Lean Startups Aren’t So Lean

There was recently an article in PE Hub (that’s Private Equity Hub, for those of you who don’t subscribe) about the breakneck growth of internet darlings like Groupon, Zynga and LinkedIn, and about the massive hiring and marketing spending required to support that growth. Written by the ever insightful Connie Loizos (disclosure: I know Connie and her husband both socially and professionally), the article pointed out that these companies are forced to raise huge private equity rounds (as in hundreds of millions of dollars) to pay for the marketing that drives growth and the hiring that supports it.

As Connie points out, this is a great flaw in the “lean startup” model. Sure, you can build a company with $3 million now instead of $30 million. Open source software and cloud hardware resources allow you to bring a product to market without raising gobs of venture money. But those same trends allow anyone else to bring a competing product to market just as cheaply. So then the race is on to see who can grow the fastest. And that race demands capital, lots of it.

So startups can be lean, but growth companies are fat. All this trend has done is move the locus of capital raising competition a little later in the lifecycle of companies.


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