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Growing Startups: Preserving Your Core

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In their post-funding avatar, people often talk about how “things will not be different around here”. And surely, many things will evolve organically or otherwise. Startups tend to overdo this bit though, and in a proverbial way – throwing out the baby with the bathwater. There are many things that the startup must cherish and retain as its “core” (as evangelised by Jim Collins in his seminal book Good to Great) that can’t be altered. These include:
 
Passion: Startups are fuelled by the passionate zeal of its founders. The passion may be about a product initially, but almost always transcends into a passion to make the world a better place. Relentless pursuit of this passion gives the startups the energy and courage to act in the face of adversity. This passion also ensures that the startup’s pursuits are aligned with the needs and interests of the market; keeping them in constant contact with their customers.
 
Values: The bedrock of great startups, for that matter any organization, is their value system. Personal values of the founding team, and the collective values of the startup serve as guideposts in their journey. While there are no specific values that work better than others; usually, the most humane beliefs serve startups well; these include, but are not limited to: integrity, hard-work, honesty and team-work. Even as the startup enters the next explosive phase of their growth – they must continue to live, and spread, their values.
 
Learning: Founding team members are always a smart lot. They may not be the most intelligent in a traditional way, but certainly have the ability to observe, do and learn fast. They are quick in un-learning too as they stay on this journey of many unknowns. Their learning-abilities span multiple zones like market forces, customer preferences and product features. Curiosity about customer needs, social trends, economic happenings and technology keeps their startup agile.
 
Energy: The magic of reflective learning and hyper-action causes spirals of positive energy for all to experience, draw-from and add-to. New team members at startups often talk about an almost-surreal aura of energy that aligns as much as it propel all into action.
 
People-connectedness: Startups – by definition – start small. The very act of getting passionate and high-energy people together binds them together at intellectual and emotional levels. Working in small teams, founders and early team members develop a natural filial connection with each other. 
 
Such critical are these core elements that even the slightest misalignment between them carries of risk of derailing the entire initiative, i.e. personality clashes between the founders, resistance to change in the face of a pivot, losing faith in the mission mid-way, mis-use of investor funds, etc.
 
 
 
The author, Ajay Batra, is CEO, Lutyens Startups


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