A BOOK BY KHAN KAY

THE SPAGHETTI STARTUP

A TALE OF STARTUP SURVIVAL

OR

HOW TO ACHIEVE RADICAL GROWTH WITH SYSTEMS & DESIGN THINKING

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intro

The Valley, August 2025

The Spaghetti Startup is a futuristic story of the famed startup ecosystem, the Silicon Valley. It turns out, in the August of 2025, things change for the worse. There is an epidemic of spaghetti poisoning that plagues all entrepreneurs. Once the fertile ground for startups, the Valley is now a desert for the walking dead. The spag worm they contract impairs their judgment, which in turn puts their startups in jeopardy. Doctors have no remedy for the condition and the death toll is increasing. But, hey! There is a hero in this story, too! Apparently, our professing cat, Dr. Caddy has a solution to share with his fellows. All they need to do is to adopt Lasagna thinking, the cure for their spaghetti-driven minds.

 

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what-we-do

Long story short…

I had enough failures as an entrepreneur... That kinda makes you an expert, especially when you consider that the average number of past failures for a successful entrepreneur is seven. With my last startup though, to not fail this time, I put together a modeling and diagnostic tool as I was trying to help my teams. Guess what? I did not fail this time! I kept developing it over the years and tested it with other fellow entrepreneurs around me. That's when I realized it could be something worth sharing with the world!

Spaghetti thinking...

Me, my partners and the several startups we screwed up… We all suffered from chaotic thinking. Same was true for most startups around me.

Not enough!

Degrees and experience are supposed to help, alas! MBAs, PhDs and decades of experience collectively kept failing miserably.

Lasagna reinvented!

Trying to eliminate the root causes of such failures, I developed Lasagna, a modeling & diagnostic tool for startups.

what-is-lasagna-systems-thinking

The Lasagna Framework

In the Spaghetti Startup, Dr. Caddy introduces a paradigm-shifting modeling & diagnostic tool for startups: the Lasagna Strategy Framework & Library. The Lasagna Master Model is in a way preconfigured, to save time and showcase best practices. Yet, customizable, to respond to your startup's particular needs.

A New Modeling Tool

When things need to be created, changed, integrated, managed or coordinated, they need to be modeled first! Learn how to model your entire startup!

See the Forest AND the Trees

Given the limited resources you have, prioritization of your decisions and actions is of utmost importance. And for that, you need to see both the forest and the trees simultaneously.

Lasagna as a Diagnostic Tool

Did you know that today’s problems are a result of your past decisions? Self-diagnose and resolve core problems.

Eliminate Failure Patterns

Identify your growth engines and remove recurring limitations, failing quick fixes and other typical startup traps.

Catalog of Decisions & Actions

Stop draining your brain and avoid stress. Know what is critical and increase decision quality.

Filter for the Infobese

Filter any information and tool you come across in terms of value, relevance and applicability to your business.

contents

Ingredients & Cooking Instructions

Sneak peek into the four layers of Lasagna and its delicious sauce. Build your unique Lasagna Model from the ground up by customizing the Lasagna Master Model.

LAYER 1: Control Tower

Based on the Lasagna Laws, build your startup’s four drivers of growth: Shared Vision & Values (Culture), Innovation, Communication & Information Flows (Interaction) and Governance.

LAYER 2: The 7 Elements of Growth

Each growth engine of your startup has seven elements feeding into them: Inputs, Outputs, Business Processes, Actors, Controls, Externalities and Feedback.

LAYER 3: The 4 Growth Engines

From a system dynamics perspective, your startup grows optimally if you can govern these four engines: Cash, Skills, Customers and Product(s)/Service(s).

LAYER 4: Leverage

The Lasagna Framework
also serves as a diagnostic tool and helps you figure out the critical decisions, and symptomatic vs. fundamental actions that address root causes.

