It’s been a difficult time for startups as they try to regain their footing after underwhelming valuations pushed back their plans to go public or led to disappointing IPOs. Christine Park, new CFO of San Francisco-based fitness social media startup Strava, sees a trend that might be to blame for the troubles.
Park, who formerly served as COO at Goodwater Capital, a venture capital firm, told Business Insider the CFO role is changing alongside the growth strategy of businesses, and provides the example of her own “comprehensive, operations-focused role at Strava as what executives should expect of financial officers.”
Strava, still in its initial venture capital funding phase, has yet to turn a profit. Park is taking a measured approach, making profitability her primary goal this year. That is a very different approach than the “growth at all costs” mindset that she believes has caused many Silicon Valley companies, such as Uber, to falter at critical moments during expansion.
The “grow at all costs mentality is no longer viable for software startups hoping to become profitable,” Park told Business Insider. She went on to cite Peloton's lackluster IPO as an indication that public markets are hesitant to invest in companies that boast high private valuations while struggling to show they can turn a profit. Peloton, Business Insider mentions, is a Strava business partner.
"[Scaling a business is] more about the mentality of being efficient, and balancing that with continuing to hit growth metrics," Park said. In a tight labor market, startups may have difficulty recruiting “seasoned CFOs with multiple exits under their belt, but it's this narrow definition of who a CFO is and what’s in their purview that Park wants to undo,” Business Insider said.
Thanks to data analytics, CFOs have a bird’s eye view of their company’s place in the market, replete with all its intricacies and structural obstacles. “In the future, all CFO candidates will have to come to the table with an understanding for and interest in working with data to make the business succeed, instead of retroactively reporting key performance indicator metrics,” Park said. “Especially when you think about venture capital backed companies, [they need a CFO] who can be external-facing with a strong working knowledge of how to think about scaling finance and accounting for the long term.”
This kind of thinking can present a stark counterpoint to the methods of startups whose successes have come and gone quickly. Observing the disappointing IPO of Peloton and the delay in WeWork's IPO after it was valued far below what was expected, Park doubles down on her slow and steady business model: she has no plans to recommend Strava go public anytime soon, she told the Wall Street Journal.
Instead, Park and her team are focusing on raising its number of subscribers and fine-tuning the program quality without relying on additional investors.