We hear about the "Startup A-team" both from our portfolio companies and in pitches. So what's the bar for a Startup A-team? And how do you rank people within an A-team of a Startup? Regardless of industry, I always recommend looking at the "USMC Fitness Report (1610)" as a starting point. Yes, it is from … Continue reading Jocko on Startups: What’s an A-Team?
[Earlier I wrote about the different vehicles] You're sitting on a board and the CEO presents some proposed grants. Motion to approve - second - all in favor - ay. Here's what you should have asked before the board meeting. A. Economics What's the vesting schedule? What are these options worth right now? What do … Continue reading Board Questions to ask about Stock Options, NSOs, ISOs, Restricted Stock, Restricted Stock Units (RSUs).
There are enough primers on the Internet. This is not a primer. But take it as a discussion guideline with your board, your lawyers, your executives. Types of Equity Awards Options An option is a contract between a startup and an "optionee" (mostly employees, but could be contractors or board members) that provide a right … Continue reading Five Areas of Startup Equity Awards Boards Should Discuss.
Benchmarks are great to tell you where you are compared to others. In venture capital, there are three common problems with benchmarks: History, math, and ego. 1. Benchmarks are History Benchmarks are backward looking. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Maybe market mechanics changed. Maybe the supply and demand of startup funding in … Continue reading The Pitfalls of Benchmarks.
Enterprise CTOs or CIOs often ask me about how IT will change in the future, about the "Disruption of Technology in 3-5 years". Most CTOs and CIOs realize that that is primarily a strategic question rather than a question about a certain vendor or technology. I usually explore the specific challenges together with the executive … Continue reading The Future of IT: The Next Five Years.
I talk a lot with very large enterprises in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Sometimes they have a question regarding their IT infrastructure, sometimes they want to hear about shifts in industry trends (few of them want to hear 'trends in the Silicon Valley,' thank god!). Sooner or later they tell me about their digital … Continue reading Digital Transformation Strategy — You Don’t Need One.
I feel puzzled how vaguely some startup CEOs send their executives on their way to execute a "mission". Mission Statements describe the who, what, when, where, and why (the 5 W’s) of how a mission will be executed. A mission has one -- and only one! -- main goal. You might have one (one!) side … Continue reading Improve Your Mission Statements.
As VCs, we can voice observations, opinions, demands (which might or might not be met :)). We can assist, coach, or mentor the current CEO. But unless you are also a board director and -- together with all other board directors -- hire a new CEO, we cannot fix culture. Nicholas Pearce, on Dear HBR, … Continue reading VCs Can’t Fix Culture.
I remember one sentence from the many books I read while doing business in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia: Your relative power in a negotiation is your capacity to use resources to influence another’s circumstances. In 1962, Richard Emerson published Power-Dependence Relations. I found that Richard's focus on "In how many ways can I demonstrate my … Continue reading Negotiations: Focus on What You Don’t Know.
VCs are knowledge workers -- we convince our LPs that we know something worthwhile to justify our fees and carry we charge. There are two problems: The inherent intangibility of knowledge work; and the fact that liquidity events might take between five to nine years. You don't know if you were right until half a … Continue reading Stop Working.