Hackernoon logoStartup Eras by@holacrat

Startup Eras

GameChanger co-founder and co-founders have been working on a startup for nearly 8 years. They have had many successes and many failures and have done our best to take it all in and just keep learning and doing it better. At many of the crucial junctures along the way, I didn’t know going in what was happening or whether we’d get to the other side, or indeed what it would look like when we did. With the extreme benefit of hindsight (and the privilege of having lived to tell the story), I can now see a clear progression of eras.
Kiril Savino Hacker Noon profile picture

Kiril Savino

Founder/CEO

Ted and I have been working on GameChanger for nearly 8 years now. Like most startups, we started off meeting at lunches, weekends, evenings, and slowly chipping away at a itch. We talked to customers, we raised money, we shipped things, we hired people. We had many successes and many failures and have done our best to take it all in and just keep learning and doing it better.

Scaling the company itself has been full of surprises. At many of the crucial junctures along the way, I didn’t know going in what was happening or whether we’d get to the other side, or indeed what it would look like when we did. With the extreme benefit of hindsight (and the privilege of having lived to tell the story), I can now see a clear progression of eras. None of these were as clean or distinct as they come across here, but I wish someone had been able to give me a heads up on what was coming before I lived it.

The Founder Era

Ok, you’ve gotten enough chutzpah together to start building something that doesn’t exist. It’s an awesome feeling, full of optimism.

  • Staff: 1–3 founders with curiosity and drive
  • Focus: learning your market, understanding your customers, proving your concept solves a real problem for someone, trying lots of shit
  • Pitfall: being too obsessed with your own vision and not open enough to iterating toward the emerging reality
  • Economics: bootstrapped, friends & family money, side gigs

The Scrappy Era

Having created something of value to someone, you are now trying to reach some bar of quality or completeness to sell it. It feels like the hard part is behind you, and it’s all about execution now.

  • Staff: 4–10 mostly individual contributors, culture of passion & flexibility
  • Focus: initiative, delivering on your promise to your customers, honing in on key areas of value, and moving fast
  • Pitfall: stretching yourself too thin, not delivering at sufficient quality
  • Economics: some outside funding, maybe some early drips of revenue

The Heroic Era

Having slapped together a fully functioning product, you’re actually getting real usage by real customers and facing lots of new reality.

  • Staff: 10–25 of the smartest and hardest-working generalists out there
  • Focus: productizing your prototype, hardening your infrastructure, formalizing your architecture, investing in user experience
  • Pitfall: key players burn out if reinforcements aren’t fast enough, and your organization isn’t deep enough to take much turnover yet
  • Economics: professional investors put in 7-digits, meaningful revenues

The Team Era

Having stopped most of the bleeding, the company is evolving past reliance on individuals and developing into an organization that can sustain and focus.

  • Staff: 25–50 with a layer of domain experts and experienced management and clear areas of responsibility
  • Focus: standardizing operations, creating clear goals and metrics, clarifying roles and responsibilities
  • Pitfall: it’s easy to lose focus and drive as layers of management and indirection are new necessities, and failure to get strong leaders in place can overwhelm you
  • Economics: institutional capital, maturing revenue model

The Enterprise Era

It’s hard to keep calling yourself a startup, because you have established revenue streams and do grown-up things like make somewhat reliable annual projections and plans, but you need to expand.

  • Staff: 50–100+ with professional management and great HR
  • Focus: optimally managing investment of resources and maintaining organizational alignment toward growth as the internal complexity grows
  • Pitfall: it’s easy to get mediocre as your heroes ride off into the sunset
  • Economics: growth capital, private equity, profitability

After that you’re not a startup anyway. Good luck.

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