Mom's Lasagna Sauce

The sauce of your model comes with a library of decision/action cards based on LAYER 4. It also represents the interface among your growth engines and the outer world, i.e. your brand.

the-lasagna-project

Project Big Lasagna

The Spaghetti Startup is part of a much larger Big Lasagna Project. It is the first book with an important mission, it introduces a common language and establishes common ground. There will be more Spaghetti books, online courses, websites, mobile apps, all for the Lasagnacs!

The Lasagnac Community

Join the Lasagnacs! Entrepreneurs, professors, investors, government officers. Let’s help each other within the ecosystem.

Software & Courses

Think of free online courses to teach Lasagna and web and mobile apps to make it even more useful.

4 more Spag books...

I am currently working on applications and extensions of Lasagna for other players in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Book 2: Spaghetti School of EP

In this second book of the series, I will explore how entrepreneurship education can be redesigned based on Lasagna. Kudos to Sir Ken Robinson for his TED talk.

Book 3: Spaghetti Ventures

Ever wondered how the world of startup financing works? I’ll sneak a peek and see if investors and other financers would like some Lasagna in the third book.

Book 4: Dept. of Spaghetti

I have first-hand experience about what governments are up to. They set the scene, and Lasagna can help them, too. More than enough material for the fourth book.

synopsis

Synopsis

Spagtown, August 14, 2025

It feels horrible to see Jane like this, crying in front of the bay window, looking at the Bay. But I have seen this coming. I should have talked earlier, before this epidemic started killing people.

Weird, the spag poisoning seems to plague only the founders of spaghetti startups. It isn’t the first time startups die in the Valley… Actually, over 70% of them died within three years of inception, continually since 1938. But nobody seemed to show any interest. They were casualties of war.

Back when I was human, I managed to kill seven startups myself. It is hard to put up with such failure. I tried everything, then assumed something was wrong with myself. That probably was the first flaw in my thinking that turned me into the pussycat I am today. I can’t stand this anymore…

I had plenty of time as a cat, to think it through, y’know, my failures against my multiple degrees and big shot experience. Other cats simply play stupid games, but I’ve spend my playtime putting together a fun system to help design and diagnose the mess, after the fact, but still, it was worth it. And I called it Lasagna. What did you expect? I have been dreaming of waking up from this curse one day and sharing Lasagna with the world. This might be the right time. I need to talk.

Given the impaired judgment everyone suffers from these days, it was relatively easy for Jane and the other guys to get past the first shock when they heard me scream “LASAGNA!”. After all, I am a cute little cat trying to help, what harm could I do? I still think they would never listen to me if they weren’t dying slowly and painfully. They just had no choice…

 

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meet-khan-kay

Meet Khan Kay

Having personally screwed up several startups, I realized I shouldn't waste my extraordinary skills and exceptional talent in doing this, so I decided to write a series of books on how not to screw up a startup, from the perspectives of an entrepreneur, an investor, an educator and a policy maker, to cover all stakeholders in the ecosystem. The Spaghetti Startup is the first book in the series and I hope you enjoy it.

Before my post as a serial entrepreneur, I used to work for an international organization in Washington, DC, focusing on innovation-driven entrepreneurship and its financing, mostly as part of mega-projects. Before then, I had the opportunity to teach at a reputable college, and work for emerging economy governments and private companies. Basically, I have been all over the ecosystem in various roles dealing with startups top down, bottom-up and sideways, literally. I also have a diverse educational background with multiple advanced degrees in engineering, business administration and lastly in Information Systems Management from Carnegie Mellon University.
And I recently applied to the local medical school. Just kidding. The diversity of my background is important for three reasons: First, it enabled me to draw from multiple disciplines when designing a solution to improve startup viability and success. Second, I had multi-dimensional exposure to entrepreneurship. And more importantly because I was not even close to success in my earlier startups with the given background. But why? I guess I found the answer to that question and wanted to share it with you. Currently, I am a senior adviser to a newly industrialized country government to help develop their entrepreneurship ecosystem strategy and policies.

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