Tag Archives: Passion

Guy Kawasaki – Make Meaning in Your Company

This morning I was participating to a workshop when a debate started about why making a startup. The best answer I know is from Guy kawasaki:

A presentation by Guy Kawasaki for the Stanford Technology Ventures Program Educators Corner in the School of Engineering at Stanford University. October 20, 2004.

Guy Kawasaki is among other things the author of a great book, the Art of Start

An example of his greate advice below is how to make a 10-slide great presentation of a company pitch:
Art of Start – Kawasaki

The New Silicon Valley(s)

Nice series on French-speaking Swiss Radio broadcast les Temps Modernes, this week about five stimulating experiments of high-tech clusters. Probably to fight the depressing mood around WEF and the economic crisis. (And not only because I was given the opportunity this morning to comment the last case! I was only invited on Wednesday… 🙂 )

Monday it was about Russia’s Skolkovo, which I had mentioned in a post a few months ago.

I did not know at all Kenya’s Konza, and this was really refreshing.

You cannot avoid China, but here also surprise, surprise, it was not Shanghai neither Shenzhen, but Zhongguancun.

I had heard of Startup Chile, because Stanford supports the experiment in South America.

Finally, I could comment the stimulating British case, the Silicon Roundabout, in East London. You can listen to or download the mp3 file (in French).

A spontaneous emerging cluster, a name given by a local entrepreneur, no real support by decision makers, at least in the beginning and a nice and enthusiastic atmosphere. And all this attracts people from abroad. Is this finally the cluster Europe has been waiting for? We shall see… The experiment is really interesting and if you want to know more, you may wish to read (French) Le Monde, Le “Silicon Roundabout”, un succès britannique, or The Economist, Silicon Roundabout.

Advice to entrepreneurs

I found instructive to compare two short videos from the STVP. The first one is dated 2002 and shows Larry Page, the co-founder of Google. The seconde one, with Aaron Levie, has just been published on january 19, 2011.

And here is a comparaison

Larry Page vs. Aaron Levie
  • Work with the right people, great people you are compatible with
  • Do not compromise. Be passionate
  • Have a healthy disregard for the impossible
  • Do something which was impossible 3 years ago
  • Do not follow the hype. Good ideas always get funding.
  • If you feel comfortable, you are probably not doing the right thing.
  • Clearly passion, ambition but also self-confidence are ingredients of entrepreneurship.

    Another very good post on the topic is Should You Really Be A Startup Entrepreneur? by Mark Suster, where the reality of entrepreneurship is superbly described.

    Lessons from entrepreneurs: not intuitive!

    One of my favorite entrepreneurial web site, the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, just published its new batch of short videos.

    The lessons are quite interesting as I found them not intuitive and quite uncommon:
    – you do not have to work too much
    – you should do what you love
    – there are not rules.

    So here is the first one: Great Ideas Derive from Well-Rested Minds. “Being a workaholic is no guarantee of success. David Heinemeier Hansson points out that 37signals’ main product, Basecamp, was created on 10 hours a week of development for a total of six months. When you’re overworked, you can’t think creatively.”

    What about next: Do What You Like to Get Where You Want. “John Melo, CEO of Amyris Biotechnologies, enjoyed building oscilloscopes, circuits and transistors – and yet he was a college dropout. In this clip, Melo comments on his non-linear career path and how his passion, personal interest, and sense of independence have propelled him from one episodic position to another. He states that he first looked for opportunities to do the things he loved to do, and then focused on the places he wanted to be.”

    Finally, Entrepreneurs Have No Rules. It also says: “Never give up the title of CEO… In many cases, it is the founder who is able to provide the vision to effectively direct product development.”

    Belgium and Start-Ups

    After Finland, Sweden, here comes Belgium. A recent study has been published: “Le financement des spin-offs universitaires en Belgique” by Fabrice Pirnay (HEC-ULg) & Sarah Van Cauwenbergh (CeFiP) – May 2009. It is about spin-offs from universities in the French and Dutch-speaking parts of belgium. I am not sure it is available online though.

    Because it is not a marketing tool, it may not make everyone happy as it shows once again that there are weaknesses in our innovation systems and that we are also far behind the USA. I participated to a workshop to discuss the study and the lessons I want to remember are that if we want to favor growth, we need ambition, i.e. high quality teams, resources and an international strategy. Because tehre is a chicken and egg issue between money and people, I remain convinced that international exposure is a good initial bet, I mean sending people abroad as well as inviting people to come where we live. We also need mot role models, mentors so that we should use our diaspora and our alumni.

