32 posts categorized "entrepreneurship"
Some people have reported getting a different video on mobile browswers. If you are not seeing an interview with Jerry, click this link
One of the guys who taught me the venture capital business used to say "success is in inverse proportion to the number of VCs you have on your board." He was right. For a few reasons. First of all, most VCs get on your board by virtue of financing rounds you do. If you do a lot of financing rounds, you will collect enough VCs on your board to field a basketball team. And that sucks. And it means you had to raise too much money too. All of which are bad things.
But there is another reason and it became perfectly clear to me on Tuesday when I had back to back board meetings.
The first meeting was almost a celebration. The company had put together a phenomenal year in 2012 and there wasn't much to be concerned about. But the best question asked of management in the entire meeting was asked by an independent director who happens to be a CEO of a company that is five times bigger than our portfolio company. In the midst of the "celebration" he brought everyone back to reality and got folks to think about what we could be doing better. It was a great board moment.
The second meeting was even more interesting. The CEO was seeking advice on some important strategic questions. And this board has two investors and three very experienced operating executives on it. And one of the investors (not me) has deep operating experience. So you had essentially four very experienced operating executives plus me giving the CEO advice. It was a great meeting. I walked out thinking "that is the way a board should be constructed."
If I could construct the perfect Board for the companies I am invested in, it would be the CEO, me, and three CEOs who have built and/or run one or more tech companies of scale. If you have a very experienced VC on your board, you really don't need more of them. But you can never have enough peers on your board who have been where you are before. That is invaluable.
Today is the Women Entrepreneurs Festival at NYU. Many of you know that the Gotham Gal is the co-founder of this event with Nancy Hechinger who is on the faculty at NYU ITP.The live stream of the festival is here.
This is the third year this event has been put on and I attended the first two and I will be there today.
This event celebrates and educates women entrepreneurs. The conventional wisdom has it that there aren't many women entrepreneurs but the truth is they are all over the place.
The Gotham Gal has been writing a post every Monday featuring a women entrepreneur for a few years now and she never runs out of women to feature.
Having observed the Gotham Gal build this festival, blog about women entrepreneurs, and invest in them over the past few years I have come to believe that we will see a lot more women starting companies in the coming years. And I think we will also see more women starting tech companies, getting venture funded, and having movies made about them when they are hugely successful. Its about time.
Holger Luedorf has been doing business development in the web/tech/mobile sectors for almost 15 years. He currently leads Business Development (BD) for our portfolio company foursquare. Holger has contributed a guest post with a bunch of great advice for startups that are just getting around to BD and what they should do and what they should not do. His views and opinions are his own and not those of foursquare.
I was watching this Charlie Rose interview with Lena Dunham and I was struck by this line:
it’s really intense to be thrust into a managerial position before my time
I have seen this a lot in my business and its always your talent for making things that puts you in this spot. And one of the big challenges is that the "managerial position" (as Lena calls it) is often in conflict with the talent for making things that got your there in the first place.
I am not saying that folks who are talented at making things aren't talented at managing people. I have come to believe that most people can be talented at managing people if they want to be. What I am saying is the time and energy and passion for making things can be all consuming and managing people can also be all consuming. Doing both well is really hard.
When we had our USV CEO summit last fall, we kicked it off by asking each founder/CEO to open with the one thing they had learned the hard way during the year. The recurring theme was that they had to let the people they hired do the work even though they wanted to jump in and do it themselves. And as they are all going around the room telling this story over and over, I am thinking "and I want you to jump in and do the work too". Because these are the people who made the thing that got us to invest, the thing that we fell in love with, the thing we believe is big enough to build a business around.
One of my favorite stories is about an entrepreneur I visited in his office away from the office. That he had one is in and of itself is telling. He was playing his acoustic guitar and singing when I arrived and I said "wow. I didn't realize you were such a talented musician". He said, "I am an artist and the most impactful art that my generation can make is websites but I see myself first and foremost as an artist." And I thought, "well it is a shame that you can't hang a website on a wall and move on to the next one."
There are a number of ways to handle this conflict that arises between the maker in you and the manager in you.
Many artists stick to making and hire a manager to focus on their business. Artists that build websites and mobile apps can do that too. In a perfect world, the manager and the maker become partners and operate the enterprise as a duo connected at the hip. The Gotham Gal and I once watched a movie about Valentino and his partner Giancarlo Giammetti and I was struck at how well defined their two roles were in their business endeavors.
