Friday, March 1, 2013

Tijd en geld

Time and moneyA search on the phrase “Time and Money” yields a rich array of aphorisms, graphics, stories, and icons: a lot of people think long and hard about the quantities and their relationship.  It defines  business processes: once the innovative idea and the profitable model are decided, execution reduces to these two quantities.  How much money do you have; how far can it carry you?

The  best laid plans, the most experienced team, can still come up hard against these realities and the past couple of months have seen both of my startups approaching the rocks.

Time and money 3Our coatings company had some curious laboratory results last fall, one measurement inconsistent with the rest that indicated that our coating might be getting masked by an unknown interaction. The culprit has now been identified as a residual manufacturing impurity, otherwise harmless, left in silicone material.  This substance diffuses slowly and settles on the surface, forming a thin layer over our antimicrobial material.  We have a half-dozen approaches that may solve the problem, but lining them up and knocking them off, each with an associated two-week stability test, goes slowly.  Too slowly.

Time and money 2Our surgical monitoring company is concluding it’s development work and is ready to commercialize the product. At meetings last week, three immediate tasks were identified:  recast the LLC as a C-Corp with a formal Board of Directors, appoint a CEO to define and build an organization, and raise 5m$ at the highest achievable valuation.  Plans, candidates, and strategies, respectively, were and discussed over four days, during which both the Florida weather and the participant’s moods darkened.  The business manager was unable to raise additional funds himself, yet unwilling to cede control or decisions to others.  Discussions grew heated,demands grew self-centered.  The conclave dissolved acrimoniously: although our task was “Execution”, it wasn’t supposed to mean that we stood in a circle and aimed at one another.

This is nothingI am confident that both businesses will get back on track: there are still business options, cash in the bank, and talent on board.  As Dustin Hoffman repeated in Wag the Dog, “This is nothing; You think this is a tight spot? This is just Act One…”

But it is, increasingly, a tight spot.  Execution takes time; time  costs money; money is fixed.  As so many others have discovered, it comes down now to focus, cleverness, endurance, and luck.

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