The Founder’s Dilemma

This course is for students who plan to become involved in new ventures. This involvement can occur as founders, investors, or advisors. The course is focused on the human side of building an effective company. The focus on ‘people’ in a variety of challenging circumstances makes most of the lessons broadly applicable to any resource constrained, fast growing organization.

Founders' Dilemmas examines the critical people decisions that have important long‐term consequences for founders and their ventures. Potential consequences include losing control of the venture, dissolving the founding team due to tensions between founders, and imperiling the venture’s financial gains despite the hard work and innovative ideas that were invested. The course's goal is to empower students to make decisions that will steer them away from unintended consequences and towards the goals they hoped to achieve when launching and growing their ventures. For students looking to work at a startup, or invest in one, the course will help them be much more informed about the ventures with which they might be involved.

It is also a course that will force you to examine your purpose and values. In each situation you will be faced with professional and personal tradeoffs. How much should I share (money, equity, risk, glory) with my partners? When should I persist, when should I walk away? What should I do when personal and professional goals diverge? How can I face failure? How can I remain untouched by entrepreneurial success?

Assignment Prompts

November 2015

EXIT: SUCCESS AND FAILURE

November 2015

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After building the organization most founders are faced with the critical decision on how to exit. In some cases, the company has succeeded in realizing value for investors and for its founder and employees. In most cases, the company has failed to earn a return. Often the company is balancing on the knife’s edge between success and failure. Small decisions tilt the balance. What are the factors that determine if a company is likely to exit successfully? If it is on a path to failure, how can the founder ensure that it ‘fails well’? What is a good failure?

Featured Responses

5 ways to fail well
S
S
Posted on December 16, 2015 at 7:50 pm
There is a lot startup founders can do to manage their failure “successfully” Failure stinks. No one founds a company for it to fail one day, but the sad truth is than 9 out of 10 fail. Some suffer from [...]
Wounded by Failure
xyz
Posted on November 24, 2015 at 12:28 am
Psychology of failure and what can be learned from it

October 2015

Building the Organization

October 2015

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As the business grows Founders face the task of building an organization that is capable of executing the mission. Individuals and processes that were critical in getting to market become impediments to growth. Assets become liabilities. Founders are faced with difficult choices of replacing people, introducing structure, and creating  new cultural norms. Please share your observations on how founders should address these challenges. What are the early indications that the  you need to bring in a new team, redefine the culture or change the organization? What are you looking for from your VC’s and your Board? What are the biggest challenges you are likely to face while hiring a new team and letting go of the people who brought you to this point? How can you train yourself to effectively handle the difficult conversations that these transitions entail?

Featured Responses

Building a Billion Dollar Brand
Julisa
Posted on October 29, 2015 at 2:36 am
Opportunities for disruption abound in established industries. Here are some tips in helping you build a company that will displace its predecessor.
The Missing Trend in the Fashion Industry: Company Culture
Golden
Posted on October 29, 2015 at 12:48 am
Poor pay, high turnover rates, questionable hires, outsized egos and rotten culture are all characteristics that one might encounter when working in the fashion industry.  Company culture is a vital component of life at a startup and also represents a challenge [...]

September 2015

Starting a Startup

September 2015

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The thesis of our course is that early decisions that founders make have a disproportionate  impact on their ultimate success or failure. What pathways did they open? What chains did they forge around their own ankles?  Consider the choices that Jessica Matthews  of Uncharted Play, Lew Cirne of Wily, or Hillary Mallow of ProLabs made. Their choices resulted in stable or unstable business partnerships, years of sacrifice and struggle, loss of  control of their companies and even the destruction of a marriage.  In other situations early founding decisions have resulted  in  financial and personal success. The challenges founders face as a business matures can often be traced back to the seeds they sowed at the founding stage.

The founders we have studied often stumbled into these choices blindfolded – without much consideration of their implications or regard for their consequences. They often did not even recognize their decisions as choices. What observations can you share with entrepreneurs that are seeking co-founders and making their first commitments to the business? What questions still intrigue you?  What factors would you advice others to consider before taking the plunge into the ocean of possibilities that entrepreneurship offers? When should they persevere, when should they close the business?

Please limit your post to 500 words. include pictures, links to other sites and videos, if they make the entry more compelling. Remember that to make an impact, your entry has to be read by others. Try and make it visually appealing, provocative and thoughtful.  And,  please comment on the blog entries of others.  Your blog post will be accessible on the internet. It is due before 9 pm on September 22nd, 2015. We will be discussing a few of your posts in class on the 23rd.

Featured Responses

A Role by Any Other Name
Jon
Jon
Posted on September 23, 2015 at 1:15 pm
Society values the title of "founder"... perhaps we do more than we should
The pitfalls of hiring based on conventional wisdom
Sarah
Posted on September 23, 2015 at 4:08 am
A company can only be as good as the people within it. As a founder, it is imperative that you decide what it is you value most in an employee and plan your hiring decisions accordingly. You can establish whatever [...]
A Startup Reality Distortion Field?
WriterOfThings
Posted on September 23, 2015 at 4:07 am
Who can be a founder, and how must one run a venture? In answering these questions, today's startup world presents a reality distortion field; should one remain within it?