The R word
Gokul Rajaram

Interesting post, Gokul. Indeed, these are legendary CEOs and breakthrough companies if not living legacies they have built. I’m afraid I do not agree with your argument for all “startup” companies at “all” stages. Here are some reasons why :

  1. Revenue is a meaningful source of funding the company’s growth. While many founders have now made fund raising large amounts of capital ($1B+) without revenue a child’s play. However, I think many of these stories are not going to end well. Unfortunately, many if not all of the Indian Unicorns fall in this category. By comparison, of the list you cite, Google is exceptional in that it “only” raised $36M of venture capital before going IPO with $2.7B of revenue.
  2. For many early stage to Series A companies, unfortunately, these days I’m reminded of a Y2K “eyeballs” days. Then, the only idea was growth and users without worrying about monetisation. I think in the recent mobile area, we’re back to thinking that. It is even more prevalent in India in the last couple of years. If the market has little “monetizability” and you focus on a great product with great share you will run out of money fast.
  3. Perhaps, each of these legendary CEOs had someone else focussing on revenue while they focussed on the product/inspiration. Perhaps Eric Schmidt at Google, Sherly Sandberg at Facebook and perhaps you and your CXO colleagues at Square :)

My submission is to have a healthy Yin and Yang where the CEO inspires to take the company to the promised land while someone (ideally a co-founder or empowered CXO) is also focusing on “R”.

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