Start-ups must focus on innovation even when their founders leave

'Virgin without Branson and Carphone Warehouse without Dunstone are hard to imagine'
'Virgin without Branson and Carphone Warehouse without Dunstone are hard to imagine'

LONDON - What happens when the founders of tech start-ups take a back seat, asks Nancy Cruickshank, executive director for digital development at Telegraph Media Group and Revolution columnist.

'I want to be an entrepreneur when I grow up.' It's a common goal for many today, and it's not limited to Silicon Valley. Founding a business is exciting and, sometimes, enormously lucrative. But what happens when the founders of these companies leave?

In June, MySpace co-founder and chief executive Chris de Wolfe announced his imminent departure, while's founding trio, Martin Stiksel, Felix Miller and Richard Jones, stepped away from the business. These guys all made millions of dollars from selling their companies to, respectively, News Corporation and CBS, which now need to deliver ROI while maintaining the vision and drive that is essential to the rapid growth of these businesses.

The question is: can these more corporate owners be consistently innovative, staying ahead of the curve of tech trends and product ideas? Do they have the focus, passion, vision and the drive to succeed, often against the odds?

The latter are assets commonly associated with tech entrepreneurs. Work and play slip seamlessly into one another and they create much-needed 'buzz' for their enterprises. But can they also bring rigorous business process to the fore? Are they capable of ensuring sustained revenue growth and profitability? Sometimes, yes, but in most cases, no. When founders leave, there are opportunities for their businesses to move on, develop and thrive, but this is not without significant risk. As CBS's interactive chief, Quincy Smith, says: "It's always a bummer when founders depart."

Is it different when the entrepreneur is more traditional? Virgin without Branson and the Carphone Warehouse without Dunstone are hard to imagine, but what these businesses have on their side are successful processes and succession plans that have been formed over time. That's not to say that these businesses have cast innovation aside, but they are simply more stable and reliant on business rhythm than most tech start-ups.

So, when the founders leave, how can the new owners retain the most desired entrepreneurial traits while delivering ROI? It's got to be about fostering entrepreneurial cultures and approaches within established businesses so that they are well-equipped to innovate and successfully draw acquisitional opportunities into their midst.

Nancy Cruickshank is executive director for digital development at Telegraph Media Group.


Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus
Brand Republic Jobs

subscribe now


Oasis #springasmile digital campaign gets people doing good deeds
Coca-Cola: 'Don't approach bloggers with a fait accompli'
Tesco CMO Matt Atkinson: 'It is so important not to stereotype mothers'
McDonald's gives Ronald a new look ahead of global 'Fun times' social media push
In pictures: BrewDog opens first craft beer shop BottleDog for 'beer aficionados'
Facebook ad revenue leaps $1bn as it invests in targeting
Malteser or Maltesers? Mars takes Hershey trademark dispute to court
Apple Q2 profits top $10bn as iPhone sales soar
Lynx tells men not to leave love to fate
HBO captures awkwardness of watching sex scenes with parents
Primark to open first US stores with Boston chosen as flagship location
Marketing spend on the up but a reality check is needed before celebrating
Top 10 ads of the week: Jackpotjoy and BT Broadband fend off Kevin Bacon
Lidl beats Tesco to 10m Facebook fans
Center Parcs ad banned for encouraging parents to take kids out of school
Coca-Cola, Cadbury and Amazon named top brands for targeting youth market
Leaked document shows Nokia to be rebranded as Microsoft Mobile
Nike lays-off hardware staff in move that casts doubt on future of FuelBand
Greenpeace says save the bees or humans will die
What brands need to know about changes to VAT and online downloads in 2015
Jimmy Savile victims urged to claim compensation in new ad campaign
UKIP launches biggest  ad campaign and stirs up 'racist' accusations
Apple boss Tim Cook provides voiceover on ad touting firm's renewed green commitments
John Lewis walks consumers through its history to celebrate 150 years of business
Waitrose boosts content strategy with 'Weekend Kitchen with Waitrose' C4 tie-up
Hottest virals: Cute puppies star in Pedigree ad, plus Idris Elba and Fruyo
Amnesty International burns candles to illuminate new hope
Tom of Finland's 'homoerotic' drawings made into stamps
Toyota achieves the impossible by calming angry Roman drivers
YouTube reveals user habits to appeal to 'older' marketers