Lessons for The Start Up Founder – Breaking Bad

by Damien Lane

Walter White, the villainous hero (or should that be heroic villain) of Breaking Bad, was a Founder’s Founder. Walt’s motivation for leaving a sleepy, comfortable existence in the bosom of a comfortable, well paid High School job in Albuquerque for the ever so slightly more fast moving, high risk environment of a pharmaceutical start-up may not bear too much resemblance to the drive of the average participant in the wonderful Techstars Demo Day in London last week, but the trajectory of his journey as a founder have plenty of similarities with life in the real world.

Some basic learnings from this avid viewer:

1. Choose your co-founder carefully – Heisenberg Enterprises had the perfect team dynamic. The product guy, and the sales guy. OK, so ideally the sales guy isn’t consuming too much of the product, but no-one is perfect, right. And everyone tells me that a good sales guy is the most difficult person to find.

2. Start Lean – not necessarily a beaten up Winnebago, but rent a desk or two, borrow some space from a mate who has too much space. We love lean 😉

3. Great legal advice can help avoid a myriad of mishaps. When you are starting up, a tiny bit of advice from a streetsmart lawyer can help avoid problems later on. Call Saul.

4. Channel Partners – great if you want to shift more product, but watch the margins. And while not all channels partners will come to your start up and slit the throat of their sales rep then invite you round for dinner, be careful that you understand the partner and that working with that partner doesn’t prevent you from maximising potential in direct sales.

5. Viral Coefficient – if your product or service is “the bomb”, is immediately recognisable and has a ready made customer base of customers who, shall we say, have a somewhat obsessive interest in your product, the chances are you will have a K score well in excess of 1.

6. Employee retention – nothing to see here. The chances are that the two preferred methods of employee award in Heisenberg Enterprises – enormous piles of $100 bills or imprisonment in a subterranean cage – are hardly conducive to long term employee retention.

7. Supportive Spouse / Partner – you’ll obsess about the smallest detail, you’ll be working long hours, co-workers can be demanding, disgruntled customers may visit your house, competitors may attempt murder in your local supermarket car park… You’re going to need a supportive partner – if you still have one.

And finally. If your brother in law works for Google, NEVER EVER get involved in a start-up that wants to disrupt search. It will not end well.

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