Start Up Stories

Paying Attention to Your Sensitivities

Posted in Uncategorized by Devon on December 8, 2008

Now looking back at ww26, 2008 I see that I was looking to meet with Larry Fish of Citizens Bank – a friend of Alex d’Arbeloff.  Alex was the founder of Teradyne, Chairman of the MIT corporation, and an investor in my first firm.  Alex’s health was iffy at the time so I decided not to push for this meeting; regretably Alex has since died.  I was successful in contacting some executives at State Street Bank in the hopes that they might offer us their back-end solutions but, they declined; they have have already been reducing risk exposure back in July 2008!

I see that I was also recruiting Mahesh and John at that time, Mahesh joined State Street Global Advisors and John chose to come on to our advisory board rather than to make a career at Micronotes. 

I did meet with an angel investor that week who had suggested that I talk to some of her existing companies.  I now see that I didn’t take her up on that offer but did see one of her companies at yesterday’s MIT venture capital conference.

I was also setting up meetings with lawyers at that time to understand which regulations we would be subjected to in our proposed Cambridge field trial. 

I also see that I had started to draw-up to system performance specifications for the website, complete with screen shots, at this early stage.   Little did I know that a single sensitivity, identified in the business plan, was going to change the whole business model in a few months.  

I was focused on 5 things:

  1. Marketing to women-owned small businesses and their respective vendors; this would later change to focusing on women. 
  2. User-interface development, an appropriate focus for an internet company but, the business model would change significantly. 
  3. Regulatory compliance, though this remains a potentially open issue.
  4. Finding a partner to help execute back-end transactions which continues to this day. 
  5. Raising capital, which also continues to this day.  

Lesson’s Learned:

Relish the time you’ve got with great mentors, they are typically older, have seen a lot, and don’t last forever.

Done be afraid to push people on the fence, it’s good for them and good for you to reach a decision point as quickly as possible; you need to get your team together and move!

Don’t let up pressure on getting into the market, you need the feedback!  Trees that grow in forests tend to grow straight, strong, and tall – trees that grow alone on hillsides are misshapen and haphazard – you need the feedback and competition to grow strong. 

Pay attention to the sensitivities in your sensitivity analysis (did you do a sensitivity analysis?!)!  If your business can’t operate in certain envirnoments, re-engineer it so it can!  

Complex legal issues and partnerships take a long time to sort out, make sure you leave enough time!

Stay focused, it’s your main advantage. 


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