As a former i-banker, I struggle to overcome each of the following five shortcomings. I’ll write about how I’m dealing with them in future posts. But, the first step is recognizing you have a problem.
- You have no useful start-up skills. You certainly didn’t learn how to program (cheap excel macros don’t count). But, it turns out that i-banking didn’t teach you essential non-technical skills either including product management, marketing or fundraising skills. You’ll need those skills, not just an idea, to attract a technical co-founder.
- You hesitate to make uninformed decisions. In the i-banking world, you were taught to never make decisions without fully investigating the issue. In the start-up world, you are better off making 100 decisions with a bunch being wrong than 10 well-researched decisions.
- You’re a perfectionist. When I joined The Blackstone Group, Steve Schwarzman, the company’s CEO, told us: ”99% right is 100% wrong”. In the i-banking world, you had to be perfect — the numbers had to tie, the formatting had to be consistent, and, above all else, no extra spaces. In the start-up world, you can’t afford to be perfect. You can only spend 20% of the time to get 80% done. You don’t have time for the last 20%. As Reid Hoffman, CEO of Linkedin, said: ”If you review your first site version and don’t feel embarrassment, you spent too much time on it.“
- You don’t network. In the start-up world, you’re told to never eat alone. But, in i-banking, you always ate alone at your cubicle. If you were lucky, you got to eat dinner with some of the other analysts in the conference room. In the start-up world, you need to become a member of the tech community. You need to meet everyone because those people can help make or break your start-up with their support and ideas.
- You’re too private. You spend hours adjusting your Facebook profile privacy preferences to make sure you couldn’t be searched. You never tell you friends about what you’re working on — you weren’t allowed to. You’re not a self-promoter. In the start-up world, you can’t be secretive. You have to talk to you friends about what you are working on without making them sign an NDA (sorry to the people I did this to). They’ll completely change the way you are thinking about your project; they’ll make valuable introductions. You need to start a twitter account and a blog. You need to become a self-promoter.
Fortunately, what you did learn on Wall Street was how to work incredibly hard and do 30 things at once. You just need to be aware that you have some new habits to pick-up and a few habits to lose. I’ll continue writing about what I did to overcome each of these limitations here and you can follow me on twitter. (see #5 for self-promotion).
Update: Interesting post by Kate Huyett on 5 Things I Learned in Finance That Are (So Far) Helpful at a Startup