Kindle the Fire

Three college students with intensity, smarts, and vision go from tinkering in a musty garage to creating the next hottest startup. This is usually the story that the media sensationalizes and crafts as the entrepreneur’s journey. However, there is a huge chunk missing; many people fail to realize that there was an extensive amount of work and sweat between the idea and payoff. And even though the foundational stage of assembling the team and crafting the idea is immensely important, the development stage after the company’s founding ensures that it is able to progress. This so-called “tribal stage” follows the “family stage” and can be summed up by one word: people.

In class, we had the opportunity to hear from different speakers on their experiences in this stage. There were many overarching principles and themes that stood out. Above all, it was very interesting to hear how much community and culture were emphasized. Just like kindling a fire, the entrepreneurial spark needs to be maintained by sturdy and reliable materials. The most important ingredient in this cocktail is the people. As such, many of the speakers spent time talking about the importance of hiring. Mariam Naficy emphasized promoting executives from within to build a strong core of experienced veterans and to fortify the culture. On the other hand, Eric Schmidt mentioned how Google strives to hire the “best”, clearly putting intelligence and other talents above experience within the company. I personally feel that there should be a balance. Experienced veterans have a lot to offer in terms of building a strong foundation of support and shared history, yet companies should also operate like meritocracies with the best rising in the ranks and adding new perspectives.

Additionally, there was a lot of time spent talking about organization and communication. With a range of 10 to 100 employees, the tribal stage begins to address the issue of organizational management and human resources. Nowadays, management is a skill that is very much undervalued. It is very difficult to simultaneously align individual motivations and team dynamics. The key is to ensure that everyone in a startup believes that they are helping themselves and the company. Members need to buy into the mission and strengthen it for future employees. That is why culture and communication are so important. At the end of the day, a company is a group of people pursuing an idea. Without good relations, organization, and communication, it all falls apart.

While the family stage focused on ideating and perfecting the technology, the tribal stage redirects attention to the people. Along with the increasing scale of operations, there is now a shift from generalized positions to specialized ones. As a result, there needs to be a dependable and synergetic group of new hires that can take over particular duties and bolster the company’s mission. It really resonated with me that the tribal stage should focus on solidifying the people and business framework to ensure the fire grows. This truly is a very delicate stage, as the wrong people or poor organization could derail the startup’s path to success and, ultimately, burn out the fire.