It’s a great scene in many movies. There is a climactic moment when it’s clear that the odds are badly stacked against the heroes. But it’s also clear that there is nowhere to run, or no time to avoid a conflict. It’s now or never, and a glorious battle ensues with a dramatic outcome, win or lose.
There is nothing like really having your back to the wall to focus a startup’s efforts. I actually find that the founders that we work with that perform the best tend to be extremely goal and milestone driven at every stage of the company, and try to instill that sense of urgency pretty regularly with their team. They push themselves to not wait for mediocre results to turn around, and they think creatively about how to try cheap and quick things that might create a real inflection point that could put a company on a much more attractive path.
I find that cash in the bank and runway tend to be enemies of focus. IT’s easy to relax and lose the entrepreneurial impatience that allowed the company to do seemingly super-human things early on with little or no resources. But that said, raising a bit more if possible, extending runway, and buying time are all pretty prudent things to do.
Remember though that you have your back to the wall until the day you have a steady and reliable stream of cash that sustains your business. Users, press mentions, awards, hype, fame, doesn’t change that. This goes for employees as well as founders. Yes, startups have been the shiny new thing for a while, and you can pat yourself on the back for joining a hot company with hot investors.
But there are graveyards full to hot companies, and billions of lost dollars flushed down the drain by hot investors. Our backs are all against the wall.