Building Or Selling

One of the common traps of any startup is hiring too many people too quickly.  When code is being cranked out and everyone is running around like they have had their heads cut off, there is a tendency to believe that every task needs to have a separate person assigned to it.  This is much more the case when you have engineers running the company.  They often make the mistake of thinking you need “lots of business guys.”  Trust me, as few of us as possible is all you need in a company.

This lends nicely to bringing up a conversation I was having the other day with a local entrepreneur who is trying to do a good old fashioned bootstrap.  Not only is he not going to raise any money (he has so far completely self funded), he didn’t hire out any of the development (he did it all himself over the past 12 months), and will be doing the cold calling once the product is ready.  When I asked him if he needed help, he said “yes,” but only so long as whomever comes on board works for equity and no cash.  That’s pretty hard core boot strapping.

His whole outlook on his approach is summed up in one statement.  “Watson, you are either selling or building.  Nothing else matters.”  His take on organizational development is that there is little need for anyone doing anything other than building the product or selling it.  He’s so hardcore that he would rather his demo be his slide deck – meaning no slides at all.  Product strategy means little to him unless it’s being dictated by people who are writing checks for revenue.  Search engine marketing is a wasted task unless the links are organic.  Like I said, he’s hardcore and going for the boot strap.

While I think his position is a little extreme, it does point to a very important success factor for startups – knowing that you should make do with less people, and the only thing that matters for your survival is either building the product or selling it.  In fact, when you ask anyone in a startup, from the receptionist to the CEO, what their job is, they should all say “selling.”  The selling culture is very rarely ingrained in startups, and this is a large contributor to the current mentality of thinking that business models either don’t matter, or can have an ad-supported model slapped on in the future.