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Doomsday Or A New Dawn For Your Startup?

A short introduction for my maiden post….I am currently working in my 7th high-tech startup.

A short introduction for my maiden post….I am currently working in my 7th high-tech startup. Over the past 20 years, I have worked in a variety of technical and marketing positions.  The last two startups (one of which I co-founded) were successful and were eventually purchased by much larger public companies.  And through it all, there were the natural ups and downs; both internal to the company and the specific markets, and of course, and in the general business atmosphere.  Yet, it seems that every time there is a new high or a new low, out comes a flurry of experts telling us what we need to do to survive this “never seen before” unique environment.”

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So it is no surprise that the recent sudden downturn has brought its share of doomsday prophets telling us to hunker down and wait out “nuclear winter.” As entrepreneurs, what should we doing to thrive (not just survive!) in today’s environment?

In the last few weeks, I have received several slide decks put together by investors (disclaimer: none of these are in any way been connected with my current company) with their suggestions to their portfolio companies about what to do to survive.  Here are some of the more “useful” suggestions:

  • Become cash-flow positive
  • Come up with a business model that makes money
  • Sharpen your value propositions

I am not making this up…hard to believe, isn’t it.
On the other hand, here are a few ideas that represent more practical advice.

  • The downturn “calamity” might actually represent new opportunities. Now might be time to reposition your product/service to take advantage of new market conditions. The same product that yesterday helped people “do more,” might today help them save money or other resources during the downturn, if positioned properly. Step back and re-think how your technology/service can fulfill new market needs.
  • As weaker players disappear from the market, it will be easier to be recognized. Take advantage of lower marketing costs to stand out from the crowd at a time when visibility is paramount to success. Many companies tend to cut marketing to preserve their development resources. Big mistake. You don’t want to end up with lots of technology that nobody will be aware of.
  • Rethink your marketing activities to get the most bang for the buck – for example, fewer people traveling to big events makes them less attractive.
  • Seek out partners who will be looking for ways to extend their business at lower costs.  Something a partner may have previously thought about developing internally, might be an outsourcing opportunity today.
  • Conversely, leverage outsourcers of your own to save on non-core functions.
  • Stay focused on key business/sales opportunities – when the pickings are lean, young business leaders tend to “take any business at all costs,” which causes a massive defocus and actually drives the company down.

Oh, yes….and of course, sharpen your messages and try and make money. World peace wouldn’t be bad either.

More next time.

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About the author

A technology strategist for an enterprise software company in the collaboration and social business space. I am particularly interested in studying how people, organizations, and technology interact, with a focus on why particular technologies are successfully adopted while others fail in their mission. In my 'spare' time, I am pursuing an advanced degree in STS (Science, Technology, and Society), focusing on how social collaboration tools impact our perceptions of being overloaded by information. I am an international scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.

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