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If The Shoe Fits: Founder Love Is Blind

Friday, April 14th, 2017

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here.

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mIn 1405 Chaucer enlightened us that “love is blind” and it’s been proven through both scientific and anecdotal evidence ever since.

In past centuries this referred to romantic partners and kids, but, as with most things, that, too, has changed in the Twenty-first Century.

Now researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have gone a step further.

(From the abstract) Here we tested the hypothesis that entrepreneurs’ emotional experience and brain responses toward their own firm resemble those of parents toward their own children.

Surprise, surprise — the results show that they are the same.

Anyone who has been around entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs, won’t be surprised.

In my experience the more life experience founders have the more open they are to hearing critism about their startup baby.

However, that statement comes with a caveat.

It’s not just age or experiences that makes the difference, but the kind of experience — specifically raising kids.

Travis Kalanick may be 40, but he hasn’t been responsible for the shaping of a successful human being.

Mark Zukerberg may be raising kids, but they aren’t old enough to know how they’ll turn out, let alone what they will do along the way.

Just as parents believe their kid wouldn’t bully/drink/drug/cheat/steal, founders notoriously won’t listen to criticism of their vision/business model/culture/management.

Some, not all — obviously — but the number seems to be growing

It will be interesting to see if young, data enamored entrepreneurs will embrace this research.

Those whose kids are in their teens or older don’t need data, they have, or are getting, experience.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: Who to Interview

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonphillips/3540693888/

I try to be polite, but sometimes it’s difficult.

Sometimes I just need to shut up in order to avoid telling my host that I think he is the stupidest person I’ve been around lately.

“Clay” was talking to a group of new entrepreneurs; going on at length about how brilliant he is at hiring talent for his company.

He said that knew when he should interview someone just by hearing a few basic facts, like education and general experience; no need for detailed specifics.

When he finally stopped bragging and patting himself on the back just one guy had the temerity to disagree, saying that wasn’t enough information to make such company success-critical decisions.

Clay turned and asked me to do four thumbnail sketches of candidates I knew and he would prove it was enough.

Here are the four profiles I provided.

  1. BSBA, some programming in college; started in customer service and worked his way up through the executive ranks.
  2. Some college; 12 years of programming and management experience.
  3. Harvard MBA w/ 25 years progressively more responsible positions in consulting, sales and management.
  4. MIT BS; more than 40 years programming experience in a broad array of technologies. Strong entrepreneurial bent; excellent manager.

Clay laughed and said he wasn’t surprised I included mostly “oldies,” since I was one of them.

He went on to say that he would pass on 1,3 and 4, because they probably wouldn’t fit into the fast pace of a startup. The second was a possibility, although he didn’t sound particularly aggressive.

Poor Clay, his investors won’t be pleased; he just passed on

  1. Marc Benioff (52)
  2. Sheryl Sandberg (47), and
  3. Ray Kurzweil (68)

He did think number 2 was a possibility, although not a strong one.

But Mark Zukerberg (32) probably wouldn’t fit in.

Flickr image credit: Jon Phillips

If The Shoe Fits: Nasty Girl’s Sophia Amoruso

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThis post is dedicated to all the under-30 founders with the unshakable belief that they have the organizational chops to lead their company through every growth level, unlike Larry Page, Mark Zukerberg and Nasty Girl founder Sophia Amoruso,

A few days ago Amoruso told her 255 employees that she was stepping down from her CEO role to focus on creative and brand marketing and President Sheree Waterson assuming the CEO role and focus on operations.

Amoruso founded Nasty Girl in 2006 and built it to its current $100+M, but believes it needs different skills to reach the next level.

“What got you here can’t get you there.”

According to investor Index Ventures’ Danny Rimer it definitely was Amoruso’s idea.

“It shows a level of maturity that she knows what she can do well and what others can do better than her.”

Amoruso is confident enough to act on that knowledge.

True leaders know when to step aside and focus on what they do best.

Image credit: HikingArtist

Entrepreneurs: The Value Of Old People

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

Adaptive Insights

Who does a company, with explosive growth, founded and built by old folks in their forties and fifties all with extensive executive management experience, turn to when moving to the next level?

The company hasn’t disclosed exact revenue figures, but it says it grew new annual recurring revenue by more than 50% in 2014, and claims more than 2,500 companies, including Coca Cola, Toyota, and AAA use its software. It’s raised $100 million in funding from investors like Salesforce, Norwest Venture Partners, and Bessemer Venture Partners. 

The company is Adaptive Insights and the guy is Tom Bogan, an even older guy, with even more experience.

