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Monday, April 17, 2006

Corporate entreprenuership vs starting your company

It seems a coincidence that I've been faced with this topic multiple times in the past week.
I am part of a Boston University Entreprenuership Management Committee. Here I heard some discussion about including separate corporate entreprenuership panels additional to entreprenuership for company founders.

I always think of myself an entreprenuer, and a big company person, worked for 10 yrs in large companies, then been a startup CEO for 5 yrs.

Y'day I had a discussion with my co-founder of my last startup who currently works in a large corporation that startup life was not different from a large company if you are truly entrerprenuerial.

So, here's my comparion of the two - life as a startup founder vs corporate life as a successful corporate entreprenuer.

1. Its a myth that you don't work for a boss in a startup. In fact you have several bosses. Your investors, your board, the customers you court for acceptance of something new, your employees. Everyone has different interests and you have to constantly keep them sold on your common vision. Its the same as working for a boss in a company and managing expectations of several internal groups to achieve results.

2. Its another myth that you do only fun work you want in a startup. If you are a founder you do more crap work when you get started (before funding). Then, whatever you think of fun - product development, marketing, sales, customer interaction ..., you have to do lot more different work. I'd compare my corporate meetings (thrust upon us) with VC meetings (several rounds) and cannot tell you which was worst.

3. Now coming to the fun part, hiring people, and building your team, one at a time is beautiful and the same in both cases. It may appear that you have lots of perks to offer a corporate employee to lure them in or your stock options may seem lucrative in a flourishing startup. But, the reality is that the real job is understanding the motivation of the employee and selling them on your vision to build and deliver something beautiful and its the same.

4. I hear of several entreprenuers who get started with a startup saying that you can get things done in a startup. Its true that starting afresh as a company has its advantage of size. But, in my experience, when you get past the initial product development and go-to-market launch, working with real customers is the same. It involves lot of meetings, understanding human nature, test of real understanding of the market and how quickly you can adapt to make that one customer happy. I have seen entire large organizations bend over and change rules to meet customer needs in large companies on the last day before closing a quarter to meet the sales numbers. Startups do this for the initial customers with glee.

5. People are very optimistic in a well growing startup, that energy is amazing. I've strived to get it in organizations I've built in large compaies, but it takes special managers to achieve it.

6. In both cases, you are part of a large ecosystem. I worked in large companies interacting with several organizations doing what I call "corporate evangelism" as I introduced web solutions as the web evolved. I did not realize its a developed competency as I worked with different groups across the company, understanding their vested interests in the my proposals and learning to appreciate input from people smarter than me.

When I started my own startup, I suddenly realized that I was part of a different ecosystem, but it operated in a similar way. There are VCs who operate in trusted groups, analysts who influence the positioning of your product in the marketplace, customers again influenced by other similar customes and media, media which has key players, large companies who could be your partner or investor , all inflencing the survival and success of your company. Again you are an evangelist of your vision and you need to know whose inputs are smart input.

7. Thanks for my Coola co-founder for this insight. In a successful corporate role as in a startup, when you are responsible for creating something new and executing on it, its the same cycle - you work very very hard, on lot of things in parallel, always trying to find whats your strategy and who is your real customer, what partnership is going to turn into your winning partnership, all along working on several projects, more than the one fun job you want to always do.

I appreciate comments if you see similaries or differences. Pl don't post comments to sell irrelevant stuff, thats a waste of everyones time and I'd be sure to block it soon :-))

5 comments:

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