You can if you really want make a no-bread sandwich – you can fool yourself, as in the picture above that two slices of cucumber can make a sandwich or cheat with an approximation like rice paper wraps – but then you end up with a spring roll. They can be great but they are not sandwiches are they?
As we covered in last week’s article the deeper nature of creativity is mysterious, mankind’s God-like ability to create what did not exist before is a truly wondrous thing. But once you have recovered from all that numinosity and got it home you have a baby that cries, wants feeding and has a dirty nappy at four in the morning. You find yourself too busy and too exhausted to engage in metaphysics and too overloaded to worry about which school your baby will go to. Keeping it content, fed and growing and you remaining at least half-alive is an achievement in itself.
In the same way the Startup’s conception and inception should be incredibly exciting and motivating but the founder soon finds themselves running round in service of their new creation. Keeping it content, fed and growing is an achievement in itself. It can be many years before the founder is Lord and Master of all they survey with paid staff to enact their every wish and command.
Startups are generally bootstrapped at first by the founder(s) working for free – it’s not real cash but it is real resources. Soon your growing baby needs real cash to provide for its needs and credit cards and bank accounts take the strain. As it grows and grows it needs more cash and maybe this is provided by, in the best case, organic cashflow or by friends and family. And at some point you raise from the less friendly and less familial – crowdfunding or Angeling (a whole pro-am spectrum there) or getting professional funds of one sort or another. And at some point you have to have a Board foisted upon you.
This is a tale I have heard many times – it’s definitely A Thing and definitely what will happen by default. But this isn’t what serial founders do – they start with the bread much earlier.
A no-bread sandwich lacks bread and a “no Board” Company lacks a Board. OK, sure, all companies legally “have” a Board and there may even be a perfunctory meeting or two to keep lawyers and accountants happy but it’s perfunctory, tick-box only – not the real thing.
Bread in a sandwich performs two functions. First it stops the sandwich falling apart. Try something like a lettuce leaf instead, which might work for a while but soon you are likely to need a plate underneath to catch bits as they fall out. The second thing good bread does is to add value – good bread has a great taste and makes the overall mix that much more appealing.
In the same way as bread a Board adds structure to stop the whole thing falling apart. It has a control function in terms of external pairs of eyes, ears and noses to spot problems before they can take the company down or damage it as well as often bringing some financial disciplines that founders may not be experienced in.
Additionally a great Board adds a great flavour. It makes the sandwich that much tastier. This creative value-add is the thing that serial entrepreneurs have learned the hard way – by sticking with no bread sandwiches for too long themselves or by using cheap bread or that other passion-killer crispbread which is far too rigid.
If you are the founder of a Startup – now or in the future – you too will be focusing on ingredients. But my recommendation is that you start thinking of bread sooner rather than later.
Don’t see bread as something forced upon you as a side-effect of needing to raise money. See it for what it is – the essential part of a sandwich. You’ll never sell a no-bread sandwich for megabucks.
Don’t use flavourless bread. Don’t use rigid crispbread. Rather define what type of bread you want for your sandwich. Work out what flavours you need to complement the ingredients that you already have. Rye bread? Sourdough bread? Bread with seeds? Never buy “just bread” and if someone offers you some bread with their money make sure you like their bread as much as you like their money.
It’s never too early to think about moving on from a no-bread sandwich and it’s never the wrong time to be planning the recipe for your sandwich. Don’t forget that what you are doing is making a sandwich – have a plan for both ingredients and bread!