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如何躲开风投陷阱?

2014-02-28    来源:fortunechina    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

如今,大家或许都认为要打造一家成功的初创公司,唯一的途径是学会编程,然后从大学辍学,找到风投公司,融资5,000万美元,最后把它卖给谷歌。但事实并非如此。真正的创业其实是厚积薄发、自力更生、一步一个脚印、缓慢积累财富的过程。

Over the last 20 years working with technology entrepreneurs, I have seen a dramatic increase in the influence of what I like to call the Venture Industrial Complex (VIC) -- a loose group of venture capitalists, bloggers, mentors, advisors, seed funds, accelerators, and conferences that feed the American fascination with all-or-nothing entrepreneurship for personal gain.
过去20年间,笔者曾与多位科技行业的创业者共事,也亲眼见证了风投产业联合体(Venture Industrial Complex,VIC)急剧提升的影响力。笔者所谓的“风投产业联合体”是指风险资本家、博客写手、导师、顾问、种子基金、加速机构和各种会议组成的松散组织,他们让美国人醉心于为了谋取私利,不惜孤注一掷地投入创业。

If you regularly consume tech news, you would think the only path to building a successful startup is to learn to code, drop out of college, raise $50 million from venture capital firms, and sell to Google (GOOG) for a huge price based on clicks, views, likes, or something other than revenue or profits. It makes for a great yarn, right? But perhaps it's not as entertaining as when the rags-to-riches tale turns into a spectacular failure.
经常关注科技新闻的读者肯定认为,要建立一家成功的初创公司,唯一的途径就是学会编程,从大学退学,找风投公司融资5,000万美元,最后根据点击量、浏览量、收藏数量,或收益和利润等其他指标,把它高价卖给谷歌(Google)。听起来是不是很像一个了不起的创业故事?但如果这种白手起家的创业最终大热倒灶,恐怕就不会有人觉得它好玩了。

Across many high-profile business and tech publications, these stories consume all the oxygen about entrepreneurship. And it is the path that the VIC needs to push to keep feeding its own interests. I would guess that this meta-industry generates more profits from endorsing and encouraging entrepreneurs to get on this path than the combined profits of all the startup companies following this path.
这些听上去了不起的创业故事充斥着许多颇具影响力的商业和科技出版物,扼杀了真正的创业精神。然而,推动这种宣传符合VIC的自身利益。我猜,通过认同和鼓励创业者走上这条道路,这个“中间产业”所产生的利润要远远高于所有选择这种途径的初创公司创造的利润总和。

Now, I can hear you thinking, "but you're forgetting about the lean startup model where you bootstrap, keep costs low, and tweak your way to success." My response: just look around at those who are promoting this approach. It's the same VIC crew with a new spin -- start lean until it's time to raise that big round from an institutional venture capital firm who can really show you how to grow. While starting lean usually means raising as little outside capital as possible, the truth is you shouldn't raise any outside capital to start a business if you have deep relationships in an industry and really know what customers want.
写到这儿,读者们肯定在想:“但你忘记了精益创业模式。在这种模式下,创业者一切靠自己,想方设法降低成本,绞尽脑汁寻找成功的方法。”我的回答是:看看周围那些宣扬这种方式的人。他们也是VIC的一员,只不过换了一套说辞而已——从精益创业开始,等到时机成熟,向能真正告诉你如何实现增长的风投机构大规模融资。精益创业往往意味着尽可能减少引进外部资本,但事实上,如果创业者在一个行业内有深层的关系,真正了解客户的需求,他在创建公司的时候就不应该募集外部资本。

By far, most tech company founders use personal savings to fund their companies until they are profitable, but this garners little press. It's just not that exciting to read about someone who has spent two decades in an industry before starting his own company with his own money who is now running it profitably and employing a couple hundred employees in a secondary tech market like Atlanta or Dallas. But this is, in fact, the story that needs to be told more often because it is achievable, it is common, and it is companies like these that prop up the U.S. economy.
到目前为止,在公司盈利之前,大多数科技公司创始人一直都是依靠自己的个人积蓄,但这种方式很少能得到媒体的关注。一个人在一个行业内工作了二十年之后才靠着自己的积蓄开了公司,目前公司位于亚特兰大或达拉斯等二级科技市场,已经实现盈利,大约有两百名员工,这样的故事听起来有些平淡,不够令人振奋。但这才是媒体应该宣传的故事,因为这是可以实现的、常见的创业过程,正是这样的公司推动了美国经济的增长。

Please don't take my cynicism for the VIC as disrespect for the entrepreneurs caught up in the euphoria. Most of them don't know any better; the advisors surrounding them, the business schools teaching them, and the bloggers targeting them are built to feed this notion that theirs is the one true way. For many others, they just want to feel the heat of the bright lights on Demo Day and finally get rich like that guy they went to college with who was employee No. 10 at Facebook and just bought an island.
我在这里讽刺VIC并不意味着我不尊重那些熏熏然接受了眼下这种模式的创业者。他们大多数人只是了解得不够透彻:他们周围的顾问,他们就读的商学院,盯着他们的那些博客写手们,大家都在塑造这样一种理念:只有这才是唯一的正途。还有另外一些人,他们只是想感受一下项目展示日上聚光灯的热度,最后能像某位曾经的大学同学、如今的Facebook第十号员工一样,变成有钱人,而且刚刚买下了一座小岛。

But entrepreneurship doesn't work that way. It is the original get-rich-slow business.
但创业绝不是这样的。创业是一个缓慢积累财富的过程。

I have met thousands of successful technology entrepreneurs running large and profitable businesses without the aid of the VIC. These founders are succeeding with their own money, customer relationships, and a healthy dose of luck. Many of these entrepreneurs founded a company out of frustration from working in an industry for over a decade, spent years building their company one customer at a time, owned all the equity themselves, and had profit discipline from day one.
我接触过许多成功的科技公司创业者,他们把公司做大,并实现盈利,根本没有求助于VIC。这些创始人凭借自己的积蓄、客户关系和一点点运气,取得了成功。许多创业者是因为在一个行业内工作超过十年,无奈之下才选择创业。他们用许多年的时间,通过一次只攻克一位客户的方式,逐渐建立起自己的公司。他们自己持有公司的全部股份,从第一天起就要以盈利为原则。

Building your company this way gives you the flexibility to make mistakes along the way without the fear of your VCs pulling the plug. Sure, this way doesn't get much press but it comes with control over how fast you climb, where you place your bets, and who and when you add to your team. As the saying goes, revenue is for vanity and profit is for sanity.
通过这种方式创业,可以让自己在犯错误的时候更加灵活,不用担心风投终止合作。虽然这种方式很少受到媒体的青睐,但好处是创业者可以自己控制发展的速度,自己决定在什么地方投下赌注,以及什么时候为团队增加什么样的人才等。俗话说得好,收入是虚荣的,利润才是理性的。

But knowing the path and being suited for it are two very different things. You need deep insight into the trends driving an industry and the needs of customers in that industry, the stomach and nest egg to slog through years of uncertainty, self-awareness to change when things aren't working, confidence to surround yourself with people smarter than you are, and courage to be alone with your thoughts.
但知道这种方式和是否适合这种方式却是两回事。你需要对推动一个行业发展的趋势有深入的理解,要充分了解行业内客户的需求,要拥有能在长时间的不确定性中坚持下来的勇气和资金,要具备在面临问题时做出改变的自我意识,要有足够的自信,能在身边笼络一批比自己更聪明的人,还要有勇气面对“知音难觅”的局面。

Entrepreneurs have always built businesses this way. You just don't hear much about it anymore.
这才是创业者们一直以来的创业历程。只是如今很少有人会再提起这样的故事。(财富中文网)

Devin Mathews is a managing partner at Chicago Growth Partners.
本文作者德文•马修斯是投资公司Chicago Growth Partners的主理合伙人。



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