Two lethal hesitations

About late product releases and late fundraising

Back in the days when I started BASE jumping*, I learned something that blew my mind. Unlike the many rules in skydiving, in BASE jumping, all was simple: “No matter what happens, do something!

What do you mean? What should I do if my parachute opens the wrong way?”, I asked.

Do anything. Just don’t freeze,” the answer came.

BASE jumping in Brento, IT, October 2017

Connecting my BASE jumping days to my current investment activity, I notice that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who freeze in front of danger and those who react fast, for the better or worse. Reacting may save your life (if you’re a jumper) or your startup (if you’re a founder). Indeed, it can also kill you pretty fast if your reaction is inappropriate. But one thing is certain: hesitation doesn’t help. Better to react badly than not to react at all.

When it comes to startup founders, there are two main types of hesitation that I consider particularly lethal: late product releases and late fundraising.

Over-working your product and trying to make it perfect before launch results in low speed-to-market. Take a minute to understand this: low speed-to-market means that the market moves faster than you do! Now let it sink!

In addition to this, being late to release your product is a symptom of a lousy internal culture: that of over-thinking, slow decision-making, and acting out of fear. Nothing good will ever come from decisions made out of fear.

The second lethal hesitation consists of delaying your fundraising efforts. If you think of it, there are no real costs or dire consequences for fundraising too early. No one will laugh at you if you work on something that makes sense; they will tell you to return later with some traction or some proven assumptions. But at least you get feedback and get to meet investors, build relations and be on their radar for later.

On the other hand, starting fundraising too late is always critical. With little or no runway left, your negotiating position is week. Once again, you will act out of fear: not to scare or alienate investors, not to delay the time-consuming process even more, not to lose your team or your suppliers for not having the money to pay them. Why put yourself in such a situation?

The main takeaways from this? If you are ready, you are late. No one is ever ready in Startupland. So, launch your product before it’s finished and talk to investors before you have all the answers.

*For those not in this field, skydiving is a regulated sport, with rules set by federations, with contests, champions, and so on. BASE jumping is not-regulated and practically means jumping from Buildings, Antennas, Spans (bridges or dams), and Earth (cliffs) with a much simpler kind of equipment. The BASE jumper has only one parachute, while the skydiver also has a reserve parachute for emergency cases. Hence, very little room for errors in BASE jumping.