Viability does matter

The other day I finished “The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann and the Great Startup Delusion” by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell.

It charts in excruciating, painful detail the rise and fall of WeWork, one of the best funded most-hyped US startups ever. And it’s a great read that I highly recommend.

One of the tenants of the book is a marvel at the established idea that for successful startups only top line growth matters, no matter the cost associated with it. The general belief is that if you just get big enough, you can always sort the more mundane business stuff later.

WeWork proved to be the perfect example of why this isn’t the case at all. On the contrary, founder and CEO Adam Neumann and his investors led by Japanese Softbank more than proved that if there’s not really a there there, a crash will be inevitable. It’s just a matter of when the house of cards is going to come crashing down.

The interesting thing about the book and the phenomenon as such is that it’s always there in the open for everybody to see. Yet no-one really does something about it. It’s hard to say whether it’s for fear of looking stupid, fear of reprisals or whatever. But the end result is that even though we can all agree that this was not the way to do it, there is a near 100 % certainty that we will experience more cases like that again in the future.

Does that mean that you should have aspirations to be the next Adam Neumann?

Not if you ask me.

In my view stories such as the one about the WeWork implosion should give every founder pause and lead to the building of viable businesses that doesn’t have a structural expiration date.

It’s perfectly understandable that when the music is playing, you want to dance and dance all night long. But if you’re also just a wee bit into what you’re doing with your startup because you want to make an impact for people or change something out there, you should always, ALWAYS have an eye out for how your startup becomes a viable business in its own right.

(Photo by Charles Koh on Unsplash)

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