Just finished reading a WSJ article about 50 high-potential, venture-backed firms. Good article and good companies. However, this got me thinking: Why this focus on venture-backed firms? If an entrepreneur has no other options, then funding from a venture source is obviously fantastic. But it comes with a huge price.
Bottom line, the original entrepreneur team that works with a venture group ends up with 10% or less of the company they founded. While their ownership is shaved down with each new tier of financing, their control over the vision and day-to-day management of their company is similarly curtailed. More and more, the management team (vetted and installed by their VC backers) focuses on meeting investor-driven goals that are centered on sheer dollars rather than strategy or vision.
There are obviously many more detailed arguments, both pro and con, concerning venture firms. But it seems to me that a lot of people look at venture backing as a substitute for their own due diligence: “If a venture firm has decided to invest, they must be good company/have a good idea!” And this is the gist of my issue with the article mentioned above — where are the garlands for the American heroes who bootstrap their companies?
Here is the difference between venture-backed companies and bootstrap entrepreneurs: bootstrappers believe so much in what they are doing, that they will risk everything — kids’ college funds, the homes they live in, their retirement funds — to make it happen. Their belief is strong enough that they won’t risk being compromised by short-term financial pressure applied by VCs whose only eye is on the quickest ROI possible. Bootstrappers forgo quick returns and make sure that their customers have provable results that corroborate their own wild convictions. They believe so much in what they’re building, they’re not going to dilute the eventual reward by giving it away to money people.
As you look at the future of demand planning, supply chain management and forecasting, keep your focus wide enough so that you’re seeing more than features, functionality, and dollar signs. Also look for the companies who shun venture capital and make it work because they know they’re creating huge value for their customers — and will do anything to nurture that value.