Jan 25, 2010
Like any other tragic comedy, a software startup is not worth much without a good cast of characters. Here, for your reading pleasure, are some of them:
The founding father (or mother). The whole thing was his idea, he got it started from nothing, it is his baby and he will see it to maturity. Naturally, he feels like he owns the place.
Strength: Relentless faith in a bright future
Weakness: Relentless faith in a bright future
In his defense: The whole thing really was his idea
The sales guy
He’s the one reeling in the big deals. He’s slick, he’s smart, he’s the cool kid. He can demo a product that requires five massive production servers on his laptop in mid-flight from a middle seat. He can drink any prospective customer under the table. He appears utterly unperturbed no matter how desperate the situation (perhaps because he knows that there will be plenty of time for him to cry alone, in his hotel room, when there’s no one around). His sales are the only source of future revenue so naturally, he feels like he owns the place.
Strength: Handles rejection very well
Weakness: His geek-cred leaves a lot to be desired
In his defense: Perhaps more than anyone else he’s the one assuming a significant personal financial risk. His base pay is way lower than it would have been in an established company and his commission hinges on an unproven product.
Super-geek is here to build the most amazing product the world has ever seen. Can solve any problem given sufficient quantities of time, coffee and Fritos (in warm climates may substitute Mountain Dew for coffee). The coder believes that the company starts and ends with the code, all of the other characters are just milling about and basking in the glory of the incredible product. Without a doubt the work-horse in the house, nobody puts in more hours than the coder and nobody has less of a social life outside of work. The code is the company’s main asset so naturally, the coder owns the place.
Strength: Can make the impossible possible
Weakness: Does not understand people, may need gentle reminders concerning personal hygiene
In the coder’s defense: It really is a complicated job and not very many can do it well
The VC folks
While the rest of us are busy with important tasks the VC folks take care of such minutia as, you know, paying the bills. They put their money where our mouths are and if they don’t see that money back with a nice return they will not be pleased. Unless you attend board meetings they will, for the most part, stay out of your way. Feel free to whisper a “thank you” every time you get a paycheck. Oh and also, they have a piece of paper that says they own the place.
Strength: The ability to turn promises into funds
Weakness: Do not seem to maintain a steady core temperature like other mammals
In their defense: Have we mentioned that they pay the bills?
Nobody can really define what their job is, but it is an important job and they do it well. They write collateral and debate the weight and finish of brochure paper. They design, build and staff trade show booths. Sometimes they do market research and even contribute to product design, yet the ambiguity that surrounds their job robs them of any glory. They try to comfort themselves by acting like they own the place.
Strengths: Versatility and flexibility
Weakness: As bright as they may be they can’t shake a bit of an inferiority complex
In their defense: Everyone else has a well-defined job, why can’t Marketing?
Which is your favorite character? Leave a comment.