Leda Writes for Fintech Futures: declaring time of death

Dr Leda Glyptis 11:FS Foundry CEO
5min read

Every Thursday, Leda Glyptis, 11:FS Chief of Staff creates #LedaWrites. This week she’s thinking about how fintechs can survive doing business with big banks.

A few months ago I went to a conference and bumped into the CEO of a start-up I like a lot. We had a catch up. It was so good to see her. And then she said, in passing, that she was still trudging along with my old bank that I had introduced her to, a few months before leaving for a new adventure.

Four years previously.

She was still at it. Still smiling. Still talking to them, trying to find an “in”. Taking the meetings. Following up. Taking the time. Giving them time.

You never know how long it takes, she said. Sometimes it’s fast. Sometimes it takes years.

Yes, I said. And sometimes it doesn’t happen.

As a start-up, exciting conversations are your lifeblood. The thing that validates the thing we work towards. The thing that gives hope for our future. But exciting conversations take time. Especially if you are having them with Banks. That need to socialise every new idea with, like, a million stakeholders. And their pets. And those meetings don’t happen in quick succession. They happen in the Bank’s Own Sweet Time, with weeks and months passing between conversations, because other things are more important, more urgent, more whatever.

And you wait. Or worse, you ping-pong between ten of those conversation marathons with a million people across ten different banks. You are busy. You prepare hard for those conversations. You do your bit. But it is uncertain. It is exhausting. You know it takes a long time. But how long is long?

Declaring time of death

When is an opportunity not worth pursuing any more?

Do you measure it in length of time? Quality of conversation? Movement against deliverables? There is a harshly ritualistic value in a doctor declaring time of death for a struggling patient. It is the moment when the team of physicians officially stops trying. To save. To resuscitate. All effort ceases.

But exciting conversations take time. Especially if you are having them with Banks.

Dramatic? You bet.

Start-ups are not great at declaring time of death on “prospects”. You have access into a big bank. You know it will take a long time. And it is taking a long time. So isn’t “grin and bear it” the only way to go?

No. Your time is limited, precious and you will never have more of it.

Time is one thing banks don’t value and the one thing your survival depends on: you run out of money, you run out of runway, you run out of time, you are dead in the water. So you have to be vigilant of time wasters.

Make sure each meeting commits to a thing to be done as a next step that moves you in the right direction (the thing you wanted before you went into the meeting).

Keep taking its pulse. Get the heart racing a bit. Small steps, big steps, as long as it is moving in the right direction. And for the avoidance of doubt, the right direction is your direction: where you need this to go.

But what lack of progress looks like doesn’t vary. So be vigilant. And don’t be afraid to declare time of death when it is true: it is not an admission of defeat. It’s permission to your team to invest their time elsewhere. It’s leadership. And if it feels like a hard call to make, that is because it is.


And vital.

Read the whole story at Fintech Futures.