Let us be grateful to the mirror for revealing to us our appearance only.
Enabler! Can save a Startup crash?
Yes, I believe so!
I also believe that there are too many disproportionately puffed-up noises around Startups. Ultimately, it is an innovative, potentially fast scalable, and geographically unconfined business model. Irrespective of the kerfuffle crafted around Startups, like every other business, success of a Startup too whirls around people. People are the only eternal competitive edge (initially and even after the massive scale-up) for the Startups or any other format of business to succeed… And whenever we talk about people, we cannot ignore importance of an ‘Enabler’ (I will talk about Enabler after a while).
Look at several news items, statistics, and independent study reports flooding the net on thriving global Startup Ecosystems and on India story. Yes, picture is very attractive. In recent years, the Indian Startup Ecosystem has really established itself as one of the fastest growing ecosystem in the world. As per Nasscom Startup Ecosystem report 2015, India has flagged its way to secure the third position in the world in terms of the number of Startups (over 4200 / 40% growth) with over $5 billion worth investment in 2015 and almost 3 to 4 Startups emerging every day.
Wow! Great news!
In any case, Startup ecologies are crocheted and beautifully embroidered as an altogether different business world. The catapulting enigmatic Startup ecosphere thrives on incredibly unruly competition. Yet, once you hit the bull’s-eye, the pay-out potentials are huge and now. The business is appealed to be the realm of innovative Ideas. There is hardly any dimension of business (or even life) which has remained unmapped by an invading Startup proposition. Besides, global ecosystems are methodically ranked and comprehensively appraised as showgrounds for the Startup/Investor community. There are too many activities happening in and around Startup-Environs. The speed with which boisterous innovative ideas are mutating, even Startup lexicon is equally buzzing with convolutedly fertile turgidities. Across the globe, the Startup lingo and culture are increasingly becoming a “prerequisite” for the onboarding strategy…Minimum qualifier to remaining “un-ostracized” by Angel/VC commune.
It may sound alien to many, but for me, it is just a re-embodied form of an entrepreneurial business in today’s disruptive environment with high odds of catastrophe.
It is like T-20 format of the conventional Business.
Let’s ponder over few reflections:
Why not many Startups are hitting big?
Why almost 90% of Startups Fail?
Is it an unnecessarily hyped-up extravaganza?
Why actual players are like an insignificant cogs in the larger “revenue generating wheels” of the bettors?
Why majority of propositions are disqualifying for any Angel/ VC funding?
Why there are not much whispers (despite highly weighed-up investments) over indefinably bewildering and snubbed failures?
Creativeness absolutely relates to entrepreneurial triumph. Typically, like every business, a Startup is a story of one or a few dreamers. It flourishes on the shoulders of that indefatigable visionary energy and (mostly) feds away progressively with size and time or becomes (rarely) a huge scalable business.
When you look at the core constitution of the players in any Startup, you will roughly find: the whiz kid/founder, the backbone (back-office technology master/ operationally go-to person), the industry trouper (networking/commercial mind), and finally someone to own-up the cash/numbers. In short, the startup engine is a cohesive inner circle of friends (or known people) with complementary strengths and shared purpose. The challenge for them is to maintain similar fire, engagement, and outputs as it grows. The test for the inner circle is to have similar intensity and compassionate “inclusiveness” for each incumbent despite growing numbers.
Startups, usually croak an excruciatingly longwinded folding. There are several reasons for which a Startup gets into vortex of survival struggle during some stage in its life cycle. Hardly ever it is an overnight collapse. The fall is very elusive and at times even inappreciably gradual process. Failure could be because of one or more ‘complexly tangled’ reasons, like, flimsiness in value proposition, market problems (size/timing/competition), epic technological odds, customer issues (acquisition/passive response), cash crunch, unplanned costs, drifting management, and outcompeted product. It is indeed very difficult to draw an exhaustive list of the origins of failures. Yet, failures are not just due to the obviously manifested reasons. Inevitably failures are because of the people behind the scene. In my opinion, building a successful energized team is more crucial than building a ground-breaking solution. I do agree with divinations like “Failure is the best teacher” or “Fail early, Fail fast, and Fail often” so as to re-align the business model with real possibilities and so on. My focus is not on evaluating failures, rather on diluting the very inexorableness of the disappointments.
For me, Startup, like any other business, ultimately reflects the people. Startup is all about the teaming. People issues are the number one reasons for a Startup crash. The most avoidable but venerable gaffes generally echo softer issues (people related). Dysfunctionalities swell in multiple forms after the first round of funding and with the induction of people who come on board subsequently. It’s often demanding to apprehend why relationships between co-founders or other stakeholders’ get shoddier and coldly start upsetting the functional congruence. Unfortunately, it happens often, and quite often. Relationship failures aren’t unique to startups. The founder has one of the most challenging leadership roles in a startup. The challenge is not just to uphold the unique value proposition in the metamorphosed disruptive world of Startups – but also to keep all the team members on board through unprecedented occurrences that are way outside their familiarity.
The question is: “Can a founder/co-founder manage the expected?”
Of course, Yes. To a great extent for the “harder” issues of the business. But not necessarily when it comes to “softer” sensitive issues. Besides, the typically advocated conflict resolution mechanisms (particularly between co-founders) are more of a “gimmick” than a solution.
Let’s appreciate the fact that most of the founders are young, professionally ‘untested’, raw vibrant minds. The experience and intensity of founding a company and dealing with people dynamics in itself is inconceivably demanding for them. Besides, the Initial success also makes them bit haughty, insurrectionary, and indifferent towards people sensitivities.
No doubt, a founder is a constellation of personae that characterize entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, like most of us, every founder has certain limitations (certain behavioural predispositions are too deeply embedded). He may or may not be conscious about it. Yet on his own, institutionalizing an enduring change in his character is exceptionally tough . Possibly, he may have certain personality traits which are almost incontrovertible. Actually, he needs a mirror to reflect upon his own conduct and to contemplate over a sovereign perspective which needs to be seriously evaluated before taking a decision.
Here comes the role of a people Enabler!
I propose to position a catalytic Enabler in a Startup at an arm’s length (loosely attached). An enabler is not an operational/regular feature of a Startup. He has no financial/career stakes. He is like an orbit of conscience around core team. The only qualifying precondition is his expertise in coaching, mentoring, and managing people dynamics. He becomes a (personalized) sounding board to the founder/co-founder. A communication facilitator. An expert in teaming. An Enabler supports the inner circle of the team in coping with difficult circumstances and engages with entire team of employees in becoming active contributors in the problem solving processes. His role is to provide value added engagement initiatives, strategic counselling, and advising over group subtleties. His role is helping engage team in a constructive dialogue and provide logical perspective to their people related decisions. His primary accountability is to continuously measuring the cultural disruptions in the team and ascertaining activities to bridge the gaps.
I feel an Enabler will make huge difference to a Startup.
This is my hypothesis!
I strongly feel about it. I have seen benefits of being Enabler to few. (Funding Agencies should try-out such an arrangement by making it obligatory for Startups. See results!)
Awkwardly, Startup ecosystem is essentially surrounded by people who have never instituted a successful business or managed large number of employees/people in their entire life. Although, (in addition to) the infinitesimal reviews and inputs by the swotting investors, founders do have their own circles of credible well-wishers and advisors. However, the process is random, relationship is patchy, and bit unstructured. For me, “mentors” (of typical Startup terminology) are not Enablers.
In my pitch, an Enabler is much more ceremoniously inducted arrangement.
This blog is to seek inputs from vibrant Startup minds.
Awaiting your comments…!