Last month, Anu Atluru predicted the emergence of an entrepreneur-startup archetype cleverly designated “the Silicon Valley small business,” or SV-SB. Atluru observes that, like small businesses, these companies stay lean and often eschew traditional venture capital, but have the growth ambitions and founder mentalities of Silicon Valley startups.
Atluru remarks that decreasing technology costs/complexity and democratized go-to-market channels have enabled businesses to scale cheaply and efficiently. In the same way that AWS (and a slew of others) equipped engineers with a low-cost tech stack to start companies, social platforms empower storytellers/creators to build businesses with an embedded customer acquisition channel. Additionally, she credits the big tech and capital market pullback, which has caused a decrease in venture funding, mass layoffs, and less attractive compensation, with helping to push would-be entrepreneurs to start SV-SBs.
We believe these same factors have not only enabled the rise of SV-SBs and creator-led businesses, but also ushered in the multihyphenate entrepreneur - one of the models Slow underwrites.
Multihyphenate entrepreneurs often begin as generalists with wide-ranging skills across product, finance, BD, investing, or operating. They are naturally drawn to the earliest stages of building, but are sitting at mid- to late-stage companies and are increasingly disillusioned with their roles. Instead of tackling the broad, complex challenges they get excited by, they are constrained to problems that feel unimportant and limiting. Inevitably, they are forced to specialize in a functional role, and often with the expectation of more management/politics vs. building. They feel their compensation is incommensurate with their effort, and they are frustrated by the market conditions decreasing the value of their equity. As a result, a subset decide to pursue more stimulating endeavors. In many cases, these side projects become a full-time focus, effectively housed in a personal incubator or ‘holding company.’
The throughline is clear: there is an emerging class of people working, for themselves, on multiple ideas or pursuing different types of income generation (e.g., writing, investing, building, consulting). Atluru submits, “You might see more solopreneurs and studios (and LLCs instead of C-corps). They value autonomy and flexibility. They envision a range of potentially good outcomes — not binary, all-or-nothing scenarios.”
While some have the savings to pursue this path, many highly talented entrepreneurs don’t. Capital invested at a ‘holding company’ level can enable skilled entrepreneurs to make progress on several projects without a traditional seed round, resulting in greater ownership of their business(es) over time. Since investment is not bound to a particular idea, they are free to focus on the opportunity with the most outsized potential instead of doubling down on a concept that clearly isn’t working, just because there are investors/shareholders at the table.
There are, of course, downsides; the biggest and most obvious are focus and stick-to-itiveness. There is power in chasing a singular goal and not abandoning an idea the moment you lose traction. That said, if the macro conditions continue to buoy to the multihyphenate entrepreneur, there’s a compelling opportunity for the holding company investor to provide them with the flexible seed capital they need to flourish.
An exploration into individual- and creator-first companies: how they are built, underwritten, and financed. From the Slow Ventures Team, Sam Lessin, Megan Lightcap, and Caroline Cline.