Posts Tagged ‘ceo’

shock-o-late

July 28, 2010

what is really israeli?

shoko (chocolate milk) in a bag for breakfast is high on the list. 

it looks slightly less pretty when one drinks it

why it is so deeply en-grained in our culture?

maybe because it is breakfast, early memories, mom, and a certain body part….

but i am here to write about a more serious topic,boards.

just one more reference to the delightful shoko bag. one summer morning i left it on the kitchen counter. in the afternoon, the shoko was not that good. shoko-late and shock-o-late

and now, focus. attention. silence.

one of the most important parameters in having an effective board meeting is ‘when do you send the board package’.

in the past i have even read academic research to support this.

you send a board package late, board will not be effective.

it will be  shock-0-late

remember. boards do not like surprises.

again. boards do not like surprise.

and some board members like to come in prepared.

now for the tough part. how late is late?

i have seen management teams  send the package the morning of the board meeting. this is often as people land in the city of the board from an over-night flight.

what is the message? you really want the board members effective? more importantly, it probably means the CEO and the CFO and other members of the team worked on it all night. how effective are you going to be running a meeting with so little time to prepare?

back to basics. no extremes. is a day before the board good enough?

i say ‘no’. it does not give enough time to prepare.

best is the weekend before the board. this, however, is either not practical or does not have the latest information. still, i encourage you to try it. delight.

how about at least 48 hours in advance? i think it is achievable, allows people time to go over and ponder, and even call and discuss misunderstandings or disagreements.

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rejection

April 12, 2010

wanted a deal real bad and lost it

first time in a long time

bitter

it is nice that this happens to a VC once in a while. we inflict this pain every day

good luck to the entrepreneur. i really want him to succeed.

but hey, not too much

the road from slavery to freedom

March 28, 2010

a great holiday is coming. hag sameach. passover. what a misnomer. you can not just pass-over the subject of the path from confinement to liberty, from slavery to … is freedom the word? i was hoping salvation, but no, freedom is a good fit.

( btw tried to find a picture for freedom. this is what google images gives you. scary)

but this is the photo i choose

מעבדות לחרות

i was trying to think what does  it really mean to go from bondage and servitude to freedom. the idea was not easy for me. i decided the steve jobs captures the idea quite nicely:

“Your time is limited,

so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.

Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.

Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice.

And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

if you have not seen SJ’s stanford’s graduation speech back in 2005, please do so now. before the holiday. it is a bit long, but worth your time. you will enter the holiday a different person; one in charge of your destiny.

i was trying to see if the word salvation can replace freedom.( it is a better play on letters with slavery) and decided it is not appropriate. below is wikipedia’s explanation. in a nutshell, it has too much to do with sins and after life. (גדול עלי).

since this is the holiday of freedom, i thought it is also appropriate to mention one of the greatest documents i have ever read. the US Constitution and its declaration of independence. its firsts real sentance (other than we the gathered here….) states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident,

  • that all men are created equal,
  • that they are endowed … with certain unalienable Rights.
  • that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

i like it a lot. i think pesach is the holiday of equality. i also like the fact that it does not say we have the right to be happy, but the pursuit of Happiness

p.s.

salvation

In religion, salvation is the concept that God or other Higher Power, as part of Divine Providence, saves humanity from spiritual death or Eternal Damnation by providing for them an eternal life (cf. afterlife). The world’s religions agree that humanity needs salvation from its present condition. However, they hold irreconcilable positions on what it means from an eternal perspective to become saved, the actual way to get saved, and the resources needed to attain salvation.

The theological study of salvation is called soteriology. It covers the means by which salvation is effected or achieved, and its results. Salvation may also be called “deliverance” or “redemption” from sin and its effects.

Some religions claim that salvation can be attained by using only inner human resources such as meditation, accumulation of wisdom, asceticism, rituals, or good deeds. Other religions teach that humans can be saved only through the grace granted by an external personal agent (God, a bodhisattva, an avatar, etc.) One’s duty is to recognize the impossibility of being saved by one’s own efforts, and therefore accept grace unconditionally.[1

what’s it like to be a VC

March 11, 2010

an amazing post about what it is like to be a VC.

a bit long, and without some of the really hairy stuff, like closing a company and the circus that comes with it.

by Mark Suster of GRP (global retail partners) – a good VC out of LA and London

had a chance to work with them about a decade ago, they know their stuff.

i do not know Mark, but ‘he gets it’. wish i had some of his humility and experience. and perhaps i have lost some of that passion?

