Do you know what kind of company you're building?
Scotland has a lot of ‘startup stuff’ going on. That’s good on one level: lots of opportunities to connect, get feedback, meet people, and hang with a group of people who have some sense of what you're going through.
It’s also a problem. Ecosystem programmes, resources, and investment strategies are often developed by people without relevant experience in building early stage startups. This leads often to bad advice, mismatched investor relationships, and lots of noise and distractions that celebrate and encourage the wrong things. It presents a one-size-fits all approaches to the entire sector, and ironically, gives too many funding/support opportunities to zombie companies that haven't proved it in the market.
One misstep I often see when meeting founders is a lack of clarity about what scale of business they want to create, and what capital needs that business requires. “Every investor is relevant, all money is helpful, I just need to raise raise raise, then voila I’ll be a unicorn.” Be honest: have you felt that at some point? I know I have.
But it’s a big problem, and one we need to understand and be better at answering to ourselves as founders. We are too eager to give away ownership to anyone who takes a fancy to us, regardless of need, fit, or terms. All for what? Validation? Desperation?
If you need a bit of funding to get to profitability and then expect to run a sustainable business, you do not need nor should you be trying to position yourself as a unicorn-in-waiting. Valuation, for example, isn't as big an issue. You have a responsibility to understand the different expectations and motivations of different types of investors. Power venture isn’t the same as growth or regional VC. Tax efficiency as a primary motivation will affect the risk profile and return expectations.
Success is not based on a single metric. A quick case-study to prove the point in the wonderful world of task management: Asana vs Todoist. Both are task and project management products, both are used by teams. Asana has raised $450m over more than 7 rounds, is a publicly traded company, and is making a loss, while Todoist is entirely bootstrapped, profitable, and unencumbered by investor pressure. They took $40k. And it was a grant.
Which is more successful? What does success even mean for you? We might disagree, and that's perfectly okay. In fact, that's the point.
Disagree with anything you see here? Tell us and we’ll share your response.
Campfire is sponsored by Shepherd and Wedderburn's initiative to supercharge start-ups and scale-ups. Be sure to follow the Start to Scale LinkedIn page for useful videos and posts designed to help founders.