Due Your Diligence

As we continue to endure this frigid winter, we have been teased with glimpses of better weather here and there.  The hope of spring is usually just enough to get people through the last wretched throes of winter, because they know there is something much more promising at the end of this struggle: spring.

MBAs interested in joining a startup after school go through a personal winter throughout the entire school year as they watch most of their classmates scurry around campus in their suits to various interviews attempting to secure jobs in consulting, finance, non-profits or big industry.  Then they watch those same classmates plan crazy vacations and exotic weekend trips throughout the rest of the year.  Those interested in startups are mostly on the sidelines.  The reality of the hiring cycle at small, high growth tech companies is that there is insufficient certainty about the business to reliably predict the hiring needs more than a month or two ahead of time, at most.  For MBAs interested in startups, the personal winter is only manageable because with the emergence of spring means they can finally start making headway in the job search process.

Charlie O’Donnell from First Round Capital (@ceonyc) has a great post for MBAs who want to work in startups that has gotten a lot of buzz and rightfully so.  It is a very well thought out post that is useful for both MBAs.  I personally am very appreciative of the post and have used it in my search.  For those not familiar, he points out that most MBAs approach to finding that great startup job.  Instead of meeting with a bunch of VCs and “asking what opportunities there are for you, you should be telling me what opportunities you are going to create for the startups I know.”  I am assuming that anyone really interested in working in a startup has read that post and taken Charlie’s advice to heart.

Now assume that you were successful in your approach and found a cool startup that bought your pitch and is excited to bring you on their team.

STOP.  Take a step back.  Breathe.  You are not done.  Despite your desire to immediately jump on that offer, you still have more work to do.

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Pivoter Beware

Entrepreneurs seem to have the stubbornness or self-confidence to fail, dust themselves off and try again.  The idea that a company can and should fail, but fail rapidly and re-adjust their trajectory as needed, commonly known as “pivoting” is a further manifestation of this entrepreneurial spirit.  It is a founder-friendly concept that is key to the lean startup methodology. It is in the best interest of all stakeholders to allow and sometimes encourage pivoting to occur.  If a startup can recognize early on that they need to re-adjust, they have a much better shot of recovering from initial setbacks, but this approach does come with some risks.

The term “pivot” seems to get thrown around with increasing regularity during discussions of lean startups.  “How did they pivot,” “Why did they pivot,” “How many times did they pivot,” “What is a different pivot that they could have executed on,” and the list goes on.   In some sense, it seems like there is a notion within the ecosystem that pivoting is a requirement to be a lean startup.

However, I feel that this misconception is a dangerous one.  While pivoting may be appropriate in some situations, it is certainly better to avoid it, if at all possible.   Relying on the ability to pivot, often at the expense of developing a compelling initial product vision does not come without consequences.

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