You can devote yourself totally and completely to the manager role and hire people to lead the making effort. That is what many of the founder and CEOs in our portfolio have chosen to do, at least in theory. As our CEO Summit discussion pointed out, that approach is riddled with tension and conflict because makers want to make at their core and being a hired maker working for a founder/CEO maker isn't a party. It can work but it will never work perfectly.
The third way is to keep your hands in both efforts. To be both the maker and the manager. The challenge with that approach is you have two full time jobs and I have not seen many who can do both as well as they need to be done. Some choose to hire leaders below them to lead the making and managing teams but then keep ultimate responsibility for both. That can work, but defining when you plan to step in and make the calls and when you won't is tricky.
I cannot and will not recommend one of these approaches over the other. Each founder/CEO has to figure out what will work best for him or her and then build the team around them appropriately. As always, the hires are critical. Some hired leaders can deal with a founder who drops in on the decision making process better than others. If you are the meddling kind, you should find someone who can handle meddling well. But understand that nobody handles meddling exceptionally well. Pick your battles carefully.
What I can recommend is that you stare at the elephant in the room, name it, and deal with it. The maker/manager conflict sits at the heart of many of the development challenges that founder/CEOs deal with as they scale their companies and scale themselves. Conquering it is possibly your greatest opportunity and will lead to your biggest success.
Today, from 10am to 4:30pm eastern, USV will be hosting an event called Hacking Society. This is one of our "sessions events" that we do from time to time.
Hacking Society brings together a small group of thinkers and doers to discuss how networks are transforming our economy and society, and what this means for the future of innovation, competition, regulation and policy advocacy. A list of the attendees is here.
Over the course of the day, we will:
We will record the event and make the audio available live here. We will also be livetweeting the event and invite everyone to join us at #hacksociety. We will make the audio and video recordings available on the web under a Creative Commons Attribution License (their most liberal license).
The format of a USV sessions event is a small group of folks (less than 40) around a big table talking with each other (not at each other) about a big issue that we are trying to wrap our heads around. Because the group is designed to be small, we cannot invite everyone to attend. But we hope that the stream, the tweetstream, and the recordings will allow others to participate in this event, and more importantly take the themes we are exploring forward with their own thoughts and actions. That's why we are publishing the recordings of the event under a creative commons license.
I hope you can listen in, follow the event on twitter, and engage with us on these important issues.
It's not surprising that the Gotham Gal is an investor in littleBits. When you meet Ayah Bdeir, you cannot help get excited and inspired by her vision. I've blogged about littleBits before here at AVC, but I'm doing it again because I just watched Ayah's TED talk and I am compelled to share it with all of you. It's short, just five minutes. So check it out.
It's Valentines Day. Time to step back from working 24/7 and make sure your loved ones are still in love with you. That's a joke, but there's some truth in there too.
I spent some time with a founder/CEO yesterday who is doing a remarkable job building a really important company that is growing as fast as any company I've worked with. We talked about the sacrifices an entrepreneur makes and its toll. He said that his wife and kids are hugely supportive but not particularly engaged in his work. I think that's pretty typical of what I see out there.
But just because your spouse (wife or husband) and your kids are not that engaged in your startup doesn't mean that they aren't also making a huge investment in it. They see less of you than they would like and when they are with you, its likely that you are at least somewhat distracted by your current obsession. I don't start companies but I'm guilty of this behavior too. I can only imagine what it is like when you are "all in" on one thing and one thing only.
There are benefits a family gets from a parent who is an entrepreneur other than the wealth that he or she may be accumulating. They also get a role model. A parent who is doing what they love, who is creating value, employing people, making a difference in the world. All of that is very good.
But it is only good if you make the time to have a meaningful relationship with your spouse and your kids. This work life balance is super hard to achieve. I have struggled with it since my kids were young. I think I've done an OK job and have The Gotham Gal to thank for always letting me know when the balance is off.
On this day when love is front and central, I encourage all of you to do what I intend to do which is to pay special attention to those I love and make sure all is well on the home front. The Gotham Gal and I are especially blessed because our son arrived on Valentines day sixteen years ago. So our romantic dinner tonight will be a threesome.