A guy who is (gasp) 63 years old.

Gasp, because according to a recent study, old people shouldn’t even go out in public.

When a large sample of Facebook groups created by 20- to 29-year-olds was examined by a team based at the Yale School of Public Health, three-quarters of the groups were found to denigrate old people. More than a third advocated banning old people from public activities like shopping.

Of course, one assumes that the ‘old people’ to which they refer aren’t their relatives.

(I’d like to hear them on the subject 10, 20, 30 and 40 years from now.)

There is enormous value in having ‘been there/done that’ through multiple economic cycles, cultural change, globalization and technology evolution/revolution.

But to take advantage of it you need to be comfortable enough in your own skin to admit you need to learn — like Mark Zukerberg and Larry Page.

Image credit: Adaptive Insights

85 Individuals vs. 3.5 Billion People

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

http://www.flickr.com/photos/playerx/6046898628/

There’s been a social media firestorm since Tom Perkins had his say in defense of the so-called 1%.

I asked a retired serial entrepreneur who was funded by KPCB decades ago when the names on the door were actually working partners what he thought.

Tom was reasonably liberal when he was running KP. Many VC’s who had made tons of dough became very conservative as they aged, supporting right wing Republican and Libertarian causes. They seemed to regard it as an insult that the government was trying to take even a tiny smidgeon of their billions in taxes.

I get why Perkins comments incited so much noise, both sincere and politically correct, but the real story a few days earlier didn’t get the play it deserved.

Here’s the headline that should have gotten more attention.

World’s richest 85 people have as much as bottom half the population

This means the world’s poorest 3,550,000,000 (3.55 billion) people must live on what the richest 85 possess.

The statistics are from non-profit Oxfam and are neither political nor partisan—they just are.

Nor are they an indictment of the US, since they are global.

In line with the mantra of “think globally, act locally” what can you do to help change this?

KG Charles-Harris says,

“It’s really action in the little ways that makes a difference.  Not everyone has to do big things, but small things are possible every day with little cost.”

Here are some ideas,

  1. Choose your role models more carefully; Richard Branson, Bill Gates and, more recently Mark Zukerberg are all in the 85%, but they model their lives very differently from Larry Ellison or the Koch Brothers.
  2. Commit to giving one week’s worth of what you normally spend on coffee to a cause you care about.
  3. Do the same with the time you save.

I’ll end by borrowing a line from a 1971 Alka-Seltzer® ad, “Try it, you’ll like it.”

Flickr image credit: playerx

 Entrepreneurs: You and Henry Ford

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Henry_ford_1919When you think about great entrepreneurs who comes to mind?

Not Steve Jobs if you limit entrepreneurs to those who invent something brand new; he didn’t invent technology; he took what was there, infused it with brilliant design and then convinced us we couldn’t live without it.

Bill Gates? Larry Page and Sergey Brin? Larry Ellison? Mark Zukerberg?

But could you build a powerful company culture off just their quotes 100 years from now?

Actually, will entrepreneurs even remember them in the Twenty-second Century?

But a century later you can do it off of Henry Ford quotes and it would be not only sustainable, but socially responsible.

Consider this small sample

  • There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible. Ford practiced what he preached, too.
  • Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right. This may be true for all of us, but it is especially true for entrepreneurs.
  • Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success. Overseeing each of these stages is a perfect description of a founder’s primary responsibility.
  • Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal. This isn’t to say that you should be blind to them, but keeping your focus on the goal allows you to overcome them by not losing track of what’s really important.
  • A business absolutely devoted to service will have only one worry about profits. They will be embarrassingly large. Tony Hsieh has proved this in spades, as has Jeff Bezos. The difference is that Hsieh also practices the first principle above; while Bezos has ignored it.
  • Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. The first half of the sentence has been proven over and over, but it is the second half that determines whether the effort is successful.

Parts of Ford make a great role model, while other parts should be treated as poison, which, in the long-run, merely proves Ford mortal.

(Find more Ford quotes here.)

Image credit: Wikipedia

Entrepreneurs: Valley Unreality

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

After the 2010 debut of the film “The Social Network,” which made Mark Zuckerberg and his band of Facebook friends famous: the public became enthralled with technology geeks much as it was with movie stars.

Two years before The Social Network Jesse Draper, great granddaughter of California’s first venture capitalist, created and hosts the Silicon Valley Internet talk show “The Valley Girl Show” where entrepreneurs do stupid stuff in the name of “taking themselves less seriously.”

