What are we doing?

For the last few months, there’s been a storm brewing.  It’s a storm that eventually confronts almost every startup on earth, and it’s named “What are we doing?”

Questions of strategy, vision, and objectives do drive the conversation with investors, and the further along the path to funding you go, the more critical it becomes to have consensus on these three points:

  • Objectives – What do we want?
  • Vision – Who do we want to be?
  • Strategy – How do we achieve these goals?

You’d think that having a common viewpoint on these questions is simple or easy or intrinsic.  But unfortunately, it isn’t.  Later down the road you may be confronted with a confounder who wants to sell out to the first bidder, as soon as possible, because their objective was instant gratification, and their vision was immediate buyout, and their strategy was to push the product into the lap of anyone who had the cash and moderate interest.

The best piece of advice that I’ve received from VCs I know is to figure out what I want, and communicate it to my partners/cofounders.  An honest, open discussion is the right place to start.  It definitely is worth it to know if there are differences early; then there exists the possibility of making sure those differences don’t become issues.  Funnily enough, at the time I considered this advice to be somewhat worthless.  I said to myself, “what crap! I mean really! Obviously I want the company to be successful and I want to make millions of dollars!”  Later, when I remarked on what was said, it sparked a conversation between my teammates and me.

And that conversation was mind-blowing.

What we discovered was that:

  • Person A is ‘in this’ to make money, and cares little about the company, the product, the vision, or anyone else. (I’d like to add that  this is not necessarily a bad thing since this person reminds the team constantly to monetize the product, meet deadlines, and move forward)
  • Person B:   sees entrepreneurship as a lifestyle and plans to start many businesses, not just this one, and needs the company to be successful because they view this as a long term relationship building exercise (success meaning, “worth millions” vs just being profitable, which we are)
  • Person C:  is an ideas person and wants to change the world through technology, and thus really cares about design, code, efficiency, and user experience… but not about money whatsoever
  • Person D: is really deeply involved in nonprofits and social media and truly cares about this particular product/field’s ability to help organizations fundraise and gain traction, and thinks it should be given away for free as a service to humanity

That’s a lot of difference, right?  Not only that, but some people wanted to sell out early, and others want to keep the company and generate revenues … no matter what. Some people support getting VC funding and others think, “why bother?” It was really eye opening, and I realized that it is a conversation that needs to be had.

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