Peter Pan Syndrome in startups

Agile Zangief
3 min readFeb 25, 2022


Today I’ll talk to you about an insight that I normally observe in some startups, but to start talking about this we need to understand both parts of the title, what is Peter pan syndrome and what a startup is.

What is a startup?

Startups are companies founded to launch a disruptive product onto the market, or at least that’s always the dream when a new startup appears. A startup in plain sight looks like any other place, some awesome and creative professionals working to create valuable products, but the important part and what actually makes a difference is that in a startup they are flexible enough to make changes as soon as they get information from the market.

If you don’t know if a company is just another company or actually a startup, just look at the speed and growth. A startup builds ideas quickly and normally participates in several rounds of funding in order to have a greater impact on the market.

What is Peter Pan Syndrome?

I’m sure that you have already seen the Peter Pan movie and, if not, I highly recommend this movie. It is super fun and a classic. In the movie, Peter Pan is a boy who lives in Neverland, a magic place where people never grow up. Peter Pan Syndrome was first seen by the psychoanalyst Dan Kiley in 1983 and he described this syndrome as a phenomenon of adults that never grew their emotional part.

Some common problems of having this syndrome are, trouble with long-term plans, no interest in personal growth, avoiding conflicts and some other problems. If you are thinking about your company by reading these common problems, maybe you are working in wonderland.

Deadwish of startups

Finally, it is time to talk about the title we have. There’s a moment when startups have huge investments, enormous growth and a lot of people depending on the company, and this is the time to start working in a different way.

When the company grows enough, we normally see three cases of a beautiful magic experience where they keep growing until they reach the top 10 in the world, like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, etc.

Then we have another side when the company decides to change but sacrifice its main values that create the company. With these changes, they transform into a big machine or they disappear.

And finally, we have the ones that get Peter Pan Syndrome. They start getting more needs, different levels of responsibilities and goals. But the founder or the company as a whole decide not to jump into the next level because they are happy in the comfort zone. In other words, they love living in wonderland, but normally this exponential growth comes with tons of new people creating new needs. All the companies that get this syndrome get into a point where they need to decide to make the change or wait for the luck to stay forever.

If you’re looking for a way of saving the company from this syndrome, I only know about deciding to make the change from one day to another, but this might not work for every place. You need to understand what’s happening in your context.

What do you think about this syndrome?



Agile Zangief

In this space I’ll share some Agile dynamics, stories and crazy ideas that goes through my mind.