    Now instead of going any further in a complex analysis, here are the advice of an unusual roel model: Jacques Brel. My colleague Bernard Surlemont (qui m’avait invité à ce workshop) showed me this great document where the Belgian singer talks about passion, fear of failing and work vs. talent. They are in French only…




    Three Things Every Startup Should Do

    Xconomy is becoming one of my favorite web sites. Here is a short post about three things every startup should do

    Focus on one thing. Whether you make a location-based tracking device, an energy-efficient motor, or a social network for job-seekers, carve out the specific market you’re going after. And then make your product a must-have for that market, using every possible competitive advantage you have. Do what you do better than anyone else, but don’t try to do it all.
    Work on what you’re passionate about. Every successful startup has a story about why it does what it does. That story should ring true with the founders’ backgrounds and expertise. Investors (and customers) can tell right away if a company representative is going through the motions.
    Cut to the chase. What is your company doing that’s special? How is it different from your competitors? People will decide whether your company sounds promising in the first 30 seconds of your pitch, so make sure you answer those questions upfront.

    I will be in Stockholm next week delivering 2 talks on start-ups, one being about success and failure (Stockholm Innovation), the other one about what we still have to learn from the USA (Avslutningskonferens 2009). I certainly could have used these 3 points.

    In the company of Giants

    I had read In the Company of Giants in 1997 just before becoming a venture capitalist. Then when I began to read again about entrepreneurs, I just could not find it anymore and had to buy it through the reseller network of Amazon. It is as interesting as my previous posts (Once You’re Lucky, Betting it All, Founders at Work).

    I will let you link the names and quotes with the pictures if you have time!

    Steve Jobs: “In the early days, we were just trying to hire people that knew more than we did about anything and that wasn’t hard because we didn’t know a lot. Then your perspectives are changing monthly as you learn more. People have to be able to change.”

    T. J. Rodgers (Cypress Semiconductor): “the standard entrepreneurial answer is frustration. You see a company running poorly, you see that it could be a whole better. Intel and AMD were arrogant. If you think about it, any billion dollar company, that has so much money to spend on R&D should be unassailable. But the large companies routinely cannot crunch little companies so something’s got to be wrong.”

    Gordon Eubanks (Symantec): “What makes a company successful is people, process, product, and passion. You must have great people and product and passion balanced by process.”

    Steve Case (AOL): “Do something you really love, you are passionate about. Take a long-term view, be really patient. There are going to be bumps on the road.”

    Scott Cook (Intuit): “People [customers] won’t tell you what they want. Often they can’t verbalize it because they don’t understand things they’ve not seen. You must understand fundamental motivations and attitudes.”

    Sandy Kurtzig (ASK): “I did not see it as incredible risk. Many entrepreneurs would tell you why it was obvious to do what they did. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. That’s why so few entrepreneurs can do it a second time. Even Jim Clark did not really start Netscape or Jobs did not really start Pixar. They funded it. You need other people to be hungry… Believe in yourself, surround yourself with good people, be willing to make mistakes, don’t get wrapped up in your success. You are still the same person you were when you started.”

    John Warnock and Charles Geschke (Adobe): “Actually there was the very first business plan, then there was the second business plan, and then the third business plan; we never actually wrote the third business plan.”

    Michael Dell: “It did not seem risky to leave school because I was already earning obscene amounts. The worst thing that could happen is I would return to school. The greater risk was to stay at school.”

    Charles Wang (Computer Associates): “Managing is not just telling people what to do, but it is leading by doing. Know your strengths and weaknesses and complement yourself. Be realistic and objective. Surround yourself with great people.”

    Bill Gates: “It’s mostly about hiring great people. We are [in 1997] 18,000 people and still the key constraint is bringing in great people. We naively thought there were guys who could tell us we weren’t doing things the best way.”

    Andy Grove: “I can’t look at a startup as an end result. A startup to me is a means to achieve an end.”

    Trip Hawkins (Electronic Arts): “You don’t have an objective, rational process. You need a certain amount of confidence. There are many things that you don’t know will go wrong. If you knew in advance all the things that could go wrong, as a rational person, you wouldn’t go into business in the first place.”

