Startups: The Case For Keeping Things Simple

August 9, 2017
written by Daniel Coyle  AngelList | LinkedIn | Email | Twitter

Yes, this blog is very simple and that’s on purpose. Decluttering and getting back to fundamentals is a theme in my life; and I impart that on this blog very intentionally.

What you'll find below is not a framework for avoiding difficult or complex situations. You will, however, find suggestions for making the complicated seem simple to your internal operations, staff, and overall organization.

In a growing startup, you have a few things completely within your control; and a ton of things not within your control. I see this mistake way too often: as a startup grows, it willingly infuses unnecessary internal complexity where it doesn’t have to. The end product is a labyrinth of external forces and circumstances, trying to be solved and navigated by an equally confusing and convoluted internal ecosystem.

I see this most often as startups scale, and begin to flesh out and fill in their org charts. Setting aside the ins-and-outs of hiring and incentivizing, the maze that often becomes early-stage orgs is damaging to those who are shuffled around within them, those who have to operate cross-functionally, and even to those placed at the helm.

I would beg you to consider, as you need to re-org, hire above existing leadership, etc, do it in a way that is fully transparent, and place the utmost importance on open communication. Provide ample opportunity for questions and clarification. And, for the love of all that is good, disseminate a logical and straightforward chart to help clarify any blind spots or unknowns.

Another area to be uber-aware of introducing unnecessary complexity is upon launching new partnerships, products, or offerings. Often, keeping these things close-to-the-vest is driven by startup hubris (ie leadership thinking they’ve connected all the dots already). Startups are small. Even if you’re 500 or 1000 employees strong, the environment is rife with chatter and people will soon have a small glimpse of what’s coming down the pike.

You should be as forthcoming as possible with future partnerships, products, and offerings. Not only will you be able to tell the story the way you want to, but you’ll empower your staff to shed light on areas that those close to the scoping and launch might’ve overlooked. No matter how involved or smart you are, you’re always missing something (I’m sorry if that bursts your bubble).

Remember, simplicity doesn’t mean you’ll never encounter internal complexities. As I mentioned early on, get the fundamentals right (communication, transparency, not half-baked ideas) and you’ll save yourself, your staff, and your company from a lot of self-inflicted hardships.

As to not turn this into a 10,000 word diatribe, I’ll leave it at that. Fairly general but common examples, plucked from the real world.

If you’d like to discuss your startup, small business, or organization in more detail, feel free to email me!