The Tipping Top

One thing I have noticed in startups is if things start to spin out of control, they tend to stay out of control.  Like a top that gets off kilter, the startup rarely seems to recover.  It will be interesting to see if Uber can.  They have the money, the scale and the incentive to right the ship.  At earlier stages, it’s really really hard.

I am not saying that it is only bad things that cause startups to spin out of control. Sometimes it is just managing people.  Normal everyday things.  Sometimes it’s external forces beyond control that cause a wave to hit the startup boat.  For example, if you were selling into banks or insurance companies in 2008, you might have had an unexpected wave hit your boat.

Managing through that and getting the company righted in a hurry is key to survival.  I think that’s the point.   It is all about survival to the next round.  Every startup goes through a valley of death experience.  Every startup gets jostled around. The resilient ones keep the top spinning.

 

 

 

  • I also think it’s a matter of the company’s internal network/nternal immune system.

    Think you know that early in my career, I ran internal turnarounds in a larger organization: these were islands of “dis-health” in an otherwise somewhat healthy organization. So while business fundamentals needed to change — and the lever for change was good people management (and communication) — people’s behavior mostly needed to rise up to meet that of the rest of the generally healthy organization. (And also the industry.)

    I wasn’t asking the people I managed to live outside of the norms of an organization/industry, but to meet them.

    In a startup that has gone off the rails, the “dis-health” is part of the culture. Asking people to change their behavior is asking them to violate the organizational norms that got them to where they are now. Not impossible, but super-tough.

    At this point I’d bet against Uber as a standalone business because, what, 1000 people signed a petition asking to bring previous leadership back to the company? That’s not everyone who believes that they’re doing everything right — that’s just everyone who is willing to openly go on record against the new regime.

    It’s going to be interesting.