There is so much written everyday about the key skills for startups. We hear endlessly about product managers, engineers, growth hackers, ninjas and Swiss army knives. But we never hear about finance guys. So that we are clear, I am not talking about accounting. Accounting, in my view, is a statement of facts about what was done. Finance addresses today and the future. When will our cash run out? Is the cost of the new product development an investment that pays itself back or a cost that just needs to be done? How can we structure our deals with our suppliers to allow us more time, less burn or more support?
I have been lucky to have had a business partner for the last 14 years (longest relationship in my life) who has educated me and demonstrated the power of having a smart finance guy on the team. Kyle has rebuilt supplier relationships, structured funding that allowed startups access to the capital they need, and sorted out ways to keep startups running long after the money was supposed to run out. In short, he has been a key piece to almost every successful business I have worked with. While strategy can be viewed as a kite, finance is the tail of that kite. Not weighing it down, but ensuring that it can climb steadily towards the sky.
Startups often don’t see the need for a finance guy until someone wants to write them a big check. This is often too late. More startups should embrace the value of finance. It has an important role to play.