Vatroslav nas je u komentaru uputio na novi članak našeg Stanislava, koji piše za blog-mrežu Mashable. Kako posljednjih dana intenzivno razmišljam o utjecaju ove financijske krize na startupe dobio sam inspiraciju i po svom dobrom starom osjećaju napisao komentar koji je zaslužio postati i člankom na ovom sajtu. Cjelokupni tekst komentara prenosim dolje, a usput se ispričavam svima kojima engleski jezik predstavlja problem: izvorni tekst je bio na engleskom, a posljednjih tjedan dana sam već počeo i razmišljati na tom jeziku…
Stan, just a few thoughts from your own neck of the woods:
1. I don’t think we’ll see a significant downsizing of VC and angel investments. Those funds are provided by people with extra cash, and that cash isn’t going anywhere (unless, of course, they weren’t smart enough to pull it out of banks before they went down, in which case I’d rather not to be funded by them anyway). The opportunities to increase your wealth through investing are being severily reduced — real estate market is going down, stock markets are going down, etc — and even risky investment opportunities such as startups have a much better chance of a good ROI as opposed to those traditionally safe investment targets.
2. This is not dotcom bubble burst, this is a completely different kind of crisis. At that time we saw a bubble growing and bursting in a single industry — online technologies — while the rest of the business world was doing quite fine, even after 9/11. And the bubble was actually an anomaly — if you discount it from the financial charts you will notice that the general trend of online industry was steadily upward, and we have now reached similar levels of investments as seen during the bubble, only more widespread and without the feeding frenzy we saw then. And besides that — people will always invest in technology, and especially online technology is such a young field that there is still more than plenty of room for innovation and even non-innovative opportunities there
2a. Any startup which is not prudent about the way it spends its cash is certainly doomed, and rightly so. During the dotcom bubble we have seen plenty of startups with extreme burn rates, but as I said above it was an anomaly — a pre-revenue company simply can’t afford to overspend.
3. The best moment to invest to a startup is in a downtime. First, most startups need three to five years to develop a product and reach a level of maturity where the investors can reap rewards (through trade sale or IPO). If we look back, we can see that some of the most successful technology startups were established in the time of the post-bubble “nuclear winter”: the examples are Google (1999), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005) and Skype (2005), to mention just a few. Second, no crisis lasts forever — if we learn from history, we’ll see that even the Great Depression lasted no more than a decade. The world today has much more mechanisms to control the crisis than were available in 1930s — one of them is effective global communication being enabled exactly with online technologies — so it will likely last just as long as it takes a new technology to grow useful.
4. And finally, I would like to once again add to the differentiation between projects and businesses; or rather, I’d like to use the term “innovations” instead of projects. When you’re starting up, there are only two things you can possibly be building: one is an innovative technology (or an innovative process, or a way to do business, or something else; the key word is “innovative”), and the other is sustainable business. If you’re lucky, you’re doing both (like Google or SpinVox did), but it’s nothing wrong if you just have a new technology without a business model, or are copying an existing business model on a new market. The point is to have at least one clear, easily identifiable points where you differentiate from others in the market; this point of differentiation — or competitive advantage, as they often call it — can be a proprietary (but superior!) technology, or an underserved market, or even simply a better process allowing you to be significantly better/quicker/cheaper than the competition.
It is not important whether you build your company with a clear business model, or you’re just developing a killer technology and don’t want to think about how it will be used; the only problem is if you’re deluding yourself that your competitive advantage is significant enough to make a difference. If you’re making a Facebook-clone which differentiates only by being in a language spoken by four million people, you’re in for a rude awakening.