5 paure frenano gli investimenti in startup (e 5 consigli su come superarli)

Roberto Bonanzinga di Balderton Capital, uno dei maggiori fondi di investimento europei, spiega come superare le paure che Founder e Funder hanno in comune

As 2014 draws to a close, while I read all the amazing achievements by my colleagues and all the upcoming new year solutions, I find myself thinking very philosophically about the topic of fear.

As individuals we all have fears. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Founderor a Funder, it’s an emotion nobody is immune to. That said, as individuals, I believe that we’re able to overcome our fears once we understand them.

Given my experience as a Venture Capitalist, I truly believe that both Founders and Funders could greatly benefit by better understanding each others fears.

While this might seem like common sense, my personal experience in the industry is that we never speak of fear because we believe that such behaviour is a sign of weakness. The truth is, having the courage to openly discuss our fears would allow all of us, Founders and Funders alike, to develop deeper and better quality relationships based on understanding the other.

When a Founder and Funder enter into a partnership, there are several fears that tend to reveal themselves in that relationship. Below, I’ve identified 5 fears, how they manifest themselves in the the Founder/Funder relationship and how to effectively manage them. Thank you to my smart friendChristoph Janz for being the inspiration for this post.

tumblr_mmqw5iXvx71s6bw99o1_12801 – Fear of the unknown

It is important for both parties to recognise that “fear of the unknown” is an emotion felt by BOTH the Founder AND the Funder. In my experience it generally takes a few Board meetings and several workshops to be addressed and hopefully mitigated. Some of the questions that arise:

  • Is this the Founder I thought I invested in?
  • Is this Funder here to help me as promised during the fundraising process?

Unfortunately over the years, what I’ve observed is that Founder/Fundersavoid addressing this fear and end-up developing unhealthy relationships based on managing each other.

Tip to founders and funders

Accept that upon entering into a new partnership you’re both somewhat fearful. It’s totally legit. Do not hide from your fears and turn what could and should grow into a powerful, mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationship into a sub-optimal political situation where you each believe that you’re “managing” the other. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses. Let’s be honest about them and focus in learning from each other and collaborating with each other. Truth be told, I absolutely abhor the word “managing” when referring to the Founder/Funder relationship in an early stage start-up. It’s poison!

2 — Fear of feeling irrelevant

All Founders are leaders by definition and so are most Funders. As such, Founders and Funders natural instinct is to want to build consensus around HIS/HER ideas and to foster acceptance by employees, partners, customers etc. We tend to derive energy via the acceptance of our ideas and the recognition of our status: without both these components we all often have an overwhelming feeling of rejection.

To compensate our need to be seen and feel relevant, we all have created an entrepreneurial ecosystem with a typical star system structure: thanks Hollywood to show all of us the framework!

Tip to founders and funders

In the dynamic Founders/Funders there is no need for anybody to feel rejected or accepted, we should just be. We are relevant for what we do and what we achieve not for what we say. We have created this star system approach to entrepreneurship but do we really need it?

Too often I see both founders and funders abusing publicity for fear of being rejected by the community and to enforce their need of being relevant. We almost become obsessed by our fear of rejection and we end up using publicity as an objective by itself to drive acceptance around us (individuals)

Why? Do we really build larger entrepreneurial ventures in this way? I strongly doubt it. I think all of us should focus much less on our personal publicity and on developing empty hype. If we really want to deal with the fear of be irrelevant and eventually be rejected there is only a simple thing to do:

work all together in making our ventures relevant in the world (not our personal profiles).

finance-cece-exit-600X4003 — Fears of death

I am a firm believer in a Darwinistic approach to entrepreneurship. Great Founders and Funders will survive, mediocre will die… and this is ok!

However, being a natural optimistic, I also think that when we die we learn a lot and therefore we will have a high chance to succeed in the future.

Tip to founders and funders

Fear of death is healthy and both Founders and Funders should keep that in mind and derive energy from it instead of anxiety. This is why I feel companies should never be over financed and I am totally against funders supporting a company with internal funding rounds if the business is not gaining traction in the broader investment market. Instead of fearing death we should figure out how to gain energy from that type of last resource approach: the extreme motivator. That last resource feeling is the that last injection of adrenaline that allows all of us to achieve the unachievable.

4 — Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

I’m going to state the obvious — — we are over connected, we are the Matrix. As soon as we wake up we all obsessively look for at our devices, worried about what’s happening somewhere else and terrified that we are missing it. This is in part the result of the times we are living in, a small part because of the type of work that we do but more broadly this is a generic attitude issue across the whole industry.

Founders are always concerned that they should do something new: if we do not start this new business unit somebody else will do it a constant fear that a big opportunity is missed and gained by a competitor. Funders are obsessed by the next deal that they are missing out.

Tip to founders and funders

Although for different reasons, the founder/funder relationship is immersed in the fear of missing out. I think we could all make immeasurable gains by focusing our time, energy and skills on impacting our existing relationship. We need to stop and take a look at what we have directly in front of us instead of being distracted by that that elusive something out on the horizon or in our peripheral field of vision. Founders and funders need to invest quality time in the relationships, businesses and ideas that they’ve already committed to. Smart FOCUS is the best tool to help us to fight back FOMO.

5 — Fear of performance

Last and not least the whole tech ecosystem is super conscious of performance. Some of this obviously is super healthy and a key driver of shareholder value creation. In some cases however, I feel this element degenerates creating a dysfunctional behaviour also known as a need forunsustainable performance. Short-term performance should be seen as tool to ensure that the day to day business operations are in sync with the strategy of the company and its medium/long term objectives.

I often see however short-term business performance taking over the strategic perspective of a company and capturing the company in the cage of low quality growth/unsustainable growth.

Tip to founders and funders

Both founders and funders should always be focused on building up healthy performance but should also make sure that the healthy tension of performance does not take over and becomes unhealthy unsustainable growth. I often hear of founders building companies for funders with the objective of achieving successful fund-raising rounds. I have also seen manyfunders influencing the company building process thinking more about their LPs and fund structures than the benefit of the venture.

We should all work together in building a culture of core sustainable performance around core business strategies. Founders and funders alike must be focused on same thing: the end customers.

Over the past several years, I have invested in many companies and have had the chance to work with amazing founders. As such, I have experienced these fears hundreds of times. Often I had to deal with these fears in absolute isolation. Even to share them within my own partnership was at time difficult.

My key discovery during the years has been that actually some fears are exactly the same for founders and funders. Therefore to share them freely actually help to sediment a deep relationship: this is the magic of some of the deepest relationships I have with founders.

I hope that my personal experience here can lead to greater Founder/Funder relationships. I hope we can all realise that talking about these fears does not make any of us sons of minors gods. We can all be great founders and funders if we recognise these fears, we talk about them and we do not allow them to take control of our interactions and relationships. Fears can help all of us to build better deeper relationships.

Roberto Bonanzinga
Venture Partner di Balderton Capital
Reblog da Medium