One Battle VC’s and Start-ups Have to Win to Survive!

Values Versus Value

It can be an exciting and exhilarating time. Imagine how it must feel to be a confident entrepreneur armed with your ambition and a venture backed war chest. Rules be damned, it’s time to change the world.

…and this is a good thing, until of course, it’s not.

For a fortunate minority, these entrepreneurs can succeed and go on to build wealth beyond their wildest dreams and disrupt entire industries. But it’s what happens next that threatens to unravel everything they worked so hard to achieve.

Their personal values (or lack thereof) could put their individual value and company’s value at risk.

A winner-take-all mentality, along with mistreatment and disrespect of people may serve the entrepreneur for the short term. It may even impress a few people or intimidate them into business submission but it catches up to all of them eventually. Just watch Silicon Valley and visit the Erlich Bachman chronicles. (Hilariously painful at times)

The clash of Values and Value is powerful, dominating and can destroy years of great work in a heartbeat.

Just ask former CEO leaders, Travis Kalenick of Uber and Dave McClure of 500 Startups. Their eventual demonstration of a total lack of emotional intelligence and empathy impeded their leadership and then destroyed it along with their perceived value. Not to mention the emotional damage on their victims.

Their own lack of personal values diminished their value (as CEOs) to their company. That’s why they were fired. Furthermore, it has put the company’s they built at risk. In addition to failing to define and model a positive healthy culture, Kalenick and McClure missed a very direct correlation:

Your values directly impact your value!

They did not understand that there is a direct relationship between how they treat others and their own value to the organizations they founded.

It’s the leaders and organizations’ set of values that dictate culture and how employees respond in the face of adversity. Core values are revealed in policies and behavior. An example might be an employee’s decision when they witness inappropriate behavior. Should they do the right thing and report inappropriate behavior? Or look the other way because the repercussions could hurt personal performance targets or opportunities? Embezzlement? Sexual harassment? Pick your poison; these are all choices guided by values and the impact of these decisions have a direct impact on both individual and organizational performance.

A Tip For VC’s, Advisors and Founders

Before taking that leap to invest, build or support, have a serious discussion with your founder about the core values that will define the company. Then ask a critical question: What is the VALUE of each of those CORE VALUES to the company? This discussion drives a direct correlation which was so obviously missing with Kalenick and McClure. Core values are not just tapestry for the break or boardroom. They are a blood brother/sister of value. This intimate relationship must be recognized and respected to help keep balance.

How leaders like Zuckerberg and Musk seemingly do it

Great tech leaders who were once described as brazen and reckless must eventually mature and realize being brilliant simply isn’t enough–you have to be a decent human being. It’s a maturation process that needs to evolve quickly. Having a close circle of trusted advisors that can be candid and hold the entrepreneur accountable for their value system is a good start.

Being transparent and having an open dialog with employees and customers is a byproduct of true authenticity. Taking time to understand each stakeholder group and helping them understand their value to the organization is a proven way to lead a great organization–and perhaps change the world in the process.

Al is the founder of Value Mapping™ and has been a passionate brand enthusiast and consultant for over two decades. Everything Al writes is designed to help others reach their potential and become wildly happy. Contact him directly via or check out


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