Thriving in Tight Times: How Surviving Could Undermine Your Fundraising Success

At this point, you will be bored of the repeated advice about the necessity of enhancing capital efficiency. Yet, it holds true—capital efficiency is undeniably crucial. 

The challenge, however, lies in the common interpretation, which often leads to substantial workforce reductions, the abandonment of growth initiatives, and a complete halt to marketing budgets. While these measures may be deemed necessary for certain organisations, it prompts the question: ‘Have we inadvertently severed the lifeline of the company?’ Have your actions, though financially prudent, inadvertently compromised the very engine that fuels your company’s expansion? i.e. your Growth Lever!

I know all too well the important balancing act that a founder must play between increasing your runway whilst simultaneously showing growth.  Whilst increasing your runway may help you get through to the otherside when VCs have returned with a stronger appetite, but have you just survived for the sake of it?.. only to find that you’ve just made it that much harder to raise investment? 

History shows startups who survive downturns tend to thrive in the recovery. Uber, Stripe, Slack, Mixpanel, and AirBnB were all founded in 2008-2010, in the wake of the global financial crisis.

So how do you survive, and even thrive, when cash is tight? 

Identifying Your Growth Lever

Startups aren’t a ‘game of inches’; they’re about discovering and prioritising a single significant growth lever. Almost every great startup, initially, found a single big growth lever and prioritised it above everything.

Key Questions:

  • Have you pinpointed your significant growth lever?
  • Is your team actively pulling it?

Unveiling Your Big Growth Lever

Finding your big growth lever isn’t a one-time task; it’s an ongoing journey of exploration and learning. The rate of learning becomes your key performance indicator (KPI), reflecting how well you understand your customers. How many times per week are you learning something new about your customers’ needs, wants, worries, and expectations? Did you find new patterns in your data? How many times did you hear something that surprised you?

Strategies for Unveiling the Growth Lever:

  • Constant Observation: Stay vigilant and observe both successes and failures.
  • Customer-Centric Learning: Prioritise understanding your customers at a deeper level.
  • Iterative Approach: Treat the process as an iterative cycle of testing and refining.

Engage your leadership team in candid discussions about the status of your growth lever strategy. Are you actively seeking it, or are you already pulling it? A well-prioritised strategy ensures that your efforts align with the most significant opportunities.

If your “lever” is a bunch of things, then it’s not a lever

Thriving in the unpredictable landscape of startups requires more than just pulling levers harder. It’s about identifying and focusing on the growth levers that truly matter. Deprioritise anything that does not help you with this mission.

Your Strategic Emphasis should be on:

  • Focused Priorities: Prioritise team efforts on areas with substantial growth potential
  • Continuous Learning: Embrace a culture of continuous learning to find new growth levers
  • Strategic Pulling: Invest your resources strategically on the substantial activities that will propel your company forward

Now the question is, have you found yours? You should be either looking for your big lever or pulling it. And until you find it, nothing else matters.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve found your big growth lever, you probably haven’t. If your “lever” is a bunch of things, then it’s not a lever.

Keep learning, keep growing, and most importantly, keep pulling your growth lever with strategic intent. The goal is to find your big levers, not just pull the small ones harder.

Subscribe to Disrupt Entrepreneur

Discover ground-breaking ways of working, living, and building businesses that are truly life-changing, delivered to your inbox each week