Statistically, startups mostly fail. We love to think of ourselves as great investors. But Venture Capital fundamentals still didn't change: Fund returns are driven by outliers, and returns are concentrated in few firms. All VCs are constantly evolving and refining their thinking, processes, conviction. That's why we write long investment memos: Not because be need … Continue reading Venture Capital: Preparing for Failure.
Grab your CEO and have lunch. Chances are, she has once started just like you. And everybody has to eat at some point. Here are some questions that are great for getting some insights on strategy, challenges, and culture -- even if you only have five minutes: What the biggest frustration in your job? What's … Continue reading Lunch with Your CEO: 7 Great Questions to Ask.
What does your customer want to buy? Are they using your product as a stepping stone or enabler to a much bigger transformation? Or are you part of a larger product and fit the puzzle? Are you selling a product or a platform? I listened into sales conversations at one of our startups. The product … Continue reading Sales Strategy — Selling a Product Versus Selling a Platform.
[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.
[There are countless obvious lessons from Jocko's books and podcasts that apply to all people and all companies. Here are some insights that might be less obvious from the last #muster.] Some VCs talk about startups needing to be paranoid, with an obsessive attention to what is going on in the environment around them. I … Continue reading Jocko and Startups: Default Aggressive.
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 often ask entrepreneurs during pitches "What's hard to make this a successful company?" I am particular about this one. I am not asking "what's difficult." Difficult is fundraising, hiring great people, finding customers, making customers pay on time, getting renewals, opening a new office, etc. "What's Hard" is something that hopefully the entrepreneurs are