I was recently asked why we get so deeply, operationally involved in companies. Part of the answer lies in having lived through the chaos of the first year of building a business and understanding how valuable help can be at that phase. Here are some thoughts on that first year.
The first year of a company is all about getting your bearings. You go through change at an unprecedented rate. You move from a team of one to two to eventually 40+ over the course of 12 months... that percentage change is challenging in any circumstance. As a start up that needs to define product, raise capital and show metrics, it is almost impossible. Few make it through to the other side and I think it is a true testament to any team comes through.
Those that make it through are not unscathed – they have battle wounds. The challenges of the first year take their toll... emotionally, organizationally, culturally. While the first year has likely felt like a sprint, it is important to remember that this is a marathon and it is impossible to continue to run a marathon at a sprint pace (trust me, I tried that the first time I ran a 10k, it didn't work so well). As you prepare for the next stage of the company, it is important to set the pace at which you want to move and take some time to make sure you put in place processes and structures that allow for the organization to scale around you. Take the time to be thoughtful about the manner in which you want to build the company and make sure you continue to focus on bringing in great people. The chaos of the last year needs to now turn into order. That should be a focal point for the coming months.
Also take the time to listen - listen to your team and the feedback that they give you (both explicit and implicit), listen to your customers, listen to your partners... you will learn a lot from these conversations, take the time to reflect and incorporate the ideas.
These are a lot of things to remember and manage for in year one and if we can play a small role in helping our entrepreneurs navigate these challenges and be better positioned to take on the next level of growth and scale, then our time in operations has been well worth it.
Arranged with witty office banter, and the weekly team lunches, Lightbox truly reflected what they were here for; to support innovation that enriches lives. With a culture that promotes thinking, questioning and collaborating, their space and their people weren’t here only to be the next biggest VC, there was heart behind it.
The advice to entrepreneurs is to experiment, fail, learn and repeat. Try things at a small scale and at a low cost, and quickly assess if they work or not and then take a call on what is worth scaling up. The experiments should either stop or continue based on consumer feedback.