here it is again:

One of the questions I’m most often asked is, “what’s it like being a VC?”  I’ve been a VC for nearly 3 years now.  Since I answer this all the time anyway I thought it might make an interesting blog post.  I always start my answer to this question with, “you’d have to be a pretty big baby to complain about being a VC.” That’s true.  Here’s why:

1. I get paid (well) for interesting people to come in and tell me how they want to change the world – Being an entrepreneur is like having blinders on.  At least for the best entrepreneurs.  Some people do the conference circuit too much, get involved in lots of side projects and attend every entrepreneur dinner.  For me that’s always a bad sign.  When I was running startups I felt like a horse with blinders on because I was super focused on the content management market and ignored many other markets.

One of the things that I’m loving about this side of the people is that it really satisfies my intellectual curiosity.  People come into my office several times per week and tell my about their plans for changing the world.  They outline the problems that exist in markets, their approach to the solutions, they update me on competitors and they show me their economic models.  We have debates about how the industries will change / evolve.  It is the equivalent of going to a coffee shop every day and having intellectual debates.  In fact, I often take meetings in coffee shops.  I LOVE this part of my job.

2. If I’m interested I get to spend more time with them, if I’m not I don’t have to – A few companies per month come in that have fascinating business ideas that warrant my spending more time trying to understand their people, company, technology and market.  I get to do a deep dive on their business model, product roadmap and competitive positioning.  If I  meet a company that I don’t find very interesting I don’t have to spend any more time with them.  I’m not saying I don’t spend time trying to help entrepreneurs that I am not planning to invest it – anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I do.  But let’s face it, as a VC you spend time with whichever companies you want.  As a CEO I had to spend tons of time with clients who ran business operations that were uninteresting to me.  It was my job to be interested.  No more.  You’d have to be a big baby to complain about being a VC.

3. I have no quarterly sales targets for the first time in a decade – For anybody who’s ever been in a company with sales targets you can attest to what a fire drill the ends of March, June, September and December can be.  Not any more for me.  It’s liberating.  I will obviously be judged on my performance.  But it’s measured in years and not quarters.  Don’t get me wrong – I still feel the pressure to ensure that the companies I’ve invested in perform well. So I spend much time with them and trying to help.  But there’s a big difference.

4. I get paid to network – I love meeting people.  When I go to conferences I never sit in the meeting section – I always cruise the halls meeting people.  That’s where I meet interesting people who tell me the truth.  On stage you hear people giving you the marketing version of their company.  I get to politely ask the questions you’d like to ask like, “what were your revenues, how much money have you raised, what are your plans going forward?”  I only do this when I’m interested in the company and when they’re interested in me.  But in these circumstances these are all fair (necessary) questions.

Also, my job doesn’t involve the daily grind of customer complaints, product outages, business partner / channel problems, hiring / firing, etc.  I work hard, don’t get me wrong – more than you might think.  No “golf Wednesdays” for me!  And the VC job has plenty of admin and minutiae.  But I’m a people person and I get paid to spend lots of time with people.  I get to network with angels, VCs, entrepreneurs, lawyers, etc.  I love it.

5. I go where I want, when I want – I can’t overstate the importance of this in my life.  I worked nearly a decade as a consultant – first building large scale IT systems and then doing strategy consulting.  Then I spent many years as a startup CEO.  I was always in a “service” industry.  That means you’re always operating on the client’s schedule.  You get on a plane at a moment’s notice because a senior customer agreed to meet you.  You call in from your vacation because you’ve had a service outage.  I went to Ibiza in Spain with my wife and in-laws before we were married.  They couldn’t believe how much I was on the phone.  We were in the final phases of acquiring a business and I couldn’t just say, “I’ll call you in 7 days when I’m back on the grid.”  There are still time pressures on VCs, so that hasn’t changed completely.  But I do go where I want and when I want a lot more than I used to.

6. I have a T&E account – Enough said.

7. I love spending time with entrepreneurs in the “romantic phase” – I love the startup phase of a business where we’re still romantic about our dreams to change the world.  The problems are much more manageable.  Once my company got to more than 100 employees I felt like I became “chief psychologist.”  That was fine but I prefer the earlier days.  As a VC I spend tons of time with companies at an early stage in their business.  And in stead of one set of issues to deal with I get the variety of discussing issues with many teams.  That’s fun.

