Runway: The Most Essential Component of a Minimum Sustainable Company

March 4, 2013

3:28 pm

In my earlier post, I stressed thinking beyond Minimum Viable Product and focusing on building a Minimum Sustainable Company (MSC).

In this article, I’m going to talk about one of the most essential elements of a Minimum Sustainable Company, the runway.

Simply defined, runway is the time and money you have to keep the show running without the business generating income. Runway is your lifeline. Your business cannot exist without runway. Hence, runway should guide a lot of your decisions for what you build out as your MVP.

Below is how runways map to each orbit of the MSC spiral.

Entrepreneur: RUNWAY MINDSET

Having a runway mindset is vital. Can you build something that can start making money immediately? Can you sell before you build? Can you generate income or get funded to support your endeavor for longer?

These are some of the questions you constantly try to answer when you are conscious about stretching your runway. It even helps you make decisions for what features your MVP should include; vetting the features is partly based on the time it takes to build and the value it adds to your runway.

Culture: TEAM WITH LONGER RUNWAY

If you have a team that can work for a while without getting paid or take less pay while trading for equity, you can stretch your runway. In order to build such a team, you have to ensure your passion resonates with them. You have to focus on forming a tribe, not just a fan following.

Once they come onboard, you have to treat them as partners and not just employees. You have to serve them as an employee, in fact. You have to realize that your team is your biggest asset and is more than, or equally as, important as you are.

Entrepreneur: KEEP A CHECK ON YOUR RUNWAY

You might start with a runway, but as time passes, you’ll want to check it to ensure it is not shrinking exponentially with every decision you make. You always want to have a few more months to go on, and you must constantly ensure you are increasing your runway as time passes by.

Brand: KEEP AWAY FROM WASTE CREATION

From an MVP perspective, anything you create that does not allow learning is waste. From an MSC (Minimum Sustainable Company) perspective, anything that you create that shrinks your runway without increasing the odds of your success is a waste. For instance, you might not want to focus on creating a logo for your company as much as you want to spend time on your content strategy.

System: CHOOSING THE RIGHT EARLY ADOPTERS

The right set of early adopters is the biggest factor in the success of an MVP. If you can devise a mechanism to choose your early adopters and learn from their feedback, you can hit the goal of creating a sustainable business model more quickly. This is always tricky, but it’s not impossible. In B2C products, you have to identify a few patterns, such as returning customers, customers who interact with your application in search of something, customers who provide feedback, customers who subscribe to your newsletters or blogs, and others.

Next step: Add one more element to your strategy and business document that represents the runway, and ensure every element ties in with the runway. In my next article, I will show you how you can increase your runway or build one if you have zero bandwidth.

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Jinesh Parekh is the CEO of a Ruby on Rails consulting boutique, Idyllic. Idyllic focusses on building web and mobile solutions led by user experience design that solves real business problems. You can reach out to Jinesh at jparekh [at] idyllic [dot] co.

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