, Phineas and Ferb are refreshing, positive, energetic can-do figures that make me want to cheer every time they build a mechanical robot bull or race chariots through the streets of the Tri-State Area.

I can’t think of better role models for my kids. The next generation of small business owners and startup fetishists will count P&F among their inspirations – you can bank on that.

And as an entrepreneur myself, I think a lot about what it takes to start a company. It turns out that when you dig a little deeper into those  familiar elements of a Phineas and Ferb episode, there are some serious lessons that can be learned.  Here are a few.

1. Always Believe You Can Figure It Out.

Adult: Aren’t you a little young to be (building a 500-foot high rollercoaster / starting a company)?

Phineas: Yes. Yes we are.

When it comes to starting a company, it sometimes pays to be aware of but unconcerned about your shortcomings. Anyone with an ounce of sense can come up with a million reasons not to do something risky – the entrepreneur is nonplussed by that kind of thinking. So are Phineas and Ferb. Are they too young (and inexperienced and unqualified) to attempt what they’re attempting? Yes. Always. But they’re going to do it anyway.

One of my favorite Teddy Roosevelt quotes (I have many) fits in perfectly here:

“When you are asked if you can do a job, tell ’em, ‘Certainly I can!’ Then get busy and find out how to do it.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

2. Just Build It.

Phineas: Ferb, I know what we’re going to do today.

Every day brings a new challenge when you’re running a company. It pays not to over-plan: analysis, planning, discussion, and debate can force you to miss opportunities. Sometimes the best move is to just do it – take your best shot with the information and skills you have on hand and make it as great as you can.

It helps that we’re living in a day and age where the tools available to us are awe-inspiringly cheap. The distance between concept and execution is virtually zero.


3. Make Do With Whatever is At Hand.

Phineas: You had me at “scrap metal”

No question about it: resources make startups better. If you’ve got the money, time, and talent to execute on your vision, you’re much more likely to be successful.

But if you do then you’re probably not working for a startup. The definition of startup is often one that’s under-resourced, with To Do lists a mile long and great ideas piled up in the wings waiting for attention. Waiting for just the right opportunity is something that big companies do when their employees don’t necessarily care if they succeed. Doing great things with whatever is lying around is a far better indicator of greatness.

4. Cultivate Circles of Supporters.

Phineas: You know what I like about our friends? We say things like, “We’re gonna douse you in ant pheromones.” And they’re just like, “Okay, whatever”. They’re so cool.

Look, we entrepreneurs aren’t gonna lie to you. We’re not normal. No rational, risk-appropriate person would start a company, let alone quit their day job and invest their life savings plus a bunch of credit card debt into something that could go belly-up in a heartbeat. Those of us who do it for any length of time will tell you that without friends and family who can back you up, you don’t stand a chance.

So entrepreneurs: pick your friends (and spouses) wisely. Nothing will shorten your risk runway faster than someone close to you who thinks you’re doing the wrong thing. And when you do find those friends who actually love and help you move forward, cling to them with all you’ve got.

And then quickly turn them into investors.

If you’re not a P&F fan, I highly recommend becoming one. And if you already are, I’d love to hear what inspires you about the show. Send your thoughts to and I’ll post them in a follow-up.

Michael Sattler

With a career spent in founding and technical leadership roles with new and enterprise-level organizations, Michael Sattler is a veteran in technology strategy, operations, and product management. He’s spent decades in B2B and B2C SaaS product development, software and application design, engineering operations, new venture creation, and innovation practices.

He has scaled and managed technical teams from 2-50+ across three continents, led large-scale cross-functional program management, and founded or co-founded six companies.