8. We have very small teams – When you’re in your twenties you aspire to manage teams.  I think it’s seen as a sign of making progress in your career.  The idea that people “report to you” must validate some primal need.  In your thirties you realize that managing people means you have less time to work on the things that you want to do.  You have hours sucked up in one-on-one feedback sessions, annual or semi-annual performance reviews and you end up spending a lot of time resolving conflicts across your team members.  I still like spending time with our teams – at GRP Partners we have a great team – but I don’t have large numbers of people to be responsible for.  If I decide to take a last-minute trip to spend 2 days on a company due diligence session nobody is wondering where I am.  You’d have to be a pretty big baby to complain about being a VC.

Still, the truth is that I miss being an entrepreneur all the time.  Here’s what VCs don’t get fulfilled now:

1. We sit on the sidelines – The down side of VC is that exact same as I remember in consulting.  Too many VCs see their entrepreneurs almost like pawns.  They speak of “my CEO’s.”  They talk about how this company failed because the management team didn’t listen to my advice and that one succeeded because we helped point them in the right direction.  I think realistic VCs know that we only have an impact at the margin.  Maybe 10-15%.  That’s why picking great teams is so important.  And I think that too many VC’s don’t realize that the entrepreneurs are our customers – but that’s a separate topic. I hate not getting to own results.  We have a great board chat and talk about our strategic direction but then you go out and execute.  You get the good and the bad.  Those high highs and low lows are your own.  You live them, breathe them.  We live vicariously through you.  It’s like the manager of a basketball team.  We secretly wish it were us that got to take that 3-pointer with the clock running out.  And we’d love the rush of the teammates holding us in the air if we sank it.

2. There is less team camaraderie – I really get along with my partners well.  I knew them for 8 years before I joined GRP.  We end up out a lot at events: dinners, cocktail parties, conferences.  We travel together.  We spend the entire day together on Mondays in our partners’ meetings and seeing companies present.  Still, it’s different in a startup.  When you’re preparing to launch your company at TechCrunch50 and everyone pulls all nighters for the days leading into it you’re building much deeper camaraderie than exists inside of VCs.  When your site crashes and you get slammed by customers and in the press – you’re all in the sh*tter together.  There is something about the relationships you build in those times.  About 1 year in I asked many VCs about this and the feeling was nearly universal.  They said, “yeah, but we get that through our board interactions.  We build camaraderie there through the shared experience.  That’s true.  But it’s not the same.

3. I have to say “no” all the time – As an entrepreneur you’re used to hearing that what you’re doing won’t work and you turn up in the office every day to prove them wrong. My first company was a SaaS business in 1999.  Everybody said that companies would never put their documents “in the cloud.”  I was sure they were wrong and had the debate weekly.  As an entrepreneur you’re always focused on the “how can we find a way to make the impossible happen?”  People said that Google was going to dominate this market – we know we can do a better job.  You know, the Apollo 13 moment.  As a VC I’m required to say “no” ALL THE TIME.  I don’t enjoy it.  We get thousands of business plans per year.  I meet hundreds of companies.  We can only do a few deals per year.  Definitionally we say “no” many times per week.  I was with a very prominent VC on Sand Hill Road this week.  I always ask other VCs there thoughts.  He said the biggest disappointment since he moved over to VC was Tuesday mornings.  That’s when the calls go out every week to say, “I’m sorry but we’ve decided to pass.”  It’s much nicer to say “yes.”  [thank you to Tereza for reminding me I left section this out]

4. We are in a “get rich slowly” business – OK, I’m not complaining.  But I think many entrepreneurs have a misconception about this.  True, we’re paid better than many startup executives on an annual basis.  But I know many young partners in this business who have never gotten a “carry” check.  The upside for entrepreneurs is the equity in their business.  The upside for VCs is this carry.  If you have a $100 million fund you don’t get paid your carry until you return the initial money to your investors and then you typically get 20% of the profits above this threshold.  Well, since the industry hasn’t performed well in the past 10 years you have many younger partners who are still waiting for those checks.  That is in stark contrast to the late 90’s goldrush where VC partners made millions overnight as their companies IPO’d for crazy valuations.  On the positive side, we have a portfolio and therefore more diverse chances of success.  But there is no “sell early” option for VCs where a $20 million exit could change our lives.  But we obviously choose this side of the table. You’d have to be a pretty big baby to complain about being a VC.

Overall, I’m very happy on this side of the table.  I try to get my entrepreneurial fix in other ways:

1. Running a local community / mentorship program – I run a group called LaunchPad LA.  We’re gearing up to make big announcements about our second year program.  I’ll write about that in a couple of weeks.  I get to help control direction, make decisions and own results.

