Why Startups are Agile and Opportunistic

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

A startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model, Steve Blank says:

At a board meeting last week I watched as the young startup CEO delivered bad news. “Our current plan isn’t working. We can’t scale the company. Each sale requires us to handhold the customer and takes way too long to close. But I think I know how to fix it.” He took a deep breath, looked around the boardroom table and then proceeded to outline a radical reconfiguration of the product line (repackaging the products rather than reengineering them) and a change in sales strategy, focusing on a different customer segment. Some of the junior investors blew a gasket. “We invested in the plan you sold us on.” A few investors suggested he add new product features, others suggested firing the VP of Sales. I noticed that through all of this, the lead VC just sat back and listened.

Finally, when everyone else had their turn, the grey-haired VC turned to the founder and said, “If you do what we tell you to do and fail, we’ll fire you. And if you do what you think is right and you fail, we may also fire you. But at least you’d be executing your plan not ours. Go with your gut and do what you think the market is telling you. That’s why we invested in you.” He turned to the other VC’s and added, “That’s why we write the checks and entrepreneurs run the company.”


  1. Aretae says:

    Very related to something I was going to post before my hiatus. Since error is a core feature of LUE (Life the Universe, and Everything), we should model startups in terms of error.

    A startup survives if it has enough juice to handle the inevitable course corrections that are required. This normally means having enough money, but gumption, and willingness to change are a big part of it too.

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