    Ed McCracken (Silicon Graphics): “My venture capital friends tell me that many of the ideas they’re seeing for new businesses are coming from people under 26 years old.”

    Ken Olsen: “Business school’s goal today is to teach people to become entrepreneurs. I think it’s a serious mistake. You learn first how to be a team member, then a leader.”

    Bill Hewlett: “It was 1939 and it was no time to start a company. It was probably the supreme optimism of youth.” and “It’s not all due to luck, but certainly a large percentage of success is. We were in the right place at the right time. We were lucky and we had wonderful teachers and mentors. HP didn’t start in a vacuum.”

    The Human Piece of the Venture Equation

    An interesting post by Fred Wilson about when ask the founders to step back and entitled “The Human Piece of the Venture Equation“. I added my own comment which is obviously linked to my pet subject: passion in start-ups. Here is what I wrote.

    I like this post very much so I’d like to add my own views. As a former student in SV and then as a former VC, I have seen many, many start-up and founders. My intuition is that in an ideal world, the founder should stay as CEO as long as possible. Let me make an analogy: a start-up is a baby; the founders are its parents. Except if the parents are totally incapable of educating a baby, they will hold responsibility for its education. Many “experts” will assist them (teachers, doctors and so on…). And obviously they will make rocky mistakes and sometimes it is deadly. It does not mean they should control the kid’s life forever. Hopefully not! (Though it sometimes happen too…) By the way, let me add also that two parents/founders are better for the kid (am I too conservative?).

    So I fully agree with your “nothing can replace the entrepreneur’s passion and vision for the product and the company. If you rip that out of the company too early, you’ll lose your investment. I think it’s best to wait …”

    I published “Start-Up” just before reading “Founders at Work” (which is a great book on the subject as you know). In mine, I tried to take a broader perspective as I am not sure the Internet and the Web2.0 have fundamentally changed things. Yes, you can do things quicker and less expensively but Hewlett and Packard were in their mid-twenties when they founded HP in 1939. So Gates, Jobs, Dell are not the first ones. It is not only about software and computing, there is something else. I think passion is more important than experience, but once again this is gut feeling and I agree that deeper studies may be needed. Passion is one of the subjects I have developed.

    A final point: do you need to replace a CEO when he “the CEO’s job goes from managing the product, writing a little code, doing customer support, and raising money to managing people and teams, processes and priorities.” I am not fully sure about this. I do not disagree but as you say later, the CEO role is about defining the right vision and strategy. Can not you ask the COO and the other top-level managers to handle processes? When Logitech was in trouble, its founder, Daniel Borel, stepped back and the new CEO was a marketing guy from Apple if I am correct. He redefined the marketing/vision. The unique story of Steve Jobs have similarities (“Inside Steve’s Brain” is another piece of interesting reading).

    It is hard to know about the Human Equation and there are many counter-intuitive elements. It is neither black nor white, you need passion and experience and by definition, they are very seldom found in the same individual. It is an argument for teams of two. Google has probably nicely succeeded with Eric Schmidt as there is no doubt the two founders are still critical to the company.

    The Art of the Start

    The Art of the Start is a great book because it inspires. Guy Kawasaki, the author, does tell you how to build a convincing vision, a convincing pitch. It is not about writing a 40-page business plan. It is about the “value of making meaning” which may induce making money. The book is clear, simple and once you have read it, you will not see things the same way… go, run and buy it!

    A brief quote from the book which illustrates why start-ups are important.

    “Innovation often originates outside existing organizations, in part because successful organizations acquire a commitment to the status quo and a resistance to ideas that might change it” – Nathan Rosenberg.

    The Man Behind the Microchip

    The Man Behind the Microchip is one of the best biographies about technology and entrepreneurship. This book is a pleasure to read from beginning to end. It is full of important facts about Silicon Valley, its history and its development.

    I will just quote Robert Noyce, the hero of this book, founder of Fairchild and Intel:

    Look around who the heroes are. They aren’t lawyers, nor are they even so much the financiers. They’re the guys who start companies

    and also author Leslie Berlin adds:

    Noyce testified against an industrial policy managed by the Federal government. He referred to his own experience with Apple to strengthen his argument: “If I was not capable of identifying the future champions of technology, how could we believe that the government could do better?”

    This a must-read book for anyone interested in start-ups and high tech.