Ca(sh)che To Burn

One of the lesser great things about being an entrepreneur (aka downright crappy) is that you live in a space where “new“ is one of the world’s most overused adjectives.  Hint for those entrepreneurs of the Deutsch variety, perhaps alternating with a sprinkling of vocabulary from your Muttersprache might be a good thing for some flavour.

NEU.

Not to be confused with ingénues, or gnues, or even nEUWTS of the green, Gingrich or any other variety.

But that said, given the obsession with “neu” in this oft-oxygen deprived sector of the world, we can’t help but note with a bit of a cynical perspective, that while entrepreneurial endeavours are gaining in respect if not hipness here in the euro zone, those of us in this space might do well to note that we might have cache now, but let’s not burn it.  Or cash for that matter (it gets confusing in German if not the IT world where you add an E on the end of everything to make it plural plus Deutsch…well there it is obviously, combines all those letters on a regular basis) and that is where we start to get to the punchline.

It was noted in some industry blogs recently that a German-American startup that’s gotten alot of internet inches lately for its hipness if not cache (and cash for that matter) had just laid off about 100 workers so it might LOOK like it is operating in the black to its investors.  And that after a massive spike in usage over the past 18 months.  Not quite as Bauhaus as it proclaimed to be perhaps?

Now, we all can agree that prudence is a good thing, but if your hiring and firing proclivities are widely reported all over the planet (if not planes and we will get there in a minute) as being this, um OBVIOUS if not mercurial, maybe they and other entrepreneurs like us should seriously think about a slightly different fiscal if not pr strategy.

To put this obvious obsurdity in the right perspective, it’s like saying that GM had decided to lay off all its workers (and suspend carmaking) to show that it had overcome its problems and be a “profitable” car maker.

Wait, that happened didn’t it?

OMG, the “old” economy and the “new” one seem to be one big blur.  And that is the issue du jour.

Of course retooling the line and ditching the Hummer, and making American cars a bit smaller and more fuel efficient, among other things, (aka MORE GERMAN we can’t help but note) also went into that make over in Michigan.  But carmaking ain’t not only not beanbag, but it’s a little different than say, well, the company in the hot seat today that shall remain nameless, but savvy readers will suss who I am discussing if you hang in there.

The point is I had to stifle a laugh at the news that this hot euro-entrepreneur type had the cojones to appear in the press one day thinking nothing of flashing extra cach(e) around for what sounded like an airborn ugly American moment, and the next announcing with a straight face that his bottom line if not all that frothy new ‘user base’ looks suspiciously like a ponzi scheme if not falsely inflated.

OOOPSIE.  Did I give too many hints?

For those of us with battle scars from the dot com bonanza of the early naughts where bottom lines seemed to be dissed as easily as basic common sense (with the predictable demise of most of them…Pets Dot Com anyone??) this kind of activity, particularly in Germany, a country long known for creative tax shelters and debt instruments of all kinds, is not the greatest PR on the planet and risks the real work and reputations of those who want to be taken seriously.  If not a real opportunity to help rejuice the sometimes great German economic engine back into hyperspeed or at least an on ramp to the global economic Autobahn.

Entrepreneurial elbow grease and inspiration are admirable.

Financial if not usage engineering at all at this point is seriously suspect when founders feel they can waive wads of cash/cashe/cache around to get primo seats on international airlines, particularly using dubious excuses, and then fire all their workers the next day TO LOOK LIKE they made a profit.

Workers whose work might well have been to have been the company’s best customers?

Is it me, or does something smell a bit fishy in Danemark?

How about something REALLY novel???  AKA keeping your workers (or at least a few more of them) on payroll AND making a profit?  Plus of course, a product and user base not on payroll, but maybe that is asking a BIT too much.  We are being very catty now, but well, come on.  The juxtaposition was a bit breath taking if not oxygen depriving.

Maybe that sounds too stodgily “old economy” if not logical, but that is really the idea behind all of the froth.  Not to mention what Peter Drucker really had in mind when talking about knowledge workers in the information economy (they read for one thing).  And even in the old economy (thank you Mr. Ford since we are making car analogies) a few employees are always good to keep around as ones best customers.

Ultimately, the point is it is one thing to shift the global labor pool into contingent status for the longevity of their working lives.  It is another to not pay the global work force much, at all or for very much of it and expect to have a product (or a profit line) that passes the laugh test.  Or a customer base for that matter that isn’t gone through with a looking glass by all suspicious investors down the line (that is what I would do).

If workers are, to quote Drucker again, the most important asset of any company, then our nameless Euro flyboys in the hotseat today should be examined thusly in boardrooms if not by nascent investors and copycat entrepreneurs.

Ditch your employees so obviously and at such a critical moment too often, and you might show a (temporary) if (false) profit if not hugely inflated (temporary and very NEU massive increase in a user base).   We understand the need to keep a burn rate low but this was not exactly how the story and its predecessor were reported.

It appears rather that people’s careers are being chucked out the window at cruise altitude and speed for a few choice seats in business class after all those temps had spent their short time with the company boosting site usage.  Oops…did we say that too?

Which leads to the obvious question at the end of it all.

What exactly then is there to invest in?

Or what will be around come five years from now other than a “serial” entrepreneur who has less than drawing room etiquette at 30,000 feet?  And perhaps should invest his high flying cash/cache in a few more employees or perhaps a better PR company.

Or perhaps at least some remote desktop shareware to work with his partner across the aisle when primo seat swapping is more than $100 a pop.

Or maybe that should just be recycled from the nascent now ex employees now putting (digital) placards up for a new/neu shot at the entrepreneurial bug at another new/NEU economy Company with a bit more cash if not quite so much cache to burn.

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