3 - unobvious - things I learned serving entrepreneurs
I have raised funds for about 20 tech companies over the past 4 years. It is always both a challenge and a rewarding experience. You enjoy a very privileged way of looking at things.
For instance, you build a unique relationship with the entrepreneurs. Through the initial process while you prepare all the materials before contacting investors, you learn a lot about the whole company (market, product, people…) and its founders (tough to be a solo founder unless your core team rocks). You actually learn a lot more than you disclose because — and in a way that — you get into the intimacy of the founders, which helps you understand who they are, how they act, where they come from and are heading to.
There is no hide-and-seek game, no soft layer on top, no Gatsby.
You identify pretty quickly their qualities and their flaws. And even though you’re not running the company, you know where it grates. Often, the founders know it too. There are millions of reasons. But assuming that 1) the addressable market is huge 2) the team is awesome and 3) the product is appealing and solving a real world problem - what can be missing that you don’t see… I have identified three things :
Leadership | Personal Initiatives | Corporate Culture & Cohesion
To establish a leadership is critical for at least one reason among many others: You won’t never build a lasting core team of top managers around you if you fail at leading them. Leadership is also a strong asset when pitching investors. Some entrepreneurs are leaders by nature, others aren’t. It can be taught although some entrepreneurs will always fail at leading. It’s personal.
I have also been surprised in a lot of companies by the lack of initiatives from the rest of the team. The founders’ role is to create a work environment that encourages employees’ engagement through rewards and personal initiatives. It’s challenging, good for innovation, good for personal and team mindset… Furthermore, it allows entrepreneurs within the company to identify the leaders, the creatives, the followers, the independents, the team-oriented, the ones with big ideas, the ones with small ideas, the do-ers… Every single little things matter, make initiatives emerge.
Finally, corporate culture and cohesion is very important for both the present and the future of the company. It’s the glue that will make things last longer as well as the mechanism which prevent your company to decline from inertia. Communication, open hours between employees and managers, events, team work, personal initiatives… Make sure your company is always moving and open to the world because, you know it, tough times are always ahead. Your corporate culture and cohesion expenses should actually be a line of your business plan!
Those rules are true in a 5 people startup just as in a 500 people corporation and the sooner you put them into your DNA, the better you’ll scale around you an amazing team to achieve great things all together.