We always need more people. I’m the first one in line to say I need more engineers. And when I get more, I’ll still say I need more. I will *never* have enough, and I challenge any product manager to say they have enough.
But, consider some of the success stories out there. And consider the resources each of us have deployed. We can do a lot. And we are. The key is focus on what’s important. Organize around what’s important and make it happen, potentially at the cost of other things that are (less) important.
Remember: getting an app or company on your platform marks the end of a deal, but the beginning of an official working relationship.
There comes a point for every startup when you’ve got to decide between perfection and progression. The first is a stable characteristic and the second is a dynamic conversation. Choose wisely.
To be a manager is to make yourself irrelevant.
Mark Suster agrees.
Finding the talent that ensures you’re protected in case someone gets hit by a “beer truck” (or in my case, a “soda truck”) makes life really easy. But let’s be honest, the folks that are attracted to a small company that has potential are not necessarily the folks who have “been there and done that”. They won’t immediately be at the level in their career necessary to take on your top levels of executive management. So what needs to happen? You spend more money hiring top talent that accepts positions below their capability in the off chance something happens above them so they can fill the shoes? That seems a bit too altruistic for someone who’s in it for the money and the potential upside of a hot startup making the big time.
Instead, you need to invest in your people. Make them capable to fill your shoes. Mentor them, guide them, teach them to do your job. Increasingly give them more and more responsibility. Don’t just thrust it on them, but nurture them so that when the time comes, they can do the job you need them to do.
By the way, this is not to say you should expect them to do the job you need them to do before you formalize that role for them. You have to do right by your employee. If you expect them to be your CTO, give them the job roles and responsibilities of your CTO formally. Or set their expectations by placing them on a performance plan that in some period of time enables them to take that job. Don’t just expect it of them without any communication.
Steve Blank recently blogged about Fund Raising is a Means Not an End. It was thought provoking.
I’ve been involved in 4 startups now, 2 of which were boot strapped by either angels or customers and 2 that were VC backed. Of the angel funded, 1 is still limping along trying to work towards scalable growth and the other was acquired due to strong customer revenues. Of the VC backed, one was fire sold to a bigger company so the VCs could recoup some of their investment. The other is doing great 🙂 but that’s a different topic that I won’t dig into.
I tend to agree with Steve’s take on raising funds for a startup. There’s something to be said about treating the money you receive as a gift, one that is funding your dream to build something akin to a blossoming tree that starts as a seed. Taking that further, consider how to build an orchard. Farmers start with young saplings planted in many rows and nurture them into adult fruit-bearing trees.
But how do they get saplings? They start from many seeds and tons of water. Even still, many of those seeds peter out. But some of them turn into the saplings that make it into the orchard.
The seed is like the startup and the venture capital the water and nutrients that help the seed grow into the sapling. More money doesn’t necessary improve the situation in terms of guaranteeing more saplings. Instead, what helps is constant experimentation to improve the efficacy in converting seeds into saplings. In the end, the experimentation results in a repeatable process that results in more saplings to grow the orchard.
To bring the analogy home, constant experimentation and efficacy improvement is what the serial entrepreneur is really good at. It helps to transform a temporary situation (the startup) into the scalable repeatable business we all want. And for that, money is the means. Not the end.