Monthly Archives: March 2014

Founders’ Mania

This is going to be a very hard piece to write, because some of the thoughts are fogged by my personal emotions while the others are just controversial.

For the last few years, tech-company founders of the young, unabashed, hoodie-wearing type are being given celebrity status that is hurting their business and everyone else involved. And this needs to stop before there’s too many people crushed and a bubble burst and a lot of good cash lost.

Let me elaborate where I am coming from.

A lot of the first time founders find themselves flogged by media and hype. It’s not easy starting a company but come on, people have been starting businesses and making money from them for ages and, that endeavor, until recently, has never been looked upon as something “heroic”. This pr and superfluous attention is drawing more and more people into “startups” just because they like the way it sounds and not necessarily because they have a great business idea that they are committed to. This is spawning lots of really bad startups which live with ridiculous expectations.

The coolness of startups are also attracting and creating lots venture capitalists or investors – either people with personal wealth or folks who have been hired by institutional VCs because they needed positions filled. These investors create a whole new round of issues – they bring with them limited experience of running and growing a company, very little experience of leadership and venture capital and a tiny or non-existent network of connections – therefore being unable to support the young startups with the essentials they need at the early stages.

Who suffers? Almost every startup. While lots of the startups actually have a real business idea, the enchantments of startup life puts unnecessary pressure to live up-to the big fake picture. It instils incorrect priorities in pursuing “cool swag”, promotes stupid ideologies as the CEO is hailed as a rockstar, creates confusion as the tiny company slogs their ass off with minimal mentoring and publicizes ridiculous expectations about the little company that has a 99% chance to fail. It creates an unhealthy environment for employees who join startups and are expected to work super hard for a lower pay while neglecting family and have little to gain other than experience – the unfair part being, even in the off-chance that the company succeeds, the founders make most of the cash.

And the newly christened investors end up funding one failed startup after another.



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Driven vs Passionate… think about it.

It was a while ago when we were talking about hiring a person and after interviewing two people, both of whom we really liked, when one of my co-founders said: “well, she’s passionate but he’s a lot more driven” implying that drive, obviously, makes that person more qualified.

We must have heard this before and mostly agree: Drive is a great skill to have at any job, but definitely at a startup.

And I have seen often that men are more driven than women. Men are the ones to raise their hand, ask for the raise, negotiate their salary and overall, keep looking for the next best thing whereas women would often keep quite so they can give proper credit to team members, give more time to family, let others shine and attribute their successes to external factors.

In India, (where I come from), women will often give up well-deserved inheritance to avoid conflicts with brothers which can tear a family apart. Would you call that lack of drive or driving for the correct thing?

I’ve noticed, very often, women taking a back seat so that their employees can take credit for the work they did. Is that less driven or putting importance in the real and honest things?

I was at a conference recently and at a talk, Adora Cheung, founder of HomeJoy, who said that after she built the software and didn’t have any customers, they decided they need to understand the business of professional cleaning. Since she was the engineer on the team (of her and her brother) and the product was built already, she took up the job of cleaning other people’s housesĀ  and offices and trying to hide away from people she knew. Is that driven or is it just taking one for the team?

What I am trying to say is, the of leaders today and of tomorrow need to acknowledge the difference between drive, passion and loyalty. It’s great to find someone driven as long as the drive is not selfish! But it’s better to have someone passionate and loyal. And not let women be incorrectly judged by yet another double-edged sword.



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