Post Funding Execution Woes Make or Break You

I’m working with a few of our portfolio companies and some clients with similar issues. Post funding execution.

It seems so easy, right?

Raise the money, then build the stuff. Simple formula, right?

But it isn’t that simple.

I am brought in to do one of two things regularly:

  • Fix a broken or failing software team (I used to run a line of business that was defined as follows “I help business owners UNFUK their software and technology teams.”); or
  • Help build a high-performance software team to ensure success (i.e. avoid that first situation).

The pace of things in the blockchain and self-sovereign identity world is so high that it’s happening more and more.

So I figured I would share a few pointers for those who can use them.

It’s a short list that I’ll likely be expanding upon over time, but here are the significant areas that need your attention:

  • Funding – having too little or too much cash on hand is a bad thing. Too much means you may make stupid decisions because you figure you can pay your way out of it later. Underfunding means you can’t do the job correctly. If you go one way, go for under-funding – just keep raising. It keeps you lean and mean. ICOs often bring in ridiculous amounts for unproven teams – that’s just a recipe for danger (and first-class flights, expensive hotels, etc.).
  • Culture – Are you taking the right approach to create a culture that will define your business consciously? As Peter Drucker says, “culture eats strategy for breakfast .” Make sure you’re making the right micro-decisions that feed the culture you want. Kill off the culture inhibitors as soon as you find them – they grow into monsters quickly, so get them early.
  • A-Player Approach – Are your people A-Players AND are you using their A-Player talent? If not, you’re likely moving at <50% of your actual capacity (my number – pulled out of the air). Take me – I can make Sales, but I am just a B-Player. Building and unf***ing software teams are my A-Player talents. I am a monster there and just “meh” on sales. Where are you, an A-Player? And where are your team member’s A-Player levels? Are you working in those areas? If not – fix it.
  • Scope – Have you bitten off too much? Do you understand the scope? The blockchain world has some deep technical uncertainties, and underestimating them can be very dangerous. On the flip side, are you doing enough? Is your idea of MVP just an “it would be better if…” proposal that will fail?
  • Ghosts from the Past – if you’re building on something that already exists (e.g. working prototype), do you understand what is under the covers and is it ready for primetime? What technical debt needs to be paid down?
  • Learning to Say and Respect “No” – This is one of the most powerful things I do when intervening in a client or portfolio company. People are so afraid of saying No that they overcommit and get bogged down doing the wrong thing. Creating an environment where No is possible – and even encouraged – is crucial.
  • DecideDecisions drive success. Spinning in circles while learning more and more about something that you’ll never get all the information about wastes time. The velocity of your decisions will determine how well you execute them. If your decision was wrong, that’s acceptable – correct and move forward again. That’s better than standing still.

Use these points as a high-level guide, and I think you’ll find you’re moving in the right direction. Being a founder is a challenging path – but you’re not alone – lots of us have been down that road.

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