Of Startups, Motivation and Funding Nirvana

[Guest post by Sameer Shisodia, cofounder of Zook and now an independent consultant.]

At first, there’s an idea. There’s some debates that follow, some iterations that help refine the idea. Then there’s often a co-founder, some hectic activity and a prototype! The job is bid adieu to, the servers bought/rented, expenses planned for and the passion-of-the-founder has soon given birth to another startup.
Pitches are readied and made, and if you’re onto something or an investor thinks you are, you get funded!

Nirvana!

A year later, there have been hiring issues (people are so tough to find, or too expensive otherwise), development issues (its never as easy or as complete as you’d imagined), and issues with selling the product that you pushed off to ‘once the product’s ready’ right from the beginning. The traffic hasn’t taken off, and you take shelter behind the “alpha” tags, and in any case, the “full, matured” version with some critical pieces that will make all the difference isn’t done yet. That will fix everything.

Iteration 2, and 3 and more come and go. Things don’t look that great. You tire a little. There may be telltale signs, from a diffused market strategy that tried to please all, to multiple major projects running simultaneously – one of which will hopefully do it for you. You engage with a designer to fix UI, a mentor for advice, a PR firm to try and fix it on the marketing front, and maybe even get some big names on board to shake things up.

Familiar story ?

Somewhere, the tiredness does bite, and the ownership starts to dim, and even entirely vanish. Why ? Its the same people who were madly optimistic about their idea at one stage, after all.

Carrot uncertain, stick missing ?

Human motivation has got a lot to do with either the pursuit of pleasure, or the avoidance of pain. In fact, more or less all actions could be linked to one of these. At first, the dream that the idea promised is big, possible and a huge motivator. But, especially during a turbulent phase that comes after multiple bad patches, the dream can, and does fade.
Unlike a home loan, though, there’s nothing to pay back! So hardly any stick. Sometimes a little bit of a pressure does help to come up with smart solutions that make things work. Sometimes you do your best only when you come out fighting from a no-hoper. But there’s little egging you to do that.

I’m hardly suggesting that VC funding be replaced by loans – but its also true that founding a startup, at least for some and at some stage, does become merely a sexier, and in fact more comfortable job. Sure there’s more to do, but if you’re looking for that sort of a thing, its a great, risk-free (once you get funded) opportunity to have a ball!

Its not just the founders though – even potential employees often tend to look at startups at a no-loss-possible situation. Better salaries, cooler image, better work and responsibilities so why the hell not ? The “struggle” bit is more or less limited to the pre-funding stage. Once there, there’s only an upside…

If I were a VC, I’d be working on models to change this. Or even if I were a founder working on a new idea. If nothing, to ensure that the wrong kind of motivations got weeded out.

What’s your opinion?

[Reproduced from Sameer’s blog, pic credit]

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