Friday, July 04, 2014

Kafkaesque Fantasies of Starting-up

Among the macro-social variables that fuel the fantasies of empirical growth in an entrepreneur’s mind, usually identified as being highly correlated with his/her prior growth trajectory, two important anomalies stand out – finances and the ability to milk his/her “network”. Did you ever wonder why few slacking kids of rich celebrities make it with their boorish ideas while you are stuck, where you are – even with a brilliant idea?
There are a lot of start-up accelerators, advisories who give you the carrot – to help mould/nurture your business plans, but rarely tell you the bitter truth. Allow me to let the rabbit out of the bag – you will find limited to no literature that studies the issue of causality and the channels through which both one’s financial standing and his/her network play a crucial role. I wish to explore this link and its influence on the balance of flight, as a start-up takes off.
Although, it might seem obvious – I wish to look at it more logically. Specifically, I wish to take a theoretical route to analyse the relation. Exploring the link between financial standing and ease of flight is interesting for several reasons. First, if we find that the level of financial standing does have an effect on relative ease of flight – it shall underline an important start-point for entrepreneurship, i.e. it is not just about having a brilliant idea or clocking in hours of enterprising efforts with enthusiasm, but there is a need for monetary support to begin with, and therefore increases the priority someone might enjoy, in making it happen while others find it hard to cross the start-point. Second, exploring this link, we will be able to appreciate the fact – one’s financial standing will have implications on his/her influence over milking the “network”. Well, in short – let us reason out the roots for ‘Fake it till you make it’ mantra for entrepreneurship.
Let us frame a simple model for an entrepreneurial sale using the theory of Negotiation. With limited capacity to fuel the engines for the flight, an entrepreneur always finds himself with a poor BATNA. For the uninitiated, in negotiation theory, the Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement or BATNA is the course of action that will be taken by a party if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. In the case of an entrepreneur, with limited resources – with limited negotiating power, the alternatives are poor – in extreme cases, there is no alternative at all. Likewise, if an entrepreneur is not in a position to milkhis/her “network” – there are no good alternatives.
Opportunities and associated BATNAs form the vicious cycle of survival for an entrepreneur. As a result, one finds himself/herself stuck in the cycle of survival but never scale up. Drawing an analogy to the conventional Ricardian model of technological differences across countries explaining international trade flows - theoretically and empirically, cross-entrepreneur variance in the level of financial standing and his/her “network” explains the relative ease of negotiating a deal to begin with and thus his/her start-up taking flight.
On the one hand, reforming the financial standing of an entrepreneur might have implications for balance of flight – it is next to impossible to target this aspect of the problem, because the inherit comparative in financial standing fuels the entrepreneurial spirit.
On the other hand, the effect of providing “network” on the level and structure for balance of flight plays a positive role – but it again depends on the level of financial standing. If there are efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in all sincerity – the focus should be on providing an equal playing field for making the right connections and enabling entrepreneurs to milk the “network”.
If any Government or an agency seeks to generate entrepreneurial spirit, focus should rest on overpowering the dependency of social attitudes on financial standing, and provide a singular platform for networking. Such efforts shall tackle the distortionary framework of the society, which impedes the entrepreneurial spirit with classification into various monetary classes.
So, the next time you consider incubators and accelerators – the question to ask, is not what they provide for in cash or kind, but do they bring/give access to the “network”?
- Abhijith 
Place: Abu Dhabi
P.S.: While my theoretical model explores a singular channel of how financial standing affects the balance of flight, sometimes, the empirical evidence (real life experiences) presents natural mechanisms for possible reverse causality and simultaneity bias.