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Die another day

Very interesting post on why “fail fast” philosophy might be ill-founded. I think partly this mantra is open to interpretation – if an idea is not working, do you wish to spend $10M on it and then realize it, or quicker? In the manner that this article refers to it, its valuable to learn and adapt, rather than to give up. In the manner perhaps originally intended, you dont want to dig too deep a hole before you realize you are in it.

Part of this mantra owes its origin to environments where staying alive is expensive – think high burn startups! One of the key levers I believe exists in the Indian market is to survive at very low burn rates, or even turn cash positive while still experimenting with the core idea. Secondly, many times, the key risk being taken is the timing risk – essentially how fast the market adopts a solution – think about all the dotcom startups that rejuvenated 10 years later. In this construct, the ability to survive and wait it out is even more important.

In the kind of opportunities described above, persistence is perhaps the biggest virtue of entrepreneurs. At the same time, the ability to adapt and improvise is the key to making progress. Like many other contradictions of entrepreneurial success, this balance between conviction and flexibility is the key.

  • http://www.kmonyb.wordpress.com Krish

    Vikas, “seasoned investors” have that title not because they don’t make bad investment calls, but they are called so alluding to their higher rate of metabolism to digest quite a few rotten apples ;-) The dynamics is that they can afford to make those mistakes so long as their winning picks makes enough money to outweigh the losses made from bad investment calls.

    But then that’s no excuse why startup entrepreneurs can start off with a lame duck venture…or can they?

  • http://www.indiantech.wordpress.com vikas shah

    Krish,
    I am an entrepreneur.
    Sequoia invested in Guruji.Afterwards the co-founder of Guruji left the company and headed to US.
    I think Sequoia made a mistake by investing there.
    Travelguru was another loss.

    So , the point is when even the seasonsed investors who have a cross border experience can make a mistake , than definitely a first time entrepreneur can be termed as immature.

    I think engagement models like Nirma Labs should take precedence in india.

    Vikas Shah

  • http://www.kmonyb.wordpress.com Krish

    Iqbal,

    You have in fact agreed to something that I never said ;-)

    I never said too much money is wasted in startups. I say most startups have no business case. They are immature and shallow in their concept building and cut a sorry figure before serious investors. They show up to pitch as if it were a date!

    The young need to grow up before they set up business.

  • RC

    reminded me of a nice article on startup fail factors. to begin with – zealot vs 99% passion. http://bit.ly/4If5Ff

  • http://www.iqbalgandham.com Iqbal Gandham

    I feel that people have mis-interpreted “fail fast”, it’s not about failing, in terms of the business, but it’s more about learning quickly and pivoting even quicker based on customer validation and feedback.

    Its about realising the amazing idea you had whilst sitting in cafe coffee day, is only amazing to you, and no one else will buy it, BUT there is an adjacent problem, which needs to be solved, hence if you pivot your business concept a little, you maybe onto a winner.

    @Krish, I agree too much money is wasted in startups, they need funding, and they do not need to be kept on a leash, BUT I think angels and VC’s waste sooooooo much money. I was recently sitting with a startup which claimed they required £50k in funding for a prototype, after 1.5 hrs we had worked out how that could be built in under £5K.

    VC’s and angels for some reason do not keep an eye on things like this, perhaps they do not have the experience to do it, or they feel too much interference is not good, but I think the day a investor invests, they should parachute in someone/team for the first 3 months to help the team increase the length of their runway with the money that they have.

    Just because you give them money, does not mean they know what to do with it. Another example, two years ago a investor spent $1.5 million in over a year, what the company had achieved could have been done with possibly $200K and in less time, if only they had sat down with a whiteboard and a marker for 1 month. I know of another one where $7million , yes $7million was poured down the drain…investors need to invest more, BUT need to realise the company they invest in, needs to be monitored/advised

    Iqbal

    P.S I think I need to sell this idea to investors…..:-)

  • http://www.kmonyb.wordpress.com Krish

    I like the accent on respecting investor’s money. Startup founders often rant over lack of financiers, but not many drill deep to figure why people hesitate to invest. If good judgment comes from experience, it’s important to have that experience. After all why people don’t get to convince their dads to offer up their nest eggs on their ideas?

    By now none feigns ignorance over how most startups fail because there never has been a business case. It’s a personal fascination for building something one can versus what someone else would pay for. It’s a sin to bet other people’s money on those jolly rides.

    I’ve often niggled against freshmen starting up because I am positively convinced on youth being colossally wasted on the young. Where are those famous few college dropout success stories that have rented the air up until a few years back? My pet theory is that it’s important to blunt gushing impulses by growing up and earning enough to buy one’s own farm to bet on. Nobody gets to make easy money any longer, so no point in ragging those that are loath to it. If the lookout is for external investors, they fall way, way behind.

  • http://www.capitalmind.in Deepak Shenoy

    This excludes startups on eternal life support, I’d guess. Given low burn rates, and with founders able to reduce their salary to extremely low survival levels, it’s possible for startups to run just hard enough to stay in the same place, if the wheel isn’t spinning too fast.

    There’s a fine line between such life support startups and those that have to just wait it out. Even Infosys was in trouble in the late 80s before they all decided to stay the course (except one founder) and the story’s out here for all to see. Still, that’s survivor bias – for each Infy there must be a 100 others surviving for much longer without a high burn rate. It’s eventually the founders’ call, unless it gets worse and becomes the investors’ call.

    Having said that, it’s important to stay in the game; opportunities don’t come knocking if the door’s locked.