As a child and especially as a teenager, I remember times when my parents would put forth persistent effort in the attempt to help me correct less than stellar conduct, and in general, develop into a respectable human being. Despite their diligent attempts to influence my behavior; in specific instances, little to no change occurred. After a while, it’s fair to say in I had drowned out their message in my mind. Why? Stubbornness? Youth rebellion? All certainly in the mix of culprits. In hindsight, I can see how the causal event for change was often the influence and example offered by a friend, youth leader, or another member of my support system. At the core, their message and was no different than my parents; however, the additional perspective was vital for impact.
My wife and I are parents of a seven-year-old boy; he’s a good kid, with the typical high-energy you would expect from a seven-year-old. Yes, we are in the middle of “what goes around, comes around” aka parenting karma. As parents, we’ve been blessed to see the positive impact a well-rounded support structure has in our son’s life. From this, I’ve also developed a considerable amount of respect for parents and single parents with less external support who raise respectful children and teenagers.
How this parallels to venture investing is to a startup’s external support system (investors, advisors, and board of directors). In the context of a startup, where at times you’re trying to accomplish the impossible; tough calls are required to be made, and harsh realities must be faced head-on. In cases where a founding team has a limited support system, those offering support to the company are more pressured. This dynamic can lead to discomfort for both founders and the meager support system.
A couple of years back, one of our companies went through a particularly challenging period. Thankfully, the founder had a reliable support system in place that enabled them to survive and ultimately turn a corner. The founding team was able to lean on a supportive board, wide-investor base, and talented advisors.
This experience serves as a cautionary reminder. A startup with a single or narrow investor base, establishment of a robust external support system is just as critical to its long-term viability as it is for a developing youth. I encourage founders to think long-term when developing their external support system strategy. There is not a quick solve. Developing these relationships for your business requires an investment of time (months not weeks). Don’t wait to start when the support is crucial to the viability of the company.