What should corporate executives learn from venture capitalists?

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JASON LEMKIN

How to be more patient.

Big companies:

  • Have more great engineers than almost any start-up;
  • Have a great brand already;
  • and have a customer base already to cross-sell too.

Yet, they struggle to compete with start-ups with few resources, hacky software, and no brand.

Why?

They give up after 3 years.

Here’s what happens in a BigCo project:

  • Year 1: clone it / build it. Pretty easy, because you have 10–20–50 extra engineers.
  • Year 2: figure out how to scale it. Hard, because the cross-sell, the synergies, are almost never what you’d hoped. It works, but you almost always miss the plan.
  • Year 3: throw more resources at it, miss the plan again. Whatever revenues you do have are immaterial compared to the Huge Product Lines you already have. So you sort of quietly give up toward end of Year 3 so you can repurpose those resources to the core initiatives that are much bigger and more profitable.

Big Public Companies have a really, really hard time committing for 7–10 years to new projects with few to no revenues. If you are doing $5b in revenue, anything less than $500m in revenue is immaterial. And it’s so hard to get there in just 1, 2 or 3 years, especially in SaaS.

VCs don’t seem all that patient. But the reality is they are. They have to be, at least in B2B stuff. They don’t have a choice. And their capital is patient.

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Published on April 6, 2017
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