Considering the media focus on entrepreneurs can a reality show be far behind?

No, but don’t look for substance over form.

Among those is Randi Zuckerberg, Mark’s colorful sister who left Facebook last summer and recently signed on to be an executive producer of a Bravo reality show that will chronicle the hard-partying life of 20-something entrepreneurs.

Many in the Valley aren’t enamored with the idea and with good reason.

Watching anyone think and work on a computer is boring, but creative editing should effectively eliminate the thought, work and effort leaving only the stuff that will cause viewers to shake their heads and adequately feed the media hype machine.

It’s also every inaccurate, since most successful entrepreneurs are not twenty-somethings.

Vivek Wadhwa’s, a Duke University researcher who worked with the Kauffman Foundation, survey of over 500 startups operating in “high-growth industries” showed that the average founder of a successful company launched his or her venture at the surprisingly high age of 40. The study also found that people over 55 are almost twice as likely to launch high-growth startups than those aged 20 to 34.

And gray entrepreneurs outpacing green ones isn’t an isolated trend that’s only occurred in the past few years. “In every single year from 1996 to 2007, Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 had a higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than those aged 20-34,” says Dane Stangler, a research manager at Kauffman.

Of course, young, good looking, single, articulate folks in their twenties who can talk a great story about their world-changing app over drinks at a cool bar are better TV material than those who labor and then go home to spouse, family and mortgage.

My guess is the show will offer about as much reality as does the Real Housewives franchise.

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Image credit: Bravo TV

Quotable Quotes: About Entrepreneurs

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

3869782328_9392af97ce_mEverywhere you turn these days you see ‘entrepreneurs’, whether it’s the kid on the corner with a lemonade stand, the owner of the new cupcake shop or Mark Zuckerberg—they are all entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs aren’t a new phenomenon, some five centuries ago Niccolo Machiavelli offered a definition that still holds true, “Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.”

Victoria Claflin Woodhull put it a bit differently, “Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice with their money or reputations on the line in support of an idea or enterprise.”

Roy Ash offers a shorter, pithier description, “An entrepreneur tends to bite off a little more than he can chew hoping he’ll quickly learn how to chew it.”

Ted Turner, a successful entrepreneur himself, offers a slightly cynical take on the current love affair with entrepreneurs, “My son is now an “entrepreneur.” That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.”

Pete du Pont points out something of which many people aren’t aware, i.e., the entrepreneurial path is rarely straight line, “That’s the way it is with entrepreneurial people. You try one thing, it doesn’t work, you try another.”

Nolan Bushnell doesn’t mince words in stating the most important entrepreneurial trait, “The critical ingredient is getting off your butt and doing something. It’s as simple as that. A lot of people have ideas, but there are few who decide to do something about them now. Not tomorrow. Not next week. But today. The true entrepreneur is a doer, not a dreamer.”

Most people enjoy stories about accidental entrepreneurs, but few realize that Richard Branson is one of them, “I wanted to be an editor or a journalist, I wasn’t really interested in being an entrepreneur, but I soon found I had to become an entrepreneur in order to keep my magazine going.”

That’s all for today; be sure to join me tomorrow to hear about a universal truth that might surprise you.

Image credit:Amber Strocel

This is leadership? Yuk!

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Post from Leadership Turn Image credit: hellolapomme

harvard.jpgYesterday’s NYT Bits wondered who is the smarter of two Harvard dropouts, Bill Gates of Microsoft or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Neither bothered attending class, but Gates caught up “in a single intense burst during a separate reading period at the end of the term.”

Zuckerberg was to busy with Facebook to even do that. “So in an inspired last-minute save, he built a Web site with all of the important paintings and room for annotation. He then sent an e-mail to the students taking the class offering it up as a community resource. In a half an hour, the perfect study guide had self-assembled on the Web.”

Sorry, what Zuckerberg may not have been de facto cheating, but I certainly wouldn’t term it ethical. At lease Gates did the reading himself.

These two men, and other’s like them, are the role models for today’s students. I know, most people think it’s no big deal and a lot of them are very impressed.

I’m not.

No matter how successful they’ve become, they’re attitudes seem to belittle school, essentially saying that it’s OK to not do the schoolwork and pass in any manner you can.

Great examples to set for our future business leaders.

As to the media hype regarding entrepreneurs who start businesses in their dorm rooms, sure, there are a few that make it big. But the great majority of companies are started by seasoned business people and the most successful have advanced degrees.

Am I just a dinosaur, out of touch with acceptable behavior? What do you think?

Your comments—priceless

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