When Covid-19 first began to infect the First World, my interviews with venture capitalists fit into a somewhat similar mold. Investors will tell me they are “trimming” their own portfolios to understand how they can help naughty startups by the epidemic. Although no one directly said they would stop investing in new opportunities, many said they would go inwards instead of outwards to navigate the uncertain time. The conversation will then inevitably turn to the runway, aka the amount of capital that will indicate how many months they can trade before closing.
Every founder was thinking about it, every VC was advising their portfolio companies to be smart about spending, and a startup even launched a product that helps founders save money to prepare for a broader pull from traditional investors. For the price of it, that startup, ClearCo, is now a unicorn. It’s been a few months since I heard the word fast-forward and runway after more than a year. With the closure of new check-writers and record-breaking funds, the phrase has disappeared as venture capital as the wealth class explodes.
As companies extend follow-on financing weeks, instead of years, after the previous round, I was wondering what the new tension is in startup land. In a conversation this week, NEA partner Ann Bordetsky put it simply: “It’s easy to rise and hard to hire.” Bordetsky, who joined the NEA this year, said the next six months of consultation for founders would be about recruitment. “Find out your undeserved advantage for hiring the best talent,” he said. “Not everyone can hire the best, so many hired companies are going to create or break up.” In other words, “how to rent” is the new “how to save the runway.”
Hiring for a startup has always been difficult, which is narrower than resources, say, a Facebook that could give an engineer a $ 1 million signature bonus in the blink of an eye.
Still, the founder tells me that hiring is only getting harder because more well-funded startups are emerging with impressive appraisals. We’ve been covering this for years, but hopefully, the conversation will grow louder. After all, we are in great resignation.
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