Could Robert De Niro Help Your Startup? Expert Talent May Be Just What Your Company Needs


It’s a plot line made for the big screen: brash, successful startup launches a new internship program – for seniors. One is assigned to the young CEO, and there are plenty of chuckles as the seasoned professional – played by Robert De Niro – shows he hasn’t lost his wit or ingenuity. Or his business smarts. Predictably, the young CEO (Anne Hathaway) benefits from his sage advice.

Sure, it’s a movie, and a reasonably successful one. But it could just as easily be real life.

Lack of experience is often listed as a reason that so many startups fail – and 90% of them do fail. In younger startups, more than half of employees are under 45 on average, and more than half of this group are 34 or younger.

As a result, success is significantly harder for these startups to achieve. Younger founders often find it more difficult to raise capital. They may unwittingly make the wrong decisions about spending, growth and hiring. And their inexperience prevents them from recognizing warning signs early – when they still have time to change course.

But a startup’s prospects change if an experienced executive comes on board. This is not a new idea, of course. Many of the world’s most successful companies accelerated growth after their young founders hired CEOs – specifically for their business expertise.

But today’s startups can benefit from a new option: the thousands of former executives and management consultants who are available for projects and interim assignments. This approach offers several advantages.

  • These professionals have decades of experience across many industries and job functions.
  • They’ve dealt with virtually any kind of business challenge – from creating new markets and distribution channels to structuring strategic partnerships and restructuring management teams.
  • Talent on demand can help startups meet current or future needs. Executives can cover temporary leadership gaps or be hired for specific projects.
  • Lean startups will reap great value by gaining expert help at a lower cost than a permanent hire.
  • When threats or opportunities emerge, a consultant with relevant experience can deployed rapidly – with no training required.

But perhaps the biggest advantage is the ability to tap exactly the type of business expertise you need, when you need it. You can use talent on demand to close knowledge gaps in your riskiest areas.

For example, according to CB Insights, the top reasons founders give for why their startups failed include: building products no one wants; running out of cash; having the wrong team in place; competition; and pricing.

Yet each of these issues could be resolved by engaging the right expert. For example, an experienced marketing executive could help a startup develop a strategy for product, pricing and promotion that’s grounded in reality. Likewise, a former management consultant could recommend an organizational structure that propels rather than impedes growth.

This kind of flexibility and expertise at an affordable cost makes talent on demand a powerful option for founders.

So, yes, it’s quite possible that Robert De Niro could help your startup – although talent on demand is more likely to be available. For a lean startup on the verge of taking off, engaging expert talent could be a smart move.


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