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专栏 - 向Anne提问

加入科技初创公司就像买彩票?

Anne Fisher 2014年11月20日

Anne Fisher为《财富》杂志《向Anne提问》的专栏作者,这个职场专栏始于1996年,帮助读者适应经济的兴衰起落、行业转换,以及工作中面临的各种困惑。
根据业内人士估计,初创公司的失败率高达70%到90%。放弃一家稳定的大公司,转投一家初创公司,有时候的确像买彩票。但如果你在作出决定前,恰当地提一些尖锐但很重要的问题,你或许真能中大奖哦。

    亲爱的安妮:我通常不会干涉孩子们的职业决定,但这一次,我认为儿子即将做一件他肯定会后悔的事情。3年前从斯坦福大学(Stanford University)毕业后,他一直在一家《财富》美国500强公司从事IT工作,而且他在那家公司也非常开心。现在,他大学的几个朋友正在创办一家公司,他目前在考虑辞去这份工作,与他们一起创业。这家新公司提供的薪酬将有一半是股份形式,如果公司上市,他确实能获得丰厚的回报。但这样的几率,是否就像买彩票一样?这完全是碰运气,而且最终的大赢家可谓凤毛麟角。您认为呢?——圣马力诺的质疑者

    亲爱的质疑者:毫无疑问,加入一家初创公司的风险,要远远大于你儿子现在的工作,而且他肯定知道这一点。对于初创公司失败率,比较靠谱的估计是75%到90%,甚至更高,这要取决于你对失败的定义。例如,哈佛商学院(Harvard Business School)的什卡•高希对2,000多家在2004年至2010年至少获得100万美元风险投资的初创公司进行了一番研究。高希发现,其中约有75%的公司让投资者血本无归,有95%未能实现特定目标,如收入增长率或收支平衡预测等。

    当然,这些悲惨的数据并不意味着,想要跳槽的人就不应该考虑初创公司——他们只要预先提出适当的问题就行。纽约市科技招聘公司Harris Allied的执行董事凯西•哈里斯认为,阿里巴巴集团(Alibaba)的大规模IPO及后续的成功,在求职者中引发了一股淘金热潮。她建议,求职者冒险进入初创公司之前,应该问下面几个问题:

    • 公司有多少资金?哈里斯发现,大多数新公司都是靠借家人和朋友的钱成立的,创始人往往会拿出自己的所有积蓄,甚至透支信用卡。这样做没什么问题,但你需要知道公司资金总额除以“资金消耗率”的结果。“按当前的资金水平,公司能够维持多久?”

    • 公司的产品或服务如何满足行业需求?哈里斯说道:“市场上对公司提供的产品或服务,是否有真正的需求?了解一下竞争对手,询问公司的新产品或服务如何满足市场需求。公司有哪些产生收入的机会?能让公司盈利的触发器是什么?”一份经过深思熟虑的商业计划书,应该可以回答这些问题。而鉴于这家公司的创始人是你孩子的朋友,他应该要求看一下公司的商业计划书。如果没有书面的商业计划,或计划书的内容不全面,这表明这些人还没有做好经营一家公司的准备。就是这样。

    Dear Annie: I don’t usually meddle in my kids’ career decisions, but I think my son is about to do something he’ll regret. He’s been working in IT at a Fortune 500 company since he graduated from Stanford three years ago, and he’s been pretty happy there. Now, some friends of his from school are starting a company, and he’s thinking of chucking his job and joining them. About half his compensation would be in equity, and he’s counting on a big payoff if the company goes public. But isn’t that kind of like buying a lottery ticket? It’s a long shot, and you only ever hear about the big winners, who are relatively few and far between. Your thoughts, please? — Skeptical in San Marino

    Dear Skeptical: No question, joining a startup would be a lot riskier than what your son is doing now, and he surely already knows that. Knowledgeable estimates of startup failure rates range from 75% to 90%, and — depending on how you define failure — some are even higher. One study, for instance, by Shikhar Ghosh at Harvard Business School, looked at more than 2,000 fledgling enterprises that received at least $1 million in venture capital funding from 2004 through 2010. Ghosh found that about 75% failed to return investors’ money, and 95% fell short of specific goals like revenue growth rates or break-even projections.

    Dire numbers like that don’t mean, of course, that people who want to change jobs should rule out startups — they simply need to ask the right questions up front. Kathy Harris, managing director of New York City tech recruiting firm Harris Allied, thinks job seekers have gotten a kind of gold-rush fever from the gargantuan Alibaba IPO, and the company’s subsequent success. Before making the leap to a startup, she suggests asking these questions:

    • How much funding does the company have? Most brand-new companies are launched with money from friends and family, Harris notes, including the founders’ own savings and even their credit cards. Nothing wrong with that, but you need to know the total dollar amount divided by the “burn rate.” “How long can the firm stay in business with its current cash supply?”

    • How does the firm’s product or service fit into its industry? “Is there a real need for what the company is offering? Look at competitors and ask how the new product or service will fit into its market space,” Harris says. “What are the opportunities to generate revenue, and the triggers that will make this company profitable?” A well-thought-out business plan should address all this in detail. Since this startup’s founders are your son’s friends, he should ask to see it. If there is no written business plan, or if it seems skimpy, it’s a sign that these folks are not ready to run a company. Period.

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