November 30, 2016: One of the most difficult challenges for a fast-charging startup entrepreneur is learning when patience is the correct tactic. Everyone likes to leave a meeting with specific next steps and action items, and no one enjoys just sitting around. That’s a natural bias that helps lead people into this dangerous arena.
November 17, 2016: Last week was the semiannual Georgia Tech Research Corporation board meeting, and I took advantage of that occasion to spend a couple of extra days in Atlanta catching up a bit with the startup scene there. All the news from GT was good; research is on a great trajectory. And, the complement of 17 or so corporate innovation centers surrounding the ATDC is a unique advantage for startups.
November 13, 2016: For those of you who went to church on the Sunday I’m writing this after the Election, you probably heard this morning a sermon of comfort aimed at congregants who voted their conscience for either of the two major candidates. It was a week for the history books, and it is full of lessons that transcend politics. My “Re-elect Nixon” tie from 1972 (photo above) that I wear to the polls every 4 years has now been consigned to ancient history.
October 30, 2016: It’s commonly expected that startups will pivot as their original concepts meet the tests of the market. Even the most carefully crafted plans may not correctly anticipate customer behavior, may overlook competitors, may run into unexpected technical obstacles, may be blindsided by external forces, and may ultimately not translate the founder’s vision into a workable business model. It’s generally better, however, to pivot than perish, and startup teams that can accept reality and adapt are the ones that are most likely to succeed again and again.
October 23, 1016: There’s been a lot of talk about stamina in the Presidential campaign, and coincidentally I’m reading two books about historical figures whose success was propelled by an abundance of that trait. Startups are never easy, and, if you are the founder, you need to have a continuous reserve of energy to meet the challenges ahead. You must be able to light up the room with your enthusiasm when you are with your team, or with customers.
October 16, 2016: As the founder of a startup, you have three constitu- encies: your customers, your team, and your investors. Being a low maintenance leader is a great way to get the maximum support from all three. This is not such a common term; it’s much easier to find references on low maintenance pets, for example. For this week’s essay let’s define some of the traits of “going low when others go high” (sorry but I couldn’t help that rephrasing from the politics of the day).
October 2, 2016: From time to time I’ve been involved as an investor or as an entrepreneur in companies that had to go back to the well for new money. If the business is on track, those can be nice up rounds. If not, there’s a potential squeeze play coming from those who do take the risk going forward.
September 25, 2016: The startup community in any town is generally viewed as a collegial place where eager entrepreneurs pursue their dreams and encourage one another’s achievements. It’s a happy world.
September 18, 2016: In startup financings there is usually much discussion about control. The founding group always wants to maintain voting control, and there is a valid argument for leaving enough room in the cap table to allow for subsequent higher value rounds. As I have frequently written, most professional investors will give you the psychological win of maintaining a voting majority but will protect themselves on the downside with the terms and conditions of a new class of stock such as a participating preferred.
September 12, 2016: Today’s essay is on running your startup by the numbers, once it is no longer a twinkle in your eye and has actually started. Too many entrepreneurs fall prey to their vision and allow it to overcome reality. I’ve done that myself many times and have had to be reeled in by my CFO.