The first big startups in a country are role models for future entrepreneurs. In the past five years, Indonesia has seen a big jump in startup activity. And a few of them made it very big. GoTo will IPO soon, making it the third scaleup to go public.
Today, I had a meeting with a young founder. He’s been building several startups in the past few years. What he told me is interesting: when he started his first startup, his dream was to become a founder like Gojek or Tokopedia.
He looked up at the speed of growth, the entrepreneurial spirit, and the size of those scale-ups. Today, after a few years of experience building startups, he realizes that he doesn’t want to pursue “that path” anymore. And I hope more entrepreneurs will think along those lines.
Read More: 3 Key Elements to Scale Up in the Agile Way
What Scaling Up Method Should Startups Follow?
I hope more founders will realize that there are other ways to scale up than with immense amounts of funding. Traditional companies (e.g., a shop) need to invest to get started.
Usually to buy inventory, pay rent, and make the shop (or the app) look nice. Once that’s there, they focus on generating revenues and profit. That profit is invested in their growth.
This is money fueling growth in a sustainable way. The source is the market, the customers who want this product or service. The source for growth (or survival) is not (only) investors. Potentially, the growth is slower (not always), but I think there are quite some benefits to this more organic scaling up path:
- As an entrepreneur, you sleep well at night.
- Your main focus should be on making your employees and customers happy.
- All the time saved on pitching investors and keeping them updated can be spent on adding value to your customers.
- You keep your freedom to make your own decisions (without accountability to multiple shareholders that want to see ROI).
- You keep a majority of the shares (potentially bringing even more wealth to you as the founder as opposed to the few percent you keep in a GoTo sized scaleup).
- There’s no runway that ends in a cliff that you fall into when investor money dries up (as it will when the current bubble bursts).
I do believe the ‘big funding path’ has worked and will work for some startups. I also believe that A. it’s not the path for everyone; and B. it’s quite healthy to focus on generating revenue and profit instead of just market share. Very boring traditional economic stuff, but many principles our ancestors already knew, still apply.
I’ve used the scaling up method for the past decades in my own companies and in supporting other scaleups. Many entrepreneurs have used this method to build very successful companies and great wealth. The growth cycle that fuels scaleups look like this:
The right people in the company (PEOPLE), doing the right things (STRATEGY) in the right way (EXECUTION) lead to profits (CASH) that then are used to hire more and better people, and the cycle goes on.
At any point in time, there are bottlenecks to growth. There’s generally one big bottleneck in any of these four steps. It’s for the founders to figure out which one it is.
Sometimes it’s cash which means you may need funding. But money isn’t the answer to all problems. If you’ve got the wrong culture, attracting the wrong people, getting investor money to hire more people will only make your problems bigger.
If your execution power is weak, more money means you’ll just burn it without realizing the outcomes you’re after. Scaling a startup is about discipline. It’s about creating a strong culture, structure, clarity, and focus for everyone working in your company. Money doesn’t bring that automatically. Strong entrepreneurship does.
As a founder, I think it’s important to reflect on the above. To use the stories of Bukalapak, Grab, and GoTo to decide whether that’s really your path.
The Right Scaling Up Services for Your Startup Growth
Can the way GoTo scaled up be used as a benchmark for others startups? It depends. Talking about scaling up isn’t just about the money. Scaling is about strong prioritization, clear direction, and relentless execution.
Each startup has a different situation and background, but there are universal principles every company can build upon. The scaling up framework (formerly called the Rochefeller habits) helps leaderships understand the ‘ingredients’ that result in growth. It gets everyone ‘on the same page’, helps get the right people in the right seats.
Curious about how our scaling up services help your startup reach scale? You can request a FREE 2-hour roadmap planning session with our seasoned entrepreneurs and coaches. In this 2-hour session, we help you to create clarity on the building blocks for scaling. We look at 4 decisions you must make: cash, people, strategy, and execution.
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