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It inspires enthusiasm and fosters a sense of deep connection and mutual purpose. While this spirit persists, engagement is high and businesses keep their edge. But all too often, companies lose their souls as they mature. Firms add new systems and structures and bring in experienced professionals—and in the process somehow crush their original energizing spirit.

In research into more than a dozen fast-growth ventures and plus interviews with founders and executives, the author has discovered how firms can overcome this problem. Drawing on the experiences of Netflix, Warby Parker, Study Sapuri, and others, this article describes how sizable companies can still protect and nurture the three elements.

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Doing that is the secret to staying great as you grow. As companies grow, they need new systems and structures to manage their evolving businesses. Too often, however, they lose sight of the original spirit and essence that during their early days attracted and energized stakeholders. If a company follows the lead of Warby Parker, Netflix, and BlackRock and thinks more consciously about what it needs to do to keep the three elements at the forefront of its strategy and daily operations, it can preserve its soul—or revive it.

Company founders sense its presence. So do early employees and customers. It inspires people to contribute their talent, money, and enthusiasm and fosters a sense of deep connection and mutual purpose. As long as this spirit persists, engagement is high and start-ups remain agile and innovative, spurring growth. But when it vanishes, ventures can falter, and everyone perceives the loss—something special is gone.

Founders and employees often confuse soul with culture and, in particular, the freewheeling ethos of all-nighters, flexible job descriptions, T-shirts, pizza, free soda, and a family-like feel. They notice and wax nostalgic about it only when it wanes. Most founders believe their start-ups are about more than their business models.

How To Start a Startup: 28 Successful Founders Share Their Advice

So often entrepreneurs, consultants, and scholars like myself emphasize the need to implement structure and systems as a business grows, missing the importance of preserving its spirit. We can and should focus on both. Perhaps not surprisingly, investors and founders seem to harbor different views on whether start-ups have souls. In my research I found that some executives at VC and private equity firms tended to discount the notion as an illusion or irrelevant.

Their focus was on applying professional management and process discipline to their portfolio companies. I became certain that these people, who knew their companies best, were onto something.


While Christian theologians and Western philosophers have long had debates about the soul, many have believed in it and in its persistence over time. In other words, what aspects of a start-up do leaders really need to preserve as the business grows?

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My investigation pointed to three elements that combine to create a unique and inspiring context for work: business intent, customer connection, and employee experience. These are not simply cultural norms designed to shape behavior. Their effects run deeper, and they spark a different, more intense kind of commitment and performance. A scalable business model powered by technology enabled this startup to grow exponentially at a pace a small or medium sized business cannot match without investing a lot of resources.

Scalability, innovation and disruption come at a high cost.

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Many of those practices can also be applied to start and grow small businesses. As opposed to small businesses, which typically execute on proven models, startups are created to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

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The lean and agile development methodologies entail implementing an iterative process that starts by validating customer needs and expectations qualitatively through interviews followed by small and quick product version launches to test quantitatively and continuously instead of investing significant amounts of time and money building an advanced product, risking that no one need it or want to use it the way it was originally hypothesized.

In our example above, an entrepreneur is better off testing if people are willing to trust a software to do their taxes. Creating a simple landing page where users are prompted to submit their tax information, thinking that their returns will be processed automatically when in reality, the founder is manually running the numbers in the backend and then sending a clean report, is an example of an MVP that can be executed quickly and inexpensively while providing valuable information about user needs and expectations. How is this relevant or applicable to small businesses?

Most small business owners fail to start due to lack of cash. Adopting a lean approach to starting small businesses entails leaving the biggest expenses for last, using existing resources and focusing on getting the job done. In the case of a restaurant, it could be using your own kitchen and vehicle to deliver. Start a car wash business on demand before buying all of the expensive equipment and leasing a commercial space.

Aspiring entrepreneurs understand the fact that they may have to start from zero. Real entrepreneurs start below zero. It is often believed that a product must be good or unique enough for a business to exist. The truth is, what entrepreneurs poor blood, sweat and tears in to build to perfection today, is often mediocre when evaluated a few months later. The idea of building a perfect version of the product or service before offering it for purchase is flawed. By combining the lean principles shared above with presales, founders can significantly minimize business risk since they will build in response to demand, with higher certainty.

While the product may later fail to meet buyer expectations, its value can be validated quickly with financial commitments. No matter the product, several marketing campaigns can help you execute a presale strategy. However, since you are selling a promise, prospects will be investing in you, therefore, personally meeting your ideal buyers, showing your passion and seriousness in addition to samples or a prototype is how you will be most effective in preselling your idea.

5 Tips for Startup Success

Those fans will help you build a better version of your product, provide you with testimonials and 10X your reach as they invite others to buy from you. Another striking feature is the geographical concentration of the notable startups in Bengaluru. Of the startups that made it to the shortlist, including the winners, that city accounted for The Delhi-Noida-Gurugram cluster had eight on the list. Chennai had four. Mumbai had one, as had Roorkee, Vadodara, Bhopal and Hyderabad. Many Bengali names figure on the list, but not one startup from Kolkata made it to the list.

A number of startups have found e-commerce platforms to be great enablers, some even foraying abroad on global platforms. These deserve to thrive, and not be throttled to satisfy some swadeshi lobby, to let Indian enterprise flourish. Tech Science Reviews Search for:. Logout Login.