Once again, I am not going to blog the panels at PC Forum, but you can find some good commentary on the conference via other bloggers from my post yesterday. Other good posts can be found from Dan Gillmor, Jason Calacanis, or the PC Forum Eventspace.
However, what I would like to share with you is some conversations I had with some VCs and entrepreneurs over the course of the day yesterday. While the panels are interesting and the speakers can stretch your mind, what is great about PC Forum is the high-level networking that occurs during the day. So what did we talk about? There were a number of attendees who were here during the past few years and their businesses raised a fair amount of capital and somehow they managed to survive the nuclear winter during the 2001-2002 period. What allowed them to do it? What are the challenges they face now? One observation that I discussed with some others is that the very principles that made companies successful during the bubble period are the very ones that would land you in bankruptcy court during any other business period. Some of these principles included growing revenue and headcount at all costs with no focus on profitability and spending tons of money on building a larger than life image-lots of money thrown at PR firms and advertising with no idea of who your target market was or what your customer really wanted. In other words, alot of these companies were based on cool technology and not on making customers happy. On top of this, VCs threw too much money at these companies and there was no need for entrepreneurs to be resourceful and creative in order to get things done.
Let’s fast forward to now. The companies that survived this downturn were excellent at cutting costs, repositioning their products for new markets, and being resourceful and creative to survive. While these are some of the business principles I want my companies to continue to adhere to, I also want to caution that there is a danger in being too cheap. Some of these companies were so shellshocked from what happened during the past couple of years that they have become too cautious. For anyone that has been through the tough years, the only thing I can say is congratulations for surviving but now it is time to take some calculated risks. It is time to get out of the bunker and go into attack mode. Go after your competition, take some calculated risks, and focus on creating some revenue growth. What is different now than before is that most companies that survived the nuclear winter know who their customer is, how much they will pay, and what features and functionalities they may want in future versions. While it may sound like idle VC talk, I encourage you to spend that extra $$$ now as long as you can see the real ROI behind a targeted marketing program, the hiring of a new engineer to finish a product faster, or a new sales person to manage more qualified leads. Once again, take it with a grain of salt, as some entrepreneurs may think this is another VC swinging for the fences, but the point is don’t be too cautious because the opportunity may just pass you by.