When the Series A check clears, most startups send out a bragging press release, the equivalent of flashing your grill. The VC backing is supposed to mean that the company has experienced hands in its corner. That it’s financially solid. A shoe-in for a puff profile piece in a magazine. Eligible for lunch conversation in Silicon Valley.
But if customers actually think about what a venture capital injection entails, it’s not all California Love. The company’s cash concerns might have (temporarily) vanished, but they’re replaced with a new list of problems. As a user you might be looking at any one of the following:
1. The Pivot
Sure, the product as described today sounds great, but if that hockey-stick growth pattern doesn’t emerge in six months, the product you wasted your time and money on might quickly turn into something else entirely.
2. The Talent Acquisition
Big companies like Google love to buy small bands of developers their VC friends tell them about (the risk easily triples if said band comes with Stanford or MIT pedigree). When the developers behind the app are acquired for their “talent”, you can expect a “sunset” to follow soon thereafter. That combination is the perfect euphemism for fuck the app and fuck the users.
3. The Runway
They don’t call it venture capital because you’re supposed to put it back in the bank. No, fool, that green gots to get spent. The quicker the better. So while $10 million dollars sounds like a lot, it might only just buy a company 12 months of runway. You know, once the swanky office in San Francisco has been decorated and the 100 programmer rockstars, designer ninjas, and bizdev suits have been bought.
4. The Pressure Cooker
Once a company takes millions of dollars of other people’s money, they’re instantly under extreme pressure to perform LIKE A TIGER. This kind of pressure can easily lead otherwise decent people to do indecent things with your data, your privacy, or anything else you hold dear. Because the scoreboard has already been set: winning means blowing it out of the park. And hey, sometimes a playa gots to cheat a little to make the magic sparkle, if you know what I’m saying.
5. The Acquisition Graveyard
If the product is strong enough to prevent a talent acquisition, you earn a few more years of fun and games before the product acquisition is likely to happen. With great fanfare some big company will announce what awesome synergies are in store now that the youngsters have “access to all the resources they need to take it to the next level”. The founders will spend two years on “integration” with the acquiring company’s legacy systems, and then – wait for it – their golden earn-out handcuffs will unlock and they’ll be long gone, along with any chance of the product ever getting better.
Of course, every now and then the clock that’s stopped tells the proper time. The fantastical success story somehow ends up being enough to swallow a hundred bad ones, so the crowd still cheers. See, world, we were there when this wee little lad got his first series A round and just look at him now!
Don’t fall for it. Given the odds involved, if you’re a user, or worse yet, a customer of a product, and the company behind it announces venture funding, the proper response is aahhhh, shiiiiiit.