2. Writing this bl0g – This blog is a huge creative outlet for me.  I get to choose what I write about.  I might be controversial some times and get flack.  Other times I might get great results and approbation.  I can publish daily for weeks or not publish at all for a month.  I own the results.  I’m enjoying the chaotic creativity that comes with blogging.

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what kind of an organization do you (want to) work for?

February 17, 2010

met a good friend yesterday, roni

she told me most companies or organizations you work for you have to lie

you lie

  • to your customer
  • to your boss
  • to your self

or any combination of the above

this is most organizations.

the beauty in being an entrepreneur of a start-up, (or a VC – but let’s not kid ourselves, mainly the founders)  is that you can bring into life, or create, organizations that do not have this deceit built into their DNA

priceless

frictionless

what a joy

founders, beware

January 20, 2010

every once in a while you read an article or a book that changes the way you think.

almost like falling in love, you think of it several times a day.

a month later you are a changed person.

please read this blog post. it was published 8 weeks ago, and its comments are very interesting as well. it claims that israeli startups fail because they do not understand and do not invest enough in marketing.

steve duplessie, from my experience is:

  • smart
  • a thought leader
  • like many great people, not full of himself

a great book on a related matter is 4 steps to the epiphany, by steve blank, founder of… E.piphany, once a big company.

here is an abstract, from chapter 2 of the book

my comment to founders and management, before you start spending like crazy on marketing:

  • try to create some measurements. cost per lead is a great start
  • you will not win ‘the game’ if you do not build the best customer acquisition engine in the industry. no matter how good your product is
  • engage with customers. listen. challenge your assumptions. engage with customers some more
  • build a portfolio of marketing activities and test which ones work. start this early and slowly
  • when you spend big, which you should, ask yourself: ‘am i  in good position to know what i am getting for this?’

since you are by now doing something repeatable and scaleable, it is less entrepreneurial.

so founders, beware.

2010 budget

November 30, 2009
below is a letter from me to one of our CEOs re 2010 budget. but i think it is good general practice.
1. SLOW
go slow until your figure things out, then go fast. we are in a learning and discovery phase, the market is in motion. let’s learn before we spend big.
marketing budget at this point in time comes to mind. let’s set ROI goals for $ in marketing and leads. let’s take a phased approach. do something. analyze, learn, do again. we will win by how many cycles we have, not how hard we try in each cycle

2. STRETCH money over time
this round should last for at least 10 quarters, not 7.
if it last for only 7, you need to fundraise in 5 quarters. perhaps 6. to have an up round, say at 2x valuation,  you would need to get revenues up 8x in less than 2 years. hard to do.

3. EXPOSE your assumptions
to start communicating about the budget, start communicating about the assumptions.
there are no more than 10 main assumption that drive all else. can we start communicating about them?

about masks לא כל יום פורים

November 20, 2009

from wikipedia

A mask is an article normally worn on the face, typically for protection, concealment, performance, or amusement.

This stone mask from the pre-ceramic neolithic period dates to 7000 BCE and is probably the oldest mask in the world (Musée de la bible et Terre Sainte )

i have written previously what not to do in a VC presentation

i would like now to flip the coin and tell you what to do.

to perform. to succeed, to get good money. so your idea can spring into life.

here is my first rule, or piece of advice

before your start your performance, your presentation with a VC, decide

are you putting on a mask, or taking off a mask?

 

 

man for all seasons

November 17, 2008

a man for all seasons is a 1954 play by robert bolt.

The plot is based on the true story of Saint Thomas More, the 16th-century Chancellor of England, who helps to endorse or denounce King Henry VIII’s wish to divorce his aging wife Catherine of Aragon, who could not bear him a son, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn, the sister of his former mistress. The play portrays More as a man of principle, envied by rivals such as Thomas Cromwell and loved by the common people and by his family.

