Leading with less: the benefits of executing with scarcity

Nobody wants to go through it, but when we’re forced to, it turns out to be for the better. The reality is that, for the venture world, most of the new generation of entrepreneurs and investors have been educated in a time of abundance, with easy access to capital.

Raising round after round within six to nine-month windows became the norm. When money is easily found, it is also easily spent. During times like these, offices became nicer, overhiring was a common practice, and there was little concern over customer acquisition costs. Incentives were used to retain customers, as we know from the large number of coupons offered by companies like Rappi and Uber. Have you heard of the term VC2C? Well, it stands for Venture Capital to Consumers, which reflects the scenario I just described.

Now, the tide has changed dramatically, and those who can adjust with speed and a positive attitude will benefit the most. If you’re starting afresh, it’s easier because you won’t have to change habits. If you’ve raised in 2019-21, it will require more effort, but it should pay off. It’s important to keep in mind that Venture Capital money only came into place in the 1960s in the US and became more popular in Latin America around 2010. Before then, companies were created out of founders’ capital and with a lot of sweat. Entrepreneurship has always been a reference to hardship, resilience, and resourcefulness. Today, I spoke with a founder who is going through this process, and in her words, “We now have the mindset we had prior to fundraising. We’re doing a lot with very little.” Now that she has a plan in place and has accepted that she will not raise any time soon, she is energized and driven to make her company happen (this was not the case when she was trying to fundraise unsuccessfully). So, let’s go to the quick list of benefits of executing with scarcity:

Resourcefulness and creativity: This means finding creative ways to stretch your budget and make the most out of every opportunity. You will have to learn how to prioritize your spending and focus on the areas that will generate the most significant return on investment. By doing so, you will develop a keen sense of resourcefulness that will serve you well throughout your business journey. My recommendation is always the same: for early-stage startups, the goal should be finding product-market fit, which stands for having growing customers who are consistently engaged and paying for a product or service.

Agility: When you don’t have the luxury of a large budget, you have to be nimble and adaptable. This means being able to pivot quickly when a product or service is not performing as expected or when the market shifts. This also means making adjustments to team size and profiles quickly. With limited capital, your decisions must be swift. This will create a culture of strong performance that, if well-managed, will retain and attract those who are willing to fight with you over the long run. Of course, always communicate candidly and warmly.

Focus: Running a startup with little capital can help you maintain focus on what is truly important. When you have limited resources, you must prioritize what is essential to the success of your business. This means focusing on your core business model and avoiding distractions that can lead you astray. Priorities should be discussed on a weekly basis with the leadership team and on a monthly basis with the company at large. I recommend following the funnel model: start with the purpose of the organization, go to values, dive into goals, and then highlight the priorities needed to achieve these goals. People need to be reminded again and again why they’re there, what they’re trying to accomplish, and how to do it.

Let’s end with an old and reassuring note:

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

Franklyn Roosevelt

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