Posts Tagged ‘venture’

The rebirth of hope

July 3rd, 2009 No comments

I’ve seen this all happen before. It comes with the territory. Those who live in the startup eco-system, have to be convinced that their superior strategies can help them out-maneuver larger, established ‘dinosaurs’. In this eco-system, you always live between hope and fear, convinced that you can make the next big thing, but thoroughly aware that you’re seriously resource constrained.

Your friends are all working for universities, 3/4/5 letter government agencies, eBay, Google, Microsoft etc. They have secure positions, which could be yours as well if you simply take a few steps in the right direction. However, you have to have a reason to stick to the knife’s edge, standing out in the elements, ready to ride the market forces using your nimble, low-cost, disruptive business model. The 5 weeks a year holiday, and the full pension do not excite you. The gold watch and the retirement are false idols that are not for you.

Well, as a good friend of mine use to say ‘never mistake a clear view for a short distance’. Sometimes, the founder’s vision is spot-on, and you have to cross the desert, sign on to the Black Pearl, and spit in the face of conventional wisdom to change the world, invent the state of the art, and and boldly carve your initials on the structure of the marketplace.

Other times, you weaken when crossing the desert, and the big dinosaurs you were sneering at, are comfortable in their established watering holes, while you wander down the unbeaten path, and are slowly worn down by the elements, the economy and perhaps by your more nimble, faster-reacting, or less ethical competitors who take chunks out of your capital and clients. Have internal conflicts in the firm, be late to the market and face difficulty in user adoption, and things get worse.

The end result of the futile trek across the desert is ‘the end’. A time comes when you run out of cash… and then you run out of believer-in-you who are willing to give you more cash to keep the dream alive (usually for an insanely huge share of the firm; no free lunch remember!).

Then the enterprise has only one way to go, tits-up, and the painstakingly put together processes, hard-won camaraderie and the vision that’s 90% of the way there ends up snuffed out. There is no white-knuckle corkscrewing towards the ground at 300+ mph, there is no spectacular flame-out, or a ‘final battle’ in which the dice are rolled, and the last desperate conflict leads to ultimate victory, or abject despair. All you have is the march towards the inevitable; you know it’s 3 months away, then two months, then two weeks, and then it’s today, and then you turn in your keys, clear out your office, say your goodbyes, and head home to think; and figure out whether you have the finances to strike out towards your own goals.

After all, you’re marooned in the middle of the desert, far away from the comfortable watering holes of the familiar economy, with the shadow of the vision glittering just out of reach in the horizon. If you’re out of luck, you throw yourself back into the mundane, and trudge back to the familiar. If you’ve still got a spark left, you recruit a new crew who shares your spirit, and then decide if you want to adopt the vision which was just out of reach as your own, or maybe, just maybe you spot something else that is even better now.

After all, while you’re been marking your way through the desert, you’ve learned, improved, and have many new notches in your counting stick. You’re not the same person who started this adventure. There is no shame in trying to achieve the impossible, if nothing else, you learn and improve, and can one day achieve your dreams.

However, the last get-together is quite bitter-sweet. The people who were with you day-to-day are not just your colleagues, they are your friends, and the espirit d’core lives beyond the venture that folded. After all, this is an intense environment, and the people with you have the same spark as you; otherwise, they’d either never have left the safety of the shores, or they would have not have stuck out as long as they did.