Pyramid of Happiness

[Apologies for the hiatus, there has been a lot going on which I will soon report on.]

Last evening, I was at a party thrown by a global accounting firm at Indigo in Mumbai, where I ran into a startup CEO who was somewhat rude to me, and that does not happen a lot in my business dealings with the rest of the world.   About the same time I met a couple of budding entrepreneurs who went out of their way to cozy up to the inebriated accountants, bankers and  investors present.  The experience reminded me of a pecking order that exists in the world of entrepreneurship that I have laid out in my very own “Pyramid of Happiness.”

[Inspiration: Way back in 1943,  Abe Maslow published a seminal paper to stack rank human wants in a pyramid he went on to call the "hierarchy of need." ]

Shyam’s Pyramid of Happiness in Entrepreneurship

I have lived in every segment of the pyramid and my generalized view of social dynamics at each level is as follows.

  • The struggling entrepreneur is seeking capital, and leverage of almost any kind.     S/he is prone to failure, frustration and rejection at the hands of everybody above.
  • The sell side is very “transactional” and will do whatever it takes to sell deals to the buy side.   One of the key services they provide is the vetting of the pool of struggling entrepreneurs who deserve to get funded.  Big egos begin appearing at this level but are a liability.
  • The buy side is forever chasing deals that the tip of the pyramid has to offer but meanwhile is responsive to what is being presented as an opportunity by the sell side.   As providers of capital they carry oversize egos and the asymmetry in relationships allows them to do so to some extent.
  • The successful entrepreneur is typically sitting on a realized  or unrealized amount of wealth which makes him/her king of the hill.  His/her affections are coveted by both, the buy side to sell them their capital, and the sell side since meaty fees are almost guaranteed here.  Successful entrepreneurs also frequently end up as Limited Partners (investors) in VC/PE funds which further reinforces the pecking order.   Swollen egos are rampant here as well but the best specimens at the tip of the pyramid display rare combinations of humility and humanity.

Interestingly, there is a lot of social mobility across the layers of the pyramid and every budding entrepreneur aspires to be at the top looking down at the rest of us.

To each of you out there, I wish you a rapid ascent!

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