Beyond the last cent of funding

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Most of the proposals floating around in investor exchanges and emails seem to talk about at least a million dollar in funding.

Some young ( and even old ) people are threatening to disrupt the world if they get that sort of money.

Others are already in some continuum of beta product which is revolutionary in its thought and intent. Few others have moved further and even started producing some revenue.

To be fair, when the Gods they worship have lower revenues than the salary of 1 of their in-numerable Vice Presidents, what can one expect from these devotees of the cult of the startup.

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Can I be bold enough to suggest that entrepreneurship could actually begin when one runs out of the cushion of investor money.

When there are no more employees to be pampered with a lavish culture, when all the regulators have to be dealt with personally, when customers cant be bribed anymore through discounts or deferred payments. Thats when the battle usually begins.

When cash in bank is rapidly depleting to 0, one has to take a hard look at the business model, at collections, at all employee and consultant contracts. There is no luxury of metrics available to the entrepreneur. But isn’t that the time to move on and either find a job or disrupt something else.

Its good to chase dreams but I have immediate promises to keep and bills to pay. And lets face it – Customers are hardly willing to pay for your earth-shaking innovation and mind numbing disruption. Try telling this to your suppliers or vendors. They just want their bills to be paid on time.

For sure, capital is an enabler of rapid change and risk taking but it does cuts in both ways. Easy come, easy go. As subtlety becomes a victim, and PR bytes take over regular operations, the sharp difference between rapid growth accelerated  by capital, and capital injection demanding rapid metric expansion gets lost.

And what one gets after that distinction is dissipated are deformed enterprises which can never be pivoted enough to produce profits.

Its a tough tightrope, its not that the most intricate and engaging products would not have the most users/ money and topmost market valuation with them. The question is about the path to those guide posts and what comes first in that path.

If money comes ahead of true engagement ( leave aside revenue which can in some cases come later ), it creates a steroid driven mirage chase in growing antagonism to the ground reality till the pressure blows the lid off.

And bystander media is beating the drums with equal aplomb on the descent as they were hero-worshipping the ascent. And all this is for the few rockstars, heroes – past and present.

For most others, its still a chase to pay bills and its easy to be confused whether to pay those bills with investor money or customer money.

For the average Joe entrepreneur, should all young men dream of building a Facebook when the harsh reality is that no such products have been built out side of Silicon Valley and China ( for their protected market ). Doesn’t all of this taken together make entrepreneurship in startups a lot less desirable when one has to face up to its reality beyond the last cent of funding.

( Am a supporter of entrepreneurship based on genuine innovation on either of product or market side, a marathon approach to survive till the end, tenacity built on strength of teams as well as personal sacrifice and on recognizing that its kind of destiny even after all that and more and hence enjoying the ride )

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