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Some thoughts about patience in startup land

One of the hardest things about life in startups, whether you are an employee, founder or investor) is patience.

Few examples, recent and otherwise, worth sharing on this topic:

Hiring

One of our portoflio companies has been looking for an important executive for months. Some of the board members are getting really upset about this – and it shows. The company has met a number of qualified folks but they haven’t pulled the trigger. 

The course of action isn’t a no brainer. Do you hire someone that is fantastic on paper but brings chemistry risk? The market is competitive, good people are hard to find, the opportunity costs are mounting. This is something startups have to deal with over and over again as they staff the company beyond the initial team. It ain’t easy. 

Every situation is different but in my experience I would rather see a startup risk taking longer than risk an uncomfortable hire. I’ve seen board members push management teams too hard into recruiting only to have that exec leave the company months or a year later. Taking time to find the right person shouldn’t be confused with a lack of urgency for the search. They are are two different things completely. 

Growth

Look at Path. They are on a tear right now. I use the product almost every day to tune into what my friends are doing and I add content to the service a several times a week. Their first year was nothing special. But the team persevered. I have no idea what it was like inside the boardroom last year but something tells me that the board members were patient. 

We’ve had a few companies in our portfolio that started out slow (or worse) and ended up creating significant value. I would consider AdMeld in that category. We co-led the seed round along with our friends at Foundry Group. We loved the team and ended up doing two more inside rounds (all up rounds). It took time before they started to crush it and then we did the growth round with a new investor and then Google recently acquired the company. It takes time. 

* * * 

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the new startups that are created and funded each week. There is always a shiny new thing, scary new competitor or a shiny new person to hire. Or it may seem like every other company is growing much faster than your company. 

Patience is the most challenging & valuable skill in this business. I’m sure of it.