Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Startup CEO: Three kinds of serious conversations

There are three kinds of serious conversations that the leader of a startup can have with his team. The first kind is, "We're in deep trouble here, and we have to fix it."

Six weeks ago, I had one of those conversations with our engineering team at Zvents. As our traffic and partner network really started to grow, we were having scaling issues, uptime issues, and process issues, and after a few wobbles, there was a real possibility that we were going to fall over hard. The team responded magnificently. We've completely reworked our release and QA processes, and we've fixed some glaring issues in the code base, and I no longer stay awake at night worrying about what will break next.

The second type of serious conversation is, "We've got an incredible opportunity here, and we have to focus the particle beam and make it happen."

I had that conversation with the engineering team yesterday, and we'll be talking about it with the whole company in the next few days. In a startup environment, it's just as important to succeed at upside tasks as it is to respond to downside risks -- and we've got some really great prizes in clear view that we need to achieve. The reason that we're all in a startup is the joy of running absolutely flat out to grab those prizes, and we're going to have a fun -- but deadly serious -- couple of months of sprinting to take Zvents to the next level.

The third type of serious conversation is, "We just accomplished something important and amazing. Now, what do we do next?"

We've had that talk a few times at Zvents already. As a startup, you don't last two years without a few amazing victories along the way. The first time was when we successfully launched at Web 2.0 on about $50K in total funding, and there have been several others since. I look forward to having that conversation again -- both soon, and many times more.

Startup life.

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