Startup Adolescence

In the earliest days of a startup, the assignment for the company is straightforward. Most, if not all, of the resources of the company are devoted to building the product and getting traction with early users.

In a world of constrained resources and limited funding, the focus is clear, decisions are made and the best startups just execute. There is no time for great debates or philosophical arguments.

That’s why startups often beat big companies to the punch. Startups burn their boats the day they are born while big companies have multiple plates spinning and even internal competing product groups.

But as sure as the day is long, the startup hits adolescence. The company starts hiring outside of their network. They may have begun monetization efforts which take up resources and mindshare. Stuff breaks. The board expands and now there more voices than ever around the table. Decisions seem to take longer. Every startups reaches adolescence – it’s how you get through it that makes all the difference.

Speed is one way to get through it. How do you get speed?

I used to believe that speed was about a startups work ethic and the teams clock speed. In all of startups I’ve worked at or invested in you can just feel the energy in the room.

And while those things are certainly true, speed is really the result of a having the company aligned. I heard this from someone a few weeks ago and I couldn’t agree more. Doubt and confusion create more than a speed bump, they create a flat tire.

There are many ways to get through the startup adolescent period. Every company is different. I think one way to get through it well is by creating an efficient decision making machine at the company which creates speed.

I’d love to hear how others get through it as well.