Showing posts with label Lean. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lean. Show all posts

Friday, June 28, 2013

A start-up messed up at its foundation OUGHT TO be fixed!

The celebrated venture investment guru Peter Thiel postulated a law that says "a start-up messed up at its foundation cannot be fixed" - Bruce Booth attempted a commentary of this law in the context of Biotech ventures through his blog post titled 'Foundings Matter: Thiel’s Law Applied To Biotech' - While Bruce's application of Thiel's law is based on a tacit agreement of the postulation, I believe this can be argued differently, as indicated by some campus talk here...

Below is my comment against the article by Bruce Booth, wherein I agreed and disagreed with the author in two independent contexts....

My comment:
It bugs me no end just how little the VC & PE literati out there ever attempts to explain all those lurid, smart theories in the context of biotech enterprises instead of solely building case-studies out of super-achieving IT start-ups that brought-in bags of cash to the VCs very early into its life cycle. This peculiar penchant among the authors for avoidance of anything called biotech enterprise I feel is owing to a general investor impatience for acknowledging the veracity of any investment that can’t be cashed out profitably within 3-5 years & thereby not showcased as a text-book case of intelligent investing. While otherwise is a decently thought-provoking & stimulating book, “Venture Capitalists at Work: How VCs identify and build billion dollar successes” by Tarang Shah is one such recent addition to my list of disappointing treatise.

Peter Thiel too probably isn’t greatly different after all, since a lot of the wisdom he’s been postulating is validated only within the narrow context of IT start-ups - Your effort Bruce, at ‘pharmifying’ the ‘Thiel’s law’ is thus a very welcome diversion.

None of the mess-ups you listed right from ‘un-reproducible science’ to ‘inappropriate capitalization’ can be contested as inconsequential in any which way & together these six make a great check-list for the entrepreneur on how not to go wrong initially & for a full-fledged due diligence by the VC either at the initial funding or an informal, abbreviated review prior to subsequent funding rounds. I however am struggling a little bit to accept that the DNA can’t ever be repaired once messed up – isn't disruptive innovation, which inherently amounts to re-coding the DNA of the enterprise /or enterprise's innovation/ business model, an accepted strategy now?

In the June 2013 issue of HBR, Rita Gunther McGrath (Author of “The End of Competitive Advantage”) talks on how the current day enterprise scenario is all about moving away from the conventional ‘Sustainable competitive advantage’ model and instead moving towards “Transient competitive advantage’ – Biotechs' that operate within an ever evolving, dynamic clinical scenario I believe can’t really base their strategy on sustainable competitive advantage & have to necessarily adapt, quickly & efficiently to the transient competitive advantage model & this may necessitate periodic re-coding of the enterprise DNA - What I quote here is what pretty much you and others said earlier regarding the need of emergence of ‘lean-start-ups’.

So instead of trying overtly to ensure all loose ends are tied-up upfront (…including the phantom scenarios!) & showcase a supposedly fine-tuned enterprise DNA to the VCs, the start-up would do good to expand the scope of the business plan to incorporate a well thought through set of situation-appropriate pivots & an alternate disruptive innovation model or two.

My two Rappen*

*on a business trip in Switzerland at the time of posting this article

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dear HBR, defend your research!

In the May 2013 issue of HBR that has a ‘spotlight on entrepreneurship’, Adi Ignatius observes in the very first paragraph of his editorial that the “IPO market has been soft for years” & on a closing note hoped for ‘a steadier flow of IPOs’ as the economy is on the path to recovery.

This angst I thought pretty much reinforces the dominant LP complaint of an ‘absent IPO market in venture backed firms’ these days. Given this, I expected the articles to focus on elucidating about scalability of an early enterprise to the entrepreneurs – which I realized wasn’t the case after reading through the same.

Each of the four articles & the one interview instead seemed standalone in content & interestingly anti-VC in tone & tenor – not sure why. Since an elaborate hypothesis on these already elaborate academic articles didn’t appeal to me, I felt capturing the essence of each article in a single line would make it crisper - but given the duality of the message in the articles/ interview, I decided that the take-away messages should be in two sets, one for the entrepreneur & one for VC.

Here goes;


Go the Lean-way or Fade away1
Seek out the client, not just an investor2
To err is VC – YOU, be the driver3
Marry the VC if you must, just make sure the pre-nup is not one-sided!4
If you are good, a Top VC will find you / If a Top VC funds you, you must be good!5


Lean is in – Junk the flab (read: 5yr business plan et al.)1
Failing early is a virtue, at times, most times2
Focus on great returns, not on large fees – Stay relevant3
VCs are good but dated – Brace up for the Gen-Y entrepreneur4
If you aren’t a top-quartile VC, tough luck!, great deals don’t happen to you5
Article reference:
Click link to access the article, (I pay for my Kindle edition tho’..)
1.        Article “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything” by Steve Blank
2.        Article “What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong” by Vincent Onyemah, Martha Rivera Pesquera, and Abdul Ali
3.        Article “Six Myths About Venture Capitalists” by Diane Mulcahy
4.        Article “How to Negotiate with VCs” by Deepak Malhotra
5.        “In Search of the Next Big Thing, Interview of Marc Andreessen

Most of the above messages have been around for some time now, only this comes across as a tacit academic endorsement of the market grapevine - If I forget scalability for a moment, my summarized takeaway from the above is;

Whether or not there’s something basically and drastically wrong with the current VC model, the emerging new trends in the start-up strategies make it pertinent that the early investors, in particular the VCs, should evolve in tandem – This is important not only for sustaining the radically different new-gen start-ups but also for the sustenance of the VC domain itself.

I always liked the way the professors are called out to defend their research in “Idea Watch” section of HBR, So do I now say; 

Dear HBR, defend your research? 

Game on…

After thought:

Ponder the following exchange between Adi Ignatius (Editor HBR) and Mark Andreessen (Venture Capitalist) - ref: In Search of the Next Big Thing
Adi:    You’ve developed a strong philanthropic focus. Is the next generation of investors thinking about social investment?
Marc:   No. [Laughs.]
Adi:    So much for my hopes for the next generation.
Marc:   Many younger entrepreneurs have a social mission or a philanthropic agenda. They start early. Investors, not so much.
Considering this is towards the end of the conversation, I thought Marc was pretty dismissive about another aspect that investors both big and small HAVE to eventually look at "Corporate Social responsibility" of financial organizations. I pondered on this in my earlier article titled "IRR v/s Social Impact: Do financial institutions necessarily go through this dilemma?" - No answers tho'.