After reading about some unicorn founders recently indulging in financial fraud, I was wondering, what prompts such highly accomplished people to do that?
One reason is that we have glorified unlimited greed. Today, it is not enough to have 10 crores or 100 crores – you need a billion – that too dollars, not rupees.
Lest I sound like I am preaching, let me say this – I like money just like any other person and nobody is totally free of greed.
But the whole startup-VC ecosystem has raised greed to unsustainable levels. The benchmark of success is that you have to be a unicorn. Anything less, and you are a nobody.
Furthermore, success is to be achieved at any cost – you can lie, misrepresent, bully your customers, or be a sleazeball. But as long as your valuation goes up nobody has any problem. The only condition is that you have to be a unicorn. That washes all your sins.
We have lost sense of what a billion dollars is – almost Rs 7,500 crores. You need that much money?? Hullo!
Pegging the success benchmark so high is like expecting every gym-goer to have a body like Schwarzenegger (in his heydays). If that is the only benchmark, people will be tempted to take steroids and cheat, especially if it is rewarded.
Now, it may seem like I am badmouthing success – I am not. I admire most of the unicorns. But I have three points of difference:
1. If you are running a business worth Rs 10 Cr, you are still successful. You do count and you don’t have to be a unicorn to matter. Nobody should look down on you.
2. It takes time. You don’t have to become a unicorn in 18 months.
3. You really win only if you play by the rules. Winning by cheating (e.g., financial fraud or sleazy tactics) is not really winning.
VCs will want 100x their capital – it is understandable. But not at the cost of integrity.
Please walk on the road and see the real people around you. You will soon realize that you don’t need a billion.