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Web Sites, Philadelphia, and the Ruminations of a Small Business Owner

The president of Brio Solutions comments on Web Design in Philadelphia, business, technology, and the world in general.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Startups are such sweet sorrow

In Philadelphia, and in every other place in the world, one of the first things a new business needs is Web Design.  As a result, Brio ends up working with a lot of startups.  This is probably one of the most exciting AND scariest parts of our business.  The scary part should be fairly obvious…startups don’t have money (typically anyway).  You may be thinking that the exciting part is pretty obvious too….well you are kind of right.  It IS exciting to see startups turn an idea into reality.  But more exciting to me, is that startups are a whole different type of business with a whole different list of issues, considerations, and goals. 

I know a seasoned business man who used to run a large retail store.  He got involved in a startup.  At the beginning of his journey he said to me, “Running my startup is 1000 times easier than running my old business”.  That gentleman is still struggling to get his company off of the ground 2 years later….and he is probably 2 years away from any profit.  Running a startup is not like running a more mature business.  That’s the plain and simple truth.  Running a mature business is like riding a horse down a dirt road; there are bumps and forks in the road, but at least you can see the road.   Running a startup is more like holding on to a bull.  You can’t tell which way you are facing and if you can just keep your grip for a while the bull will settle down and everyone will be happy, but until then, you better hold on for dear life. 

One of the trickiest decisions every entrepreneur faces is what to do with your most valuable assets…CASH.  Cash allocation and cash flow (or lack there of) can be the death of a startup before it even gets going.  If you are too aggressive, then your cash reserve runs dry before your business has a chance to generate any income.  If you are too timid, then your startup will just sit in limbo, never really making any real money.  What is the right balance?  Do you spend money to develop your product first?  Do you spend money on sales first, selling something software developers like to call “Vapor Ware”? 

Unfortunately there is no right answer.  Every startup is so unique and the balance is so delicate that you can’t even use a rule of thumb.  With a startup, there is no manual, there is no guide….you invent as you go.  You get some right and you get some wrong, but if you can hold on for long enough, you find that the reward is worth the struggle


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