No, I am not talking about nosediving valuation.
I am talking about something which is least obvious to senior leadership. But it's a slow poison that erodes everything that the product / company stood for.
"Team's disengagement with the product."
This is what I saw happening in Yahoo.
- Most of us were using Gmail and NOT Yahoo mail (for personal mails).
- Most of us moved to GTalk from Y! Messenger
- Same with most of the other Y! products (Picasa > Flickr etc etc).
That is, anything but the Y! products. And nobody cared to give this feedback to senior leadership - because for them, the BIG numbers were growing exponentially (UVs/Signups) and few whining people didn't matter.
Result ? Slow death.
Today, Yahoo is irrelevant. It is still BIG. But nobody cares about Y! (products) anymore.
And ditto is happening with a lot of Indian startups.
The product is getting irrelevant, but nobody dares to tell you.
The product is being ignored, but nobody will ever tell you.
And add a bit of organizational restructuring and there you go - missing leadership, disengaged employees and a golden path to deathbed . With lots of questions ("What the hell happened to us!".. "Where do we go now?").
At best, the teams are doing a job and NOT living the passion, product businesses are built on.
In fact, for any product, if team can't evangelize the product, they shouldn't even launch it (of course, applicable when team is part of the TG).
And this applies not just to startups, but to larger teams as well.
Otherwise, it's just another 9 - 6 job. And the lack of passion shows up in the product quality.
What about Indian startups?
I am friends with senior leaderships of pretty much every unicornish (and below) startups and have observed the following:
- Many employees (esp senior leadership) from Ecommerce companies tend to not buy from the company they work for. They exactly know where and when supply chain is max fucked up.
In fact, they advise their friends/families to shop from competitors in order to save themselves from embarrassment [What if the orders don't arrive on time ? What if they are delivered something else? etc ]
Which also shows their confidence in the product/company they work for.
- Senior leadership is the one that uses #cheaphacks to get max discounts/freebies.
Yeah, it's part of human nature. But I believe, it's also a function of soul of the company. And leadership. Degradation starts from middle management behavior and respect towards the product/business.
Among Indian startups, there is growing trend of disinterested employees who are neither the evangelists nor user of the product - and to me, that's one RED sign.
Of course, nothing changes in the short run. But it will show up.
And it will be too late to fix this (just the way it was for Yahoo)!