Want a great exit? Build a great culture.

Asked about the importance of culture in making an acquisition, he didn’t hesitate for a second. Guido Jouret, Cisco’s CTO of Emerging Technology, said “We pass on acquisitions if the culture isn’t right. If it isn’t right, nothing else matters.”

Jouret is responsible for incubating Cisco’s future billion-dollar businesses, so I asked him after he gave the keynote at last week’s Plug and Play Expo what he thought the critical qualities in a startup’s culture that he looked for in acquisition. I shouldn’t have been surprised that he’d rattle off four things instantly…

Continue reading “Want a great exit? Build a great culture.”

Applause for Twitter CEO Transition to Co-Founder

I was reading the TechCrunch article about the Twitter founder Evan Williams who stepped down as CEO this week, moving former COO Dick Costolo into the role of CEO. Evan Williams, a member of the founding team, played the role of CEO from 20 employees to 300, and 1.25 million Tweets per day to 90 million per day. Both of those are approximately 10x multiples. Evan has been CEO for two years, since Oct 2008.

Growing a company from 20 people to 300 means you’ve grown through the milestone of 100-120 employees. As a founder, this is right around the time that you you start to see people in the halls, and wonder if they work there, or are just visiting. Before that point, you likely recognize pretty much everyone. It also means that if you averaged out the hiring, a new person has been joining the Twitter team every other workday throughout those two years. That’s fast! Continue reading “Applause for Twitter CEO Transition to Co-Founder”

Simplify your ToDo list (part 1)

I’m mostly agnostic about how people track their To Do list, and I’ve seen nearly every system work and fail: walls full of post-its, whiteboards, online calendars, iPhone apps, GTD, handwritten paper lists, index cards, and Excel spreadsheets. In general, the system that works for people is the system they’re willing to commit to and use regularly, and nearly anything will work. For entrepreneurs who are having trouble juggling all of their responsibilities and commitments, I tend to track their major commitments week after week, so that we can notice patterns in what is getting done, and what isn’t.

In a typical week with no major emergencies, several of the items on the list will be finished, or at least be off to a good start. But, there are often a few items that linger on someone’s to do list for several weeks or even months. When that happens, the client and I do some detective work to figure out what’s going on. Continue reading “Simplify your ToDo list (part 1)”

Pivoting Toward Work You Love

I really enjoyed Tiny Buddha‘s latest post about her journey toward meaningful work. It’s about the paradox of wanting to find “the perfect job”, while being afraid that it might not be possible to get paid for doing what you love.

What struck me is the phrase “the perfect job”, and along with it, the idea that there is one ideal job for each person, and when you find it, you’re done. I think the truth is exactly the opposite; given the number of decades most people are going to spend working, replacing the “ideal job” with a series of well-considered experiments and pivots seems like it will serve most of us way better. It also takes the pressure off of getting it right the first time, and lets people notice what they love or don’t about a particular type of work. Continue reading “Pivoting Toward Work You Love”

Burning Man: Meaningless Debauchery or Entrepreneurs in Training?

This post is a bit of a diversion from the normal fare. I took a quick ramble out to Burning Man for my 12th visit (my first was in 1996). In previous years, I’ve gone in a custom boxvan tricked out to carry motorcycles, an Airstream, a 16-ft geodesic dome, and an 18-foot truck chock-full of projects and comforts; this was the most minimal ever: I slept in the rented SUV I came in, and brought only a cooler, a costume box, a kitchen box, a rug to set stuff on, and a great pal. We stayed from Monday am to Wednesday afternoon, long enough to ramble around a bit, interact with friends and fellow travelers, and then scoot back to Reno for a hot shower. Minimum viable Burning Man!

Pre-dawn Drive past Pyramid Lake

I am on several mailing lists where folks talk about Burning Man every year, and there is usually a lot of discussion from jaded Burners saying “it will never be as good as my first year/last year”, or “it’s just a huge wild party”, or “why don’t these people spend their time doing something useful?!?”  For the record, there is plenty of partying and debauchery during the event, and anyone who tells you different is LYING, or at best only selectively paying attention.

Burning Man used to be a rite of passage of sorts for Bay Area software developers; most of the engineers I worked with at Critical Path went every year back in 1997-2000. We actually delayed our initial product launch so that most of the engineering team could go – I convinced the CEO that it would be suicide to launch right before the core team left for a week (this was back in the pre-PlayaNet days when you were actually out of touch there, rather than checking your email on your iPhone from your camp). So, it has lots of history for me…

Continue reading “Burning Man: Meaningless Debauchery or Entrepreneurs in Training?”