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I just read some good insights on the Aussie startup scene downunder, from Airtree VC partner John Henderson :
My own take on this is – RECYCLE talent, more.
We somehow need to reach a kind of critical mass of local success, so we have a sustainable “pyramid” of biz / tech / investment talent.
In Silicon Valley and even Berlin, as soon as startup X tanks [or exits], the people who worked there – devs, sysops, seo marketers, finance, bizdev, CXOs, managers, investors, scientists – move on to other startups and so are “recycled” back into the pyramid of special startup knowledge, experience and talent.
In startups, this is a vastly more important process than in normal business, because the tech and biz approach of early high-growth startups is fairly unique, and because its well known that all the economic benefit comes from the few successes – so there will be a lot of failures, and it would be really costly to waste all that experience / investment in time. If people with startup experience move on to ‘normal’ business environments, instead of being able to move into another startup, its a massive loss.
One side effect of not having this self-replenishing Pyramid, is knowing both sides – techs who know biz, and entrepreneurs that know some code, founders who can wear both hats. Aussie founders often have a view of tech as purely a cost center – a pain point to outsource, a necessary evil – rather they should see it as core business, an area to innovate, to generate business ideas, a channel to the customer, a means to delight users, and a way to project power at scale. I really think this is holding us back.
To get to this Pyramid, one thing we have to do is find more efficient ways to recycle talent – just get people to flow into the next thing, instead of a deep dive of depression and naval gazing about how we did the wrong thing and that’s why it tanked. Do the painful postmortem blog post, learn and move on.. heal while your working on the next thing. Recycle what you can – code as open source, your team into an acqui-hire or other startups via intros to people you know, even competitors. Slava Akhmechet, founder of RethinkDB, was totally classy in the way he did this.
There’s a scene in one of those bad Vin Diesel movies, where Vins getting stared down by some bigger punk and he says “500” … pause … punk asks “500 whadd ?” .. Diesel retorts “500 fights.. it takes 500 street fights to learn the craft” .. or something to that effect.
Maybe we need to wear our failed startups as a sign of pride, a tattoo to show off .. because a failed startup is going to teach a developer or entrepreneur an incredible amount in a short space of time – its the perfect learning environment, where you are engaged, get to use cool stuff, change hats, have mutable roles, and are challenged beyond your comfort zone on a daily basis.
We could be getting close in Melbourne and Sydney to that magic number, be it 500 or otherwise, where we have enough of a pyramid of talent to fuel a viable startup ecosystem. recycle, dammit.