I have huge respect for all start-ups for a simple reason that to back your own instinct and to put it in action requires courage! I have always had a privilege to mingle with the start-up entrepreneurs in some form or another. Today while talking to someone from the community, the person commented that the only stress he has is how to get funding. One that happens, all problems would vanish. Anyone who has walked down that path would vouch for how critical it is to get funding. But do the problems really vanish once you get the funding? I have my own doubts which are corroborated by quite a few ruins that I have seen around.
While I was thinking about this, my mind took me back to a start-up round table lunch series which I was a part of. I had just started my consulting and honestly did not deserve a seat at that table – I guess I was only there as the person who started that round-table considered me as a mentor. Admiring those gutsy people with a dream in their eyes was what I did sitting there. After some rounds, I could always figure out the entrepreneurs who are waiting for funding and who have got funding just by looking at them 😊
In one such conversation, I was sitting next to a young guy in his late twenties who had secured the initial funding for his AI based start-up. While discussing over the lunch, he suddenly turned towards me and asked me, “If I have to get you as a CHRO, what would it take?” I was little taken aback by this direct question and once I got over my initial reaction, I asked: “Are you sure you want someone like me?” His answer shocked me even more than his first question. He said, “I can afford!” Getting over my feeling of commodity I patiently explained to him that while I have headed HR for globally spread organizations, he needs to check whether my approach and thinking suits the agility that he requires. It is not about his affordability or my profile, it is little deeper understanding of his needs.
While I do not want to generalize and paint everyone randomly with the same brush, I have seen a common factor of enthusiasm for ‘burning cash’ once you get funding. Your ability to burn cash is great only if you are sticking to your original purpose and idea and not using it for vanity! The biggest challenge to my mind post-funding is maintaining your focus on your dream and ensuring that the funding is channelized to fuel your idea. I have seen a lot of stories of ‘hiring top talent’ or ‘creating a great office’. Well, my question is – have you bothered to define the top talent beyond ‘best-branded talent’ in the market. Have you really thought through about what kind of people and in what combination do you really need to support your idea? Are they really excited about the idea itself? Hiring the so-called ‘Top Talent’ (read qualified from the top institute and worked with top brands) can actually pull you down if you have not thought about the ‘fit’. But many a time people hire for their vanity than their needs as the gentleman who tried to hire me said “I can afford”. Hiring in such cases is not for the need for your business but more for your vanity. The same logic can be applied to all the spends that people indulge in post-funding.
By the way, let’s not single out entrepreneurs for this behaviour of ‘spending for vanity’. Many in my generation (and of course myself included a few times) have gone on doing stuff for their vanity. While nobody argues that we need to give best to our kids, we also need to take a step back and think about a few questions – Are we doing things to make a statement of who we are more than what the kid actually needs? How are we planning to build resilience in our kids? While we provide for creature comforts, how do we ensure that their ‘sense of entitlement’ does not take over their hunger or passion for striving hard for dreams?
Well …. When you are endowed with better financial resources in life or in your entrepreneurship these are some of the good questions to ask. If you reflect on them as an entrepreneur or as a parent you would hardly put a step wrong…