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Author: TMFOak Two stars, 250 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 10413  
Subject: Re: How a start-up doesn't evolve Date: 8/1/2000 2:04 PM
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>In the little 'commando unit' I was in, the squad
>leader didn't requisition enough supplies to last up
>to the insertion point, never mind being able to get
>deep into the jungle and complete our mission.

Been there, done that...

I was the head programmer for a little start up company (There were two and a half commandos. Me as programmer (writing Java applets), Troy as artist (doing graphics and animated clips). Mary was sort of a part-time commando (Wrapping our stuff in HTML pages, doing text layout.) We contracted out some overflow work to outsiders, but that generally did more harm than good. (They couldn't deliver on time or to spec, and what they did give us was usually garbage.)

There was also Alan and Jere (husband and wife, company founders) who did the design (sort of commandoing there) and were theoretically our second wave element as well doing management and fundraising and paying the bills and such.

That was the company. Five people, plus a little overflow contracted out to try to keep up with the impossible schedule the founders had (totally naievely) set for us.

This went on for about six months, then money got tight and they laid off Mary (deciding to do the HTML themselves). I got a sinus infection a couple weeks later and decided I didn't want to go without health insurance anymore, so I tidied up what I'd done (out of loyalty to the project, I wanted to see it ship) and left to try out the wonderful world of consulting (I.E. doing boring stuff for insane amounts of money).

I'm told the project did eventually ship (a precalculus tutorial on the CD in the back of a McGraw-Hill math textbook), but the company folded immediately afterward. Troy had gotten married and wanted a more stable job, Jere had a day job as a UT professor anyway, and Alan went and got a job with a big company.

What the company needed to do to survive was:

A) give out stock to the people. (Good substitute for cash. Could have kept mary around, and me as well. Troy wouldn't have minded either. :) By not giving away portions of his company to the people making the company valuable, Alan wound up not having a company anymore.

B) If money was tight, go find funding. Bank loan, venture capital, investors, etc. (This is a variant of A. Giving bits of the company away to outsiders in exchange for cash, or giving bits of the company away to employees in exchange for work.)

>Alas, sometimes the mission is suicide. Only you don't
>see it until it's too late.

Yes and no. Not everything works out (the nature of start-ups), but stinginess can kill you too. I read somewhere that Jerry Yang currently only owns about 11% of Yahoo. That 11% is enough to make him a billionaire, of course, but it means he gave away another 39% (assuming he started with 50% and Filo with the other 50%. I'm guessing Filo gave away a similar amount.)

If they HADN'T given out pieces of their company to fund its growth, they would instead collectively own 100% of nothing, as Alan and Jere now do.

>I've got the scars to prove it. When they stop
>hurting, I'll screw up the courage to try another run.
>Until then, infantry ain't that bad...

Don't wait too long. It's about as traumatic switching from infantry to commando as switching from commando to infantry was. You do infantry too long, you miss the stability and security of always knowing what to do next and the crutch of "it wasn't my fault, I was following orders".

It's not so much that people's brains stop working when they grow older (although this is the only explanation I can think of for the popularity of "George W", aging baby boomers looking to slow down a changing world). But once you've settled down with a wife and kids, are you suddenly going to start working 90 hours again? (Focusing on a problem until you get suprised by the sun coming up, not just once but night after night. Working straight through weekends FAR more often than not. Feeling guilty for only putting in half a day when your birthday falls on a sunday and somebody insists on dragging you home from work. This is what life has been like for me every time I've taken a commando position...)

> Mike

Rob
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