Tag Archives: Mentors

Advice to young (and old) people by Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba

Thanks to my dear colleagues for mentioning to me this moving, inspiring interview from Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba. He is giving advice to people from any age related to work and entrepreneurship.

If you’re 25 years old, do not worry, any mistake is an income.

Before 20 years old, be a good student.
Before 30 years old, follow somebody. Go to a small company, you learn the passion, you learn to dream. It’s not which company you go, it’s which boss you follow.
Between 30 and 40 years old, work for yourself. Time to be an entrepreneur.
Between 40 and 50 years old, do the thing you are good at. It’s too late to do something new.
When you are 50 to 60 years old, work for the young people.
When you are over 60, spend time for yourself. Go to the beach!

But when you are 25, make enough mistakes. You fall, you stand up, you fall, you stand up.

What is the mentor role?

I recently read Fred Wilson’s post on The CEO Mentor and Coach. As usual his post and the high number of comments are interesting. I would just like to add one of the best descriptions of a mentor I have read. It is what Robert Noyce represented for Steve Jobs. You can find the full account in the book The Man Behind the Microchip by Leslie Berlin or in a shorter account she gave for the Computer History Museum (pdf file – 6MB).

So here is a short account of Noyce’s mentoring!

“Bob Noyce took me under his wing. I was young, in my twenties. He was in his early fifties. He tried to give me the lay of the land, give me a perspective that I could only partially understand. You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before”

“When Noyce left daily management at Intel in 1975, he turned his attention to the next generation of high-tech entrepreneurs. This is how he met Jobs.” Noyce was not attracted initially by the hippie style, “but over time, Noyce’s feelings about Apple began to change. This was due, in no small measure, to Steve Jobs, who deliberately sought out Noyce as a mentor. (Jobs also asked Jerry Sanders and Andy Grove if he could take them to lunch every quarter and “pick your brain”). “Steve would regularly appear at our house on his motorcycle” Bowers [Noyce’s wife] recalls “Soon he and Bob were disappearing into the basement, talking about projects.”

Noyce answered Jobs’ phone calls – which invariably began with “I’ve been thinking about what you said” or “I have an idea” – even when they came at midnight. At some point he confided to Bowers, “If he calls late again, I’m going to kill him,” but still he answered the phone.

Jobs agrees that his relationship was almost more filial than professional. “The things I remember about Bob are the personal things. I remember him teaching me how to ski better. And he was very interested in – fascinated by – the personal computer, and we talked a lot about that.

Sweden and start-ups

As I mentioned in a recent post, I have spent a few days in Sweden where I discovered some features of the Swedish start-up scene. I was invited by Anders Gezelius who has a very interesting profile: a graduate of KTH – Stockholm with an MBA from Wharton, he worked Californie for Intel and then co-founded a startup which was selling accounting software. After the M&A of the start-up, he has gone back to Sweden where he runs Mentor4Research and Coach & Capital.

Here are the talks I made for:
– Stockholm Innovation & Growth: why do start-ups succeed or fail?
– Mentor4research: What we may still learn from Silicon Valley

If there is one interesting lesson that I also learnt from my recent trip to Boston (cf the MIT venture mentoring service), it is that the combination of mentoring and investing as a business angel may become more and more critical. Both are very much needed. Mentors may be seen as friends of entrepreneurs and give advice based on their experience. They may or may not become business angels who invest at an early stage in start-ups.

One of the best illustration of mentoring is given by the encounter of Steve Jobs and Bob Noyce when the Apple founder needed advice…