Bolt himself was an agnostic and a socialist, and thus he presumably admired More not because he identified with More’s religious beliefs, but rather with his refusal to bend to the will of the king.

key takeaways:

  • building institutional trust. slow, painful, but worthwhile
  • the answer to events you can not prepare for, depend on your value system
  • Tylenol case: success by not listening to lawyers
  • when the success spiral is broken
  • measure yourself by the line between your words, deeds and values. is it straight?

kids

discussion:

obama and mcCain

both from common roots, breakaway, inspirtation. suffering and redemption.

hero myth in cultural relativism. is it not overdone? too individualistic? what about the systemic problems. overplay of individuals and cliches. messianic appointments. short-termism. individual branding. celebrating the leaders. lesson of Candide, ‘cultivate your own garden’.

managing in crises. leaders caught up in their ceos brands.

tarnished brands: BP, Whole foods, yum brands, coca cola doug eivester, raytheon

vs. enhanced brands:

J&J Tylenol joined individual identity and that of the brand, mattel lead in toys, china david eckert. Southwest, jet blue COO valentine’s day 27 shows with apologies. fired the CEO while doing everything right and david barger became COO. UPS.

lots of time spent on Tylenol case.

  • legacy
  • research, facts
  • join regulators and competitors
  • set high goals, visibility, told what he knew along the way

leaders: the urge to create

  • net producer. contributor
  • apart from the crowd
  • immortal legacy

charismatic leadership

  • personal dynamism
  • authenticity
  • empathy
  • accountability

how come dragon slayers become in later career the dragons themselves

anne mulcahy. xerox.

Leadership

November 5, 2008

key takeaways:

  • tough to be a popular leader over time. especially based on attraction/charisma basis of power.
  • definition of leader, below, includes the term ‘shared values’. an important component of a leader is to create thru development these shared values.
  • why has the decision making process of a leader moved over 30 years by 1.3 points towards group decision making? complexity, flatness (larger groups), IT – information availability,

terms and discussion:

tom peters, excellent books. especially ‘in search of excellence’. resulting in the mcKinsey 7S model of eight themes. As Peters explained in 2001: ‘Start with Taylorism, add a layer of Druckerism and a dose of McNamaraism, and by the late 1970’s you had the great American corporation that was being run by bean counters…’ so, he killed some sacred cows including Xerox and GE. 25 years later he emphasizes

  • capabilities concerning ideas,
  • liberation,
  • speed

originally, the 8 themes are:

  1. A bias for action, active decision making – ‘getting on with it’.
  2. Close to the customer – learning from the people served by the business.
  3. Autonomy and entrepreneurship – fostering innovation and nurturing ‘champions’.
  4. Productivity through people – treating rank and file employees as a source of quality.
  5. Hands-on, value-driven – management philosophy that guides everyday practice – management showing its commitment.
  6. Stick to the knitting – stay with the business that you know.
  7. Simple form, lean staff – some of the best companies have minimal HQ staff.
  8. Simultaneous loose-tight properties – autonomy in shop-floor activities plus centralised values.

other good links:

Tom Peters’ website

and the many related ideas and theories on this site, for example:

Herzberg’s Motivational Theories

McGregor’s X-Y Theory

Adams’ Equity Theory

McClelland’s Motivational Theory

Teambuilding and motivational activities, for example the Hellespont Swim case study and exercise

more free materials, diagrams and other resources on the main businessballs website, if you are not already there.


with victor vroom. worth to visit the link. his theory, called expectancy theory,  states that

Motivation = Valance x Expectancy(Instrumentality)

where:

expectancy – a person’s belief about whether or not a particular job performance is attainable

instrumentality – “What’s the probability that, if I do a good job, that there will be some kind of outcome in it for me?”

valence –  “Is the outcome I get of any value to me?”

________________________________

leadership – the process of motivating groups to work on shared values to create change.

leadership is a process, not a trait

leadership style needs to adapt to circumstances

process includes:

  • decision making – includes buy in
  • implementation – commitment and information/resources available to execution
  • timeliness – between occurrence, decision and implementation
  • development – enhance group knowledge and expertise. ability and desire to work as a team. feeling of being important to the organization.

_______________________________

power and authority can be analyzed and attained according to power basis:

  • transactional power – reward and punishment. provides compliance vs commitment. requires a control system. once control system is off, behavior changes.

commitment as a basis of power, below, requires no control and is developmental and autonomous:

  • expert – depends on perceived knowledge
  • attraction – charisma,  bush post 9/11 vs post 9/11/08. there is a sustainability issue
  • legitimate – is it your right and responsibility? identification and ethics

_______________________________

discussion on group/individual decison making. (deciding how to decide)

two models presented. time driven model and development driven model as well as on-line software to help decide comparing to 200K answers

spectrum defined by decide (on your own) vs delegate. so influence by leader to influence by group. the world is changing towards group.

this style can be viewed as a cause in certain org building vs effect of a corporate culture.