By Nanea Reeves of textPlus
Being called an underdog, dark horse or a long shot doesn’t faze me anymore. After working in startups for 15 years, I’ve heard it all, and I’ve grown accustomed to people broadly categorizing startups as the “little guy” going up against the “big dogs” – tech behemoths that have long ruled the space. But unlike some, I don’t see it as a disadvantage to be lean and mean.
This is not to say that slaying the big corp beast is an easy feat. Startups have their share of set-backs and challenges. It is widely known that 90 percent of startups will fail during their first four to five years. There is pressure on a startup team simply to survive, but that pressure can serve as fuel for a competent team with a well-timed service. Unlike tech titans, with their thousands of employees, internal politics and obligations to shareholders, a good startup is built for speed, growth and innovation, giving them a leg-up when it comes to being flexible, taking risks and challenging the status quo.
(Photo courtesy of Nanea Reeves)
Attracting The Best & Brightest
Startups are the “cool kids” in the job market. Known for cultural quirks, flex-time perks, flat organizational structures and unbridled potential, startups are able to attract the best and brightest in the business by offering ways to build them up and watch them grow. My career is an example of this. Early on, I was fortunate enough to work very closely with visionary entrepreneurs who gave me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had in larger, more matrixed organizations. At textPlus, I’ve seen a former barista transform from serving coffee to working as a data admin, and now, working as one of our rockstar team leads. Can you imagine a tech giant taking a chance on her? Doubt it.
Nothing motivates and retains talent more than true camaraderie and the ability to have personal ownership on impactful initiatives. Studies have shown that intellectual stimulation and the ability to influence decisions will contribute more to employee satisfaction than money.
The Tortoise And The Hare
Startups are built for agility. Slow and steady does not win the race in tech innovation. The more nimble, the better, and startups own speedy progress and execution.
Innovation is the cornerstone of a startup. Unlike tech giants that are forced to hem and haw over a launch or new idea because of risks, politics or shareholders’ interests, startups are built to deploy more quickly and make game-time decisions based on up-to-the-minute data. There’s a reason the “screw it, ship it” ideology was born out of bootstrapped tech startups. In startup land, if it isn’t working, we have the independence and power to make changes or abandon it altogether.
Fortune Favors The Bold
The independent startup culture is one that’s highly sought-out, in part because it’s designed to drive innovation. In more established organizations, bureaucracy and regulations can hinder creative inventions, especially if a new idea disrupts or threatens the core business.
In contrast, at small businesses, the goal is to take risks, be bold and challenge the incumbent. Netflix is the perfect example of driving the cord-cutting revolution.
In my past experience at JAMDAT Mobile, we were on the bleeding edge of mobile game development, creating daily, and taking risks bigger video game companies would never have been comfortable doing. Now, at textPlus, we are at it again – taking on the big guns in telecom. While we may not be able to compete in terms of TV ads or the number of cell towers with our name on it, we can do something no other carrier has dared to do: offer free calling and texting through Wi-Fi access only. As a result, 80 percent of our audience does not have a contract with an operator. We’ve been able to completely overhaul the telco pricing paradigm by leveraging our social and gaming backgrounds to monetize our service differently. Along the way, we’ve also set out to make communications social and fun.
Working at a startup isn’t always a walk in the park. There’s tremendous risk, hard work and long hours. But what keeps our team and me going is the versatility, freedom and belief that we can deliver something of real value to people and have fun while we are doing it.
Nanea Reeves is President and COO of textPlus. She has over 15 years of experience in the online service and digital distribution arena and has been directly involved in many successful Los Angeles startups that include JAMDAT Mobile (acquired by EA), Gaikai (acquired by Sony) and Machinima (top YouTube gaming network). In 2010 Nanea was recognized by Digital Media Wire as one of the “25 Executives to Watch in Digital Media.”
The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.