What To Do If You Are Running Out Of Time

By Paul Teshima in Leadership

Time is a startup’s most precious asset.

You raise capital to extend time.

You work like crazy to not lose any time.

You hire great people to maximize time.

But time is unstoppable, ruthless, and unrelenting.

So what do you do if you are running out of time?

 

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1. Hire Another Person You Need, Even If It Shortens Your Runway

This may seem counterintuitive, but hiring key people not only directly contributes to increased productivity, but also unlocks more productivity out of your existing team (especially when your team is small).

The math also often works in your favor. Say you have a burn rate of $60,000 per month with 6 employees (4 developers).  If we assume the following:

  • Fully loaded cost of adding one developer = $100,000
  • Ramp time to productivity for a new developer = 1st month = 0%, 2nd month = 50%, 3rd month = 100%
  • Net addition of a developer is still productive (product roadmap > current capacity)

 

Then you have a graph that looks like this:

runway-net-gain

So, if your runway is 3 months or greater, hire as soon as you can.

A great blog post by Mattermark highlighted the fact that for seed stage startups, it is “hire or die”. And that one way for investors to evaluate your startup is based on growth in the team, because it directly ties to the founder’s confidence that they will be successful.

In the same post they also reference a more qualitative benefit from Paul Graham:

 

Starting a startup is too hard for one person. Even if you could do all the work yourself, you need colleagues to brainstorm with, to talk you out of stupid decisions, and to cheer you up when things go wrong.” – Paul Graham

 

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2. Ask Your Network for Help

In the early days of my last startup, we used to bang our heads against the wall trying to figure things out, often never getting to a good answer.  Today if I don’t know something, I first turn to my network. Usually, I know someone who has an answer or at the very least they know someone else who does. Not only is this a much faster way of getting input on key issues and decisions but exposes your business to key influencers.

As an example at Nudge, we use curators in the final part of the content process. Rather than trying to figure out the right type of people to hire and how to run this process ourselves, I was connected from a past colleague to the person who runs the 400 person team at Bazaarvoice, who told me about all the successes and failures they went through before finally getting it right. This probably saved me many months of hard work.

By reaching out and asking for help, you also get the opportunity to re-engage with someone and hopefully help them as well. Most people want to help. The challenge is that if you haven’t spent time nurturing and growing your network, you can’t rely on it when you need it most. Growing relationships definitely takes time, so you need to be doing a little bit every day.

 

Remember the CARES Framework to ensure you are nurturing your network:

  • Connect people that can help each other.
  • Assist with advice or counsel.
  • Remember to show you are thinking of them.
  • Engage in meaningful content or discussions.
  • Socialize with people who share your interests.

 

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Bonus Tip: Move Your HQ Closer to a Black Hole

Yes, gravitational time dilation is a real thing. Just look at Nolan’s Interstellar. Time slows down the closer you are to a large gravitational force. So, the only issue would be that when you came back to Earth to IPO, we may no longer be here.

 

Paul Teshima
CEO and Co-founder