Wolves of Startupland

The Short Game

Most people are of good character. Most are upright, standup folks. Most but not all.

Some people are short-sighted. These people play the short game. They are transactional and weigh each decision as if it stands alone leaving no legacy.

We see these transactional short-term players every day in business and in startups. They’re the folks who present wireframes and screens and smoke and mirrors as fully functional prototypes to investors. They’re the folks who incent low salaried employees with stock options and then fire them not due to performance, but prior to them reaching their stock vesting cliff. They’re the people who promise to get back to you… and don’t.

Some people would say these folks are selfish. I say that these people are stupid. Because truly intelligent selfish people know that investing in people upfront, being generous in the transactional short game pays dividends in the long run.

Bad news has always spread like wildfire. With the internet, your bad deeds get universal distribution faster than a New York taxi driver can honk his horn after a traffic light turns green.  There’s no more fake it till you make it because your fraudlyness will be outed and your character divined. You’ll be called out on twitter, or facebook or blogs or websites like glassdoor where people can find out just what kind of a-hole you are, no matter how much you convince your buddies to stuff the ballot box.

You know what else, people will start noticing that people of character avoid you. People who’ve never cheated a partner, cooked a book, or double-delt an employee won’t be at your side.

It is said that opposites attract. In business, discerning people of high character don’t play with scum. Scum attracts scum or people who don’t yet know or sycophants who just don’t care.

You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time and thanks to the internet, the all of the time is constantly contracting.