The Laggard Advantage in Startups • TechCrunch
Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends from Senior Reporter and co-host of Equity Natacha Mascarenhas. To receive it in your inbox, subscribe here.
Sometimes, due to the nature of the starter set, we over-index “the new”. Companies want to build for the pain point you never dreamed of disturbing; VCs want to invest in an emerging trend before it becomes a household name; and those getting into tech are urged to take a serious look, because you never know who’s going to respond to your cold email. For entrepreneurship to feel exciting and welcoming – not even being, but feeling – the new must be one of its strongest characteristics.
After all, you can only be one once.
But one question I’ve asked myself over the past year, especially as some of the most incumbents talk about past downturns and cyclical learning lessons, is the laggard advantage. It’s partly obvious: when you’ve done all that entrepreneurship stuff, you understand the mistakes to avoid and know exactly which investors to dodge.
But it’s also partly not as easy of a story. There is a difference between being new and inexperienced, just as there is a difference between experienced and being late. How do you know where you are on this whole timeline – especially when stories feel best told at the extremes?
This week on Equity, I interviewed T2 co-founder Sarah Oh, who is building a rival on Twitter after working at Twitter as a human rights adviser. Pretty quickly, I asked him how you felt building an impersonator of your former employer. She seemed carefree, to which I promptly said, All is fair in love and moderation.
But the best answer Oh gave me was about the latecomer advantage she has, building a business in a world she knows extremely well. By joining the social wave of consumers today compared to before anyone even thought of characters and retweets, the co-founder believes they can take on more nuance.
“We know a lot about the trust and security gaps in the industry, whether it’s data sets that we need, or models that need to be built, or certain standards that need to be built. exist for role models, okay there’s a whole endless list of things that I wish I had in my previous roles that just didn’t exist, now we’re at a place where we can have those conversations” , said Oh. She added that when some of the first social media platforms were created, there were no “historical case studies or precedents” for many of the controversies that currently exist. ugly out of the way — my words, not his — T2 has examples he can point to on how to handle tensions around virality, doxxing and more.
It just made me think about this broader understanding coupled with the agility of a startup. Maybe it’s both the old and the new that could be the striking balance that helps a startup get off the ground. In this case, we have no idea what old or new Twitter attempts will do, but we do know that this time has never mattered more.
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about inspirational directors, growing startup accelerators, and a rare buzz we hear about a tech company and its public market wishes. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram.
Goodbye, Director of Inspiration
Also on Equity this week, the team discussed how venture capitalists are going to pay more attention to how portfolio founders spend capital, particularly as it relates to hiring trends. Becca’s latest article for TC+ – use code EQUITY for 50% off an annual subscription – explains why the hiring slide in the pitch deck will no longer be a disposable part of the presentation.
Expect more scrutiny.
Here’s why it’s important: We know companies are cutting staff to cut costs, but those hiring may need to take a more conservative approach in both role types and pay grade. All told, there’s definitely an opportunity to source talent if you’re hiring. But it won’t be easy for all laid-off talent to find their next jobs, especially as employers look to hire cheaper talent with less ambitious staffing goals.
The Goldilocks Moonshot
NextView Ventures has launched its fourth accelerator program, aiming to support half a dozen founders with $400,000 in funding and mentorship opportunities. It also offers at least a place for a team made up of former colleagues who were laid off during the last recession.
Here’s why it’s important: Accelerator partners are open to supporting founders even if they have a half-baked idea or just one area they want to dig into. Even in a more disciplined market, some companies are still comfortable seeding ideas versus full-fledged business ideas. “It’s almost half a step earlier than what we typically thought of,” Rob Go, founding partner of NextView Ventures, said of the cohorts.
Stripe is considering an exit, finally. The payments giant has set itself a 12-month deadline to go public, either through a direct listing or by pursuing a private market transaction, such as a fundraising and takeover bid, according to sources familiar with the matter.
Here’s why it’s important: I mean, should I state the obvious? Public procurement for tech companies has been outdated, unwelcoming, insert a boring adjective here. If Stripe is trending, we’re in for an exciting year. But some are skeptical about the timeline. After all, it’s literally easier said than done.
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I’ll end with the incessant reminder that I love going to boot happy hours and VC dinners in San Francisco, so let me know if you run one! And if you’re still working on your social engine like me, I’m also always up for a coffee chat or a 1:1 dumpling lunch.
For the rest of you, thanks for reading as always. 2023 is already approaching, isn’t it?