A tale of startups, VCs, their colliding intentions and a disillusioned Agile coach

Part 3 of 4—Reality hits hard

Fast forward a few months. 4 months and 12 days to be precise. Not that I was standing by the phone counting days, I just happened to notice the email I sent and the date I sent it on.

OK, so since then the dream of helping VCs adopt an Agile framework for their startups had pretty much evaporated. You might think it was due to being discouraged by not receiving an answer from Matt and Dave. Well no, or actually maybe a little. But let me give you the whole picture.

Our company had picked up some momentum and recognition in the past few months. A well-known VC (not the same one that Matt and Dave work for) had contacted us and asked if we would work with them to help their startups. Being a little skeptical (bad experiences do that to you sometimes), I had asked to meet them for a quick chat.

Being wiser than the last time, I made sure the appointment was at a fixed date and time in their office. It’s harder for people not to respect engagements in their own premises. They agreed and asked us to bring any document that would support our contribution to the startups’ onboarding experience with the VC.

My business partner and I prepared a short summary of the holistic Agile approach we would take, including the outcomes, costs, and constraints. We were pretty enthusiastic about getting the opportunity to explore our approach with a startup.

The day had arrived. We were pretty psyched for the meeting. We made our way to the VC’s office, located in the industrial part of town. We were greeted by one of their financial analysts.

“Come in, we were just expecting you,” she said with a small and polite smile. “My name is Kim.”

I replied as we shook hands: “Hi Kim! My name is Marc.”

“And I am Ben. Nice to meet you.”

Kim shook Ben’s hand.

“Please, follow me.”

We headed down a corridor and turned left into a good-sized office, which had a huge TV, maybe 72” or more, dry-erase walls, and a display case which contained several trophies that, I deduced, could only belong to the founder.

We sat in silence as Kim retreated out of the office.

“I’ll get Michael and Terry,” she said while closing the door.

A few moments later, Kim made her way back into the room followed by the two men. We quickly introduced ourselves, shook hands, and sat down. Terry and Kim sat down on each side of Michael, the founder. This had the looks of a remake of “The Apprentice”.

Michael initiated the conversation: “As we have already explained to you, we would like to know if you would be able to improve our onboarding process for startups.”

“Sure,” I said without hesitation. “If I may, we’d like to show you our Integral Agile Onboarding Process and Follow-up for Startups. It consists of…”

Michael quickly and abruptly interrupted me, “No follow-up, just onboarding”.

“Uhmmm, sure, yes, OK,” I replied. “Our approach consists of a holistic assessment of the startup on four axes: Product, Technical, Financial and Human. We…”

Michael quickly jumped in to interrupt me a second time. “Just the Product and Technical, how much?”

“We’re only interested in the due diligence of the product and technical capabilities of the team,” he promptly added.

“Oh. Wouldn’t developing the teams’ capacity to handle change and complexity ultimately add value to…”

Michael cut me off once again: “If I have to invest, it’s going to be in marketing, to get traction, interest. If the team members have to improve, they can finance that themselves.”

“Uhhhhh…” I was at a loss for words. “Sure. OK.”

Obviously, Michael was a very pragmatic business man and he made sure not to waste a single minute of his time. “How much can you do this for?”

Ben and I quickly looked at each other caught in mid-panic. “What are we talking about? Like just a two-pager with warnings or a complete deep dive into the product?”

“A one-pager with red flags is all.”

“$2000” I quickly threw back at him without consulting Ben.

“OK. We can provide the first startup at the beginning of next month,” he said as he got up, picking up the folder he came in the room with. “Kim, take care of the paperwork, will ya? Thanks.” He turned to look at Ben and me. “Nice doing business with you.”

And with that he exited the door more quickly than he had come in. Terry got up, shook our hands rapidly, and made sure to catch up with Michael who was already making his way along the corridor.

“I’ll arrange the paperwork and send you a copy to review and sign,” Kim said as she also got up. I was completely stunned by what had just happened and was slow in understanding that Kim was inviting us to get up and leave.

We got back to the office in a little over 30 minutes without speaking a word, still under the effect of the meeting with Michael, Terry, and Kim. I sat down on our reading chair while Ben took out the bottle of whiskey from our secret location. It was an expensive bottle we had received upon opening the office and that we only took out on very special occasions, and this was obviously a very special one.

“What the hell just happened?” I asked Ben, totally dumbfounded as he handed me a glass with a few cubes of ice in it.

He looked at me, looking as clueless as I, while he poured the whiskey into the glass. He sat down after serving himself a glass. We stayed motionless, without words, staring at the Lacaille’s painting of young kids playing hockey in the snow.


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marc-andré langlais

Marc-André is an Agile coach at Epicoaching, member of Pyxis network. He helps build self-organizing teams who evolve in a stimulating and relational environment. Contact him to find out how he can contribute to the success of your teams.

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