Startups: Forget Firefighting, It’s About Starting Fires
When I thought about leaving my job for the startup world, I had a different idea about what it takes. I was worried about staying up till 6am fixing a nasty bug that’s affecting the 20,000 users who have signed up at my website’s launch. I was worried about being misquoted in the press because of my murmuring articulation. It was about not having the accounting know-how to deal with the cash inflow and enormous expenses that come with growth. In a word – Bollocks.
It’s not about fighting to put out the fires, it’s about creating the fires.
I don’t have server overload issues, I have to work my ass off and spend many a sleepless night iterating and tweaking the UX and if I do it all right and come out a winner, only then can I have the privilege of dealing with an overloaded server. It’s the reward.
I’m not going to be inundated with meetings all day from investors, press, potential clients and potential employees. I have to email, call, follow-up and generate enthusiasm either by my reputation or a brilliant product from Monday to Thursday so that I can have the privilege of them agreeing to inundate me with their meetings on Friday. It’s the reward.
Running a startup dealing with too much work is the problem you wish you have. Creating that level of work is the real problem.
When I first heard about Manu Kumar’s title at K9 ventures – Chief Firestarter, I confess, I rolled my eyes. Of course, I knew he meant the energy and drive that it stands for, but it sounded a tad too much like the gaming handle of my 8-year old cousin. Over the past few months however, its pseudo-machismo overtones has given way to the real meaning.
This is important because employees who’ve spent their lives at large corporations, don’t understand this. At Microsoft, you don’t start any fires. You expect the company you’ve acquired to have started the fire and you have to focus on putting it out while bitching out your PM. At 6pm you go home for an evening of XBOX and beers. You don’t start fires, because there’s too many fires you have to fight. Of course, I’m generalizing, but bear with me.
Moving someone from $$$$, Inc. into the startup environment, is a jarring wake up call. The next time a very experienced hire from a large corporation comes knocking at your door, make sure they understand: They won’t have 20 bugs to fix for the day sent in by the testing team. They have to build a way to test the system themselves, spend days finding the bugs and at the end of starting all these fires, getting the list of bugs to fix is the reward, stupid.
Photo Courtesy : Flickr user Jeff Power