10 Reasons to Not Believe the Fake News of Startups

Neil Miller
Feb 19, 2019 · 7 min read
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I stumbled into the startup world.

While in the middle of desperately needing a career change, I discovered my talent for writing just as the concept of content marketing was taking off. I immediately gravitated towards the tech world since I thought it was my best chance of supporting my family, but I quickly found that I didn’t fit well with established IT services companies.

So I turned to the startup scene. I met Suresh at a startup event and (thankfully for me) his blog was in pretty bad shape and needed lots of work. Within just a few months, I was in deep with OrangeScape.

I knew next to nothing about the startup world at that time, but I could sense something different about OrangeScape that I really liked.

Fake news for startups

My president likes to talk about fake news–a term that has nothing to do with factual accuracy, but the legitimacy of the news and media. In this spirit, I think there’s a lot of fake news going on about startups. It’s not that I have deep knowledge about some dark underbelly, but you don’t have to be brilliant to know when the water tastes funny. The more I’ve learned about the fake news of startups, the more I’ve appreciated OrangeScape’s history and approach. It’s not a perfect company, but I’m proud to be a part of it.

So, here’s my list of the ten reasons I like the OrangeScape story better than the fake news out there.

1. Revenue is the primary goal

During our quarterly business review, most of the conversations revolve around three interdependent questions.

  1. Did marketing bring in enough qualified leads?

Makes sense, right? A business exists to sell a product for a fair amount to a particular group of people.

But there’s a lot of fake news about ‘pre-revenue’ companies–companies that have no intention or no plan to really sell the product for what it’s worth. Then you have examples of companies that sell for billions of dollars that have basically no revenue.

I understand why this happens. I get that the rules can be changed. I’m not doubting the legitimacy of the strategy, nor saying that these products are overvalued.

It’s just that it’s not the kind of company I want to work with. It’s a completely different approach to delighting and maintaining customers that doesn’t sit as easy on my mind. I like the simplicity of selling for money.

2. Funding isn’t the first solution

The fake startup news says you need funding to launch. You need funding to grow. You need funding to get beyond the big hurdles. Funding is how you get out of a bad situation. You hire more people, pay them more, get a bigger office, and spend more on marketing.

Or, funding is just a cool new scorecard to use. It’s a way to try to leapfrog others when revenues aren’t what you want them to be.

I like the fact that no one is scared of funding at OrangeScape, but it’s never the first option. In fact, it’s only an option if we run into a problem that can only be solved with a large influx of cash. And so far, we’ve yet to hit a problem like that.

It’s not because funding is bad for startups, but because it’s just not smart to take some else’s money when you have no clear plan how you are going to grow from it. If you happen to know of a secret slot machine that always pays out $2 for $1, or know some secret like the parable of the man who found a treasure in the field, then funding makes a lot of sense.

But funding for the sake of itself, or just because everyone else is doing it, is a bad idea. When you burn through your funding and nothing much has changed, you’ve only added more stress and a more crowded table of people who want to run the show.

3. SaaS is a brilliant business model

After being in the SaaS world, I’m really not sure why you would get involved in a business that starts all of their revenue targets at $0 every month. We’re selling software that costs next to nothing to replicate, and we can sell it to an unlimited number of people who will pay us every month forever as long as we keep meeting their needs. This should either be illegal or everyone in the world should be doing it.

4. We take risks, but calculated ones

When you’ve got a war chest of millions, it’s easy to embrace the creed, “Fail big, fail early, fail often.” But this seems like fake news to me as well. You don’t have to try every option in the book just because you need to be different as a startup.

That said, I’ve never seen a situation at OrangeScape where someone was very passionate that a risk was a good idea and the answer was a firm no. There’s a not-so fine line between taking a good risk, and just doing something dumb because you had the cash to burn.

5. It’s a local story

The fake startup news says you need to have a global team or global citizens with offices around to world to be a truly global brand.

But OrangeScape is Tamil to its core. If people aren’t talking about product strategy or the sales process, they are eating curd rice and talking about local Tamil politics. I get a kick out of the fact that many in the company have very passionate views about their state, to the extent that it makes me want to do more to celebrate the good in my own.

There’s a need for diversity and a global perspective, but there’s also something I really like about a people who don’t apologize for embracing where they are from.

6. A leadership team thats trust each other

This is by far my favorite thing about OrangeScape. I’ve seen up close what happens when a leadership team has a power imbalance and must interpret hidden cues and check for concealed daggers.

At the center of OrangeScape is a group of people who’ve been together for a few decades and who know, respect, and trust each other implicitly. I’m amazed at how this team has not only been able to keep ego out of their decisions, but also how nearly impossible it is for someone to use ego and power plays to work their way into that core.

7. BPM isn’t sexy

The fake startup news says to be really successful, you need to make a big splash and do something exciting. The startup world is also filled with useless products that aim to end a slight annoyance people face in life.

Our software serves a very particular need: business process management. Not exactly something I brag about to my family. But it’s something that our business users do get excited about and enjoy. I like the fact that we are fulfilling a true need that makes people’s lives better.

8. Culture is a lever

In fake startup news, culture is code for perks. If you have a good culture, you have lots of fun stuff around the office, free food, and trendy HR policies.

Culture should be taken seriously, but it’s not something you can just throw money and policies at. It takes time to name, correct, and establish.

The one thing I’ve always liked about the OrangeScape culture is that it is flexible. We try new things we think will help, and drop things that are getting in the way. One example I love is when we tried No-Talk Wednesdays. It seemed like a good idea to have everyone in the office focus on their work, schedule no meetings, and have a quiet, calm office. This idea lasted exactly one week before it was trashed. It just didn’t fit our office and style, despite being a decent idea. Like that, we are always eager to find ways to improve the culture, but it’s not just for the sake of being trendy.

9. Results and skill beat age and experience

The average age of the leaders of our sales, marketing, and HR departments is less than 30. It’s not because the company tries to hire young people, or avoids older folks because they are too expensive. It’s mostly because in every area, there hasn’t been a clear path and we’ve had to define it as we go. That requires people who are willing to take big risks, listen very well, and deliver results. OrangeScape is a place that if you can do that, you’ll not only be rewarded, you’ll be given authority over others who may be older or more experienced, and who are expected to see you as a leader.

10. It’s not done yet.

The first two acts of OrangeScape have come to a close. It’s not a baby startup anymore, and has reached a certain level of maturity. But that’s not to say it has arrived yet. Like a teenager that has made it through tough growing pains, OrangeScape is on the verge of some really big opportunities and decisions. It’s an exciting stage to be in and exciting people to be around.

I really do love the OrangeScape story and how it sits in contrast to some of the emerging conventional wisdom of the startup world. I’m eager to see how we can continue to use a common sense approach to make the lives of our customers and employees better through our business.

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