How to Avoid a Cultural Implosion as You Scale Your Startup

Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak at one of Silicon Valley’s larger startup events, LAUNCH Scale.

Start ups can fail for many reasons. Lack of funding. Insufficient market opportunity. Poor product fit. But the most tragic source of failure occurs when a company survives all these challenges only to implode due to entirely internal reasons like scaling their operations and technology.

My speech focused on the most tragic, least talked about and all-too common source of implosions: scaling culture.

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Some of the topics I covered included:

  •  The three stages of start up growth: Family (<25 people), Tribe (25-125 people) and Town (125+ people)
  • Common reasons why startups can culturally implode: Too much stuff, generalist to specialist, Dunbar’s number.
  • Survival tips on avoiding a cultural implosion: Avoid the Right Leaders at the Wrong Time , Set Three Goals Per Person , Keep Placing Small Strategic Bets and Embrace a Mission

I was really amazed at all the people I talked with later in the day whose stories reflected these challenges. Some had happy endings. Some did not. Quite a few were happening live. Thanks to IBM, the LAUNCH team and all the great startup leaders I met for the opportunity to share my experiences.

You can see the presentation in Slideshare here or download it in PDF format here . I’ve also created a second version that has all my speaker notes (click here).

LAUNCH Scale is a joint effort between Jason Calacanis’s LAUNCH event series, IBM’s Global Entrepreneur program and IBM’s SmartCamps.

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