Tech: The Fine Print and the Things that No One Tells You

Tech: The Fine Print and the Things that No One Tells You

As 37 Angels founder Angela Lee pointed out when she spoke at a recent SOS Investor Breakfast, it takes 10 years to build a company. We know that that seems like a lifetime to many young founders for whom 10 years is nearly half of their lives to date, and it’s tough to be patient when you hear about companies becoming unicorns seemingly overnight (although let’s not forget that many have been downgraded and the unicorpse count seems to be growing (Total Number of Downrounds Since 2015: 56 – and CBInsights now has a Down Round Tracker. Sign of the times). It’s all well and good to want to move fast and break things (Facebook) or to ask forgiveness, not permission (general tech mantra), but here’s Why Zenefits and Other Tech Upstarts are Getting Their Comeuppance. In other words, playing fast and loose with regulations and regulators doesn’t always work.And speaking of Zenefits, once you’ve broken one rule, what’s a few more? No, having sex and drinking and smoking in the stairwells are still all pretty generally not a great corporate policy and not quite what people mean by that work/life balance thing. Certain behaviors that one generally conduct as part of one’s personal life are best conducted outside of the office – which includes stairwell, too.

“We are living in a time when technologies like the smartphone and the Internet are fundamentally changing what is possible, what is dangerous (or not), and incumbents in industries everywhere are threatened and heavily incentivized to exercise their influence on governments struggling to keep up with the pace of change. The last thing we need is companies voluntarily tying their own hands about something that is “right” simply because it’s legally gray,” wrote Ben Thompson in StraTECHery, which was not the case with Zenefits: their call center agents needed to be licensed. Period.

We know that there is a certain allure to starting a company (How risk led millennials to launch a global startup boom), but it’s also important to know, in case you didn’t get the memo, that while starting a company is easy, building a company is not.

Startup Reality Check Time:

  1. Regulations apply to you, too, tech community
  2. The idea is to make our lives easier, and ‘engaging users’ doesn’t mean that you have to be in your users’ faces 24-7 and thank you, Adam Quinton, for sharing this: Slack, I’m Breaking Up with You. “Slack, you’re asking for A LOT of my time.”

These two things are not unrelated:

  1. Know the rules
  2. Know your audience

Tech is a manic industry, to be sure, but when did Bigger, Faster, More become the overarching driver, seemingly to the exclusion of all else, in some cases, even common sense?

Building a company is not a marathon, it’s a sprint. Pace yourselves and stay on track. Ten years may seem like forever to you right now if you’re just starting a company, especially considering the short attention span the short attention span from which many of us in technology seem to suffer, but the Cosmic Muffin is in the details. Not always a good idea to try to break every rule – or in the case of Slack, pivot from being the solution into becoming problematic – or you may well find that your company – or your tenure as CEO – is shorter lived than you had originally planned. Tech has just so many shortcuts and it’s a long road ahead, if you choose to venture onward and forward.

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