Why do you need to hire a founder?

29 January 2021
In 2020, the business was solving the problem of quickly launching new services and customer interaction channels. Which is the best way? Buy a startup that completes its own eco-system with its product and business processes? Antonina (Tony) Samsonova’s project The Question illustrates just such a strategy. Tonya is now the head of the Yandex service, which her startups have integrated, becoming the head of the direction from entrepreneurs. The risks of such a decision are the integration and preservation of the audience of the acquired brand, the integration of teams and corporate cultures, the adaptation of the head. Another solution is to search for a business partnership that will allow completing the missing business processes, leaving the main brand and product on its side. This way eliminates the risks of integration, but leaves the problem of creating a product unresolved.

In 2020, the third option (relatively) quick solution can be called a trend — hiring a founder-entrepreneur.

One of the most striking examples is the decision on cooperation between Leonid Dovlatbegyan and X5 Retail Group. In 2018, Leonid is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO of LED agency, co-founder of several online retail startups, and took the position of Director of Strategy and E-commerce at Perekrestok retail chain (now Managing Director of Perekrestok Online). In 2020, almost faster than all competitors who coped with the April overload of orders, Perekrestok introduces a new concept and the name Vprok, launches the Okolo retail delivery aggregator and, according to preliminary results, increases its indicators by more than 2.5 times compared to the previous year.

Let’s try to «measure» this successful solution and find the rules?

Competencies? No, just personal entrepreneurial experience.

Do not narrow your search to just founders of successful startups — look for both serial entrepreneurs and those who have failed in launching their project, but are ready to try again. It is this willingness to continue looking for new partners, new solutions, new ways and approaches, when the first hypotheses failed, that distinguishes entrepreneurs. The main combination of qualities is focus and responsibility for the result and the absence of fear of making a mistake. Long years of work in a corporate environment often dull these qualities. Therefore, you should not choose such a leader from among your own employees only on the basis that he or she plans to end a corporate career in order to start a business. Such carte blanche is unlikely to give a good result — responsibility and fearlessness appear as a result of independent decisions and personal risks.

Where is his button?

Nowhere. Your task is to understand your values ​​and goals, and find a common vision: what can be united by the concept of «coincide chemistry». On your side is the scale and brightness of the idea, the commitment to its implementation and the willingness to finance it. On the side of the founder — a sincere interest in the same idea and a willingness to act, counting on you as an investor. At the same time, it is worth negotiating the KPI of your cooperation in the same way as you do in any other business negotiations.

When negotiating rewards, be prepared to discuss long-term programs — not only deferred cash bonuses, but also the prospect of options once your corporate startup reaches certain targets, or is, for example, ready for an IPO.

It’s easier to agree than to work together

The speed of decision-making, testing concepts and hypotheses, with which a founder lives, cannot be compared with the rhythms and regulations in which corporations are used to living. At one of the companies in the consumer market, cooperation with an entrepreneur did not work out at first — the concepts that he proposed to develop simply «did not take off.» The CEO was able to unravel this problem in time: the collaborative heads of the functional units were not ready to rethink the corporate standards on their own. HR was reluctant to hire people who did not meet the accepted corporate metrics, and finance required well-reasoned plan presentations and risk assessments. Only by radically simplifying these interactions, the new tandem of the CEO and the entrepreneur was able to launch a new project.

If corporate rules are set to eliminate risks as much as possible, then where these rules will relate to the founder’s area of ​​responsibility, they need to be revised. Perhaps you should not wait for the results of a large-scale market research, or hire the most qualified and expensive employees with an eye to that they will work in this team and project for the next years. Be ready to take on the team those whose experience and competencies are only enough to launch the project — later, if all your plans come true, you can hire those who will improve and improve your new product or service.

An entrepreneur in a corporation — forever?

Will an entrepreneur become a corporate manager and choose a corporate career, or will your paths diverge after a while? Now it is difficult to talk about typical scenarios — the trend itself is only gaining momentum. We see examples of entrepreneurs serving as independent directors on Boards of Directors or becoming Advisors to the heads of large corporations. We know examples when the founder was removed from the management of the company he created. Cooperation with a founder is not a reason to calm down and forget about new challenges. In one of his interviews, Evgeny Chichvarkin said that an entrepreneur remains an entrepreneur in any conditions.