By Steve Touhill, Partner.
I learned pretty early in life that I was smarter than average but never the smartest guy in the room. Fortunately, I also learned that it was a good idea to pay attention to what the smartest people were saying and doing because most of the time, they’re right. So when illustrious venture capitalists like Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital, Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, and Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz are all warning that we are in the midst of the biggest tech bubble since 1999, I listen carefully and consider the risks and opportunities for my clients and my business.
First, the risk: to paraphrase Gurley and Andreessen, easy access to venture capital has created an overpopulation of fat and lazy companies that eat cash like there’s no tomorrow. When that access to capital dries up, survival depends upon a company’s ability to feed itself. Only disciplined, cash flow-positive companies have a chance to make it through this looming period of belt tightening. The rest, according to Andreessen, will “vaporize.” If you’re leading a financially disciplined business with a unique value proposition, congratulations, keep it up. If you’re in a crowded market sector with an undifferentiated solution and you’re reliant upon your T&E budget to buy relationships (notice I didn’t say, “build”) and drive revenue, good luck.
Second, the opportunity: for stronger companies, this is a great time to build your talent bench. While it’s true that second tier companies mainly attract second tier talent, there are a handful of A Players at these at-risk companies reading the same articles that you and I are, and they are smart enough to be open-minded to new opportunities with more stable, growing organizations like yours. Whether for near- term talent upgrade potential or for expansion as we head toward 2015, now is the time to talk with your leadership team, internal recruiting staff, and executive search partner about your strategic hiring needs in order to capitalize on this pending wave.
Best wishes for a strong start to Q4!