Episode 3: Welcome to ‘Triage Month’

Everyone in the tech startup industry is about to start practicing triage as they struggle to keep customers, jobs, functions, teams, companies and investments alive. Your awesomeness isn’t of value right now. Your survival behaviour is.

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Baron Larrey amputating the arm and leg of colonel Rebsomen at Hanau (1813). By G.Garitan — Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33303848
  • Those who are unlikely to live, regardless of what care they receive;
  • Those for whom immediate care might make a positive difference in outcome.

But my startup is awesome!

I’m sure it is, and I’m sure you are too. But consider that we tend to encourage a positive “succeed against overwhelming odds” mindset in startup founders that can sometimes mean you believe your own pitch a little too much.

Don’t waste another moment

If you decide to improve your chances when you’re being evaluated for triage, you need to respond like an effective leader should in a crisis.

  1. Acknowledge the issue; and
  2. Overcorrect.

Build trust if you don’t have it, and lean into it if you do

If people (team, customers, suppliers, investors) trust you, they will follow you further, make bigger sacrifices, cut you bigger breaks, and decide you’re the portfolio company most worth working to save when they’re doing triage.

Top person takes responsibility

Your CEO should contact all your investors, suppliers, customers and team. Speak to as many of them in person as you can (mass communication dilutes trust) but remember speed is of the essence. Then painful though it will be, provide further updates as the situation develops.

Acknowledge the issue

Spell the current situation out clearly and openly. Tell people what the true worst-case scenario is. Tell them what they’re likely to lose if that happens. Encourage them to choose you as the startup they want to help save.

Overcorrect

Share a plan with them that goes further than you (and they) will think is necessary. Explicitly make it clear what they can do to help avoid the worst-case scenario — make it clear that you need their intervention in order to survive.

Eytan did a great job of admitting the crisis is affecting him and his family.

Pay it forward

Your customers and your team will remember the little things you did for them as the crisis really begins to bite hard. Offering to help and showing that you care before it’s required is an essential part of showing everyone you’re over-correcting.

Runway and trust

Sufficient runway and trust are all anybody cares about in a crisis. Can I trust you to live up to the deal we made? Can I trust you to keep increasing your revenue a little each month towards break-even? Can I trust that your SAAS platform won’t fall over and risk my business‘ survival even though you’re cutting support options and offering me a discount? Right now…

  1. Acknowledge the issue; and
  2. Overcorrect.

I’m Alan Jones, an EiR for startup accelerators, GP at M8 Ventures. Previously investor, founder, and early Yahoo PM. Opinions mine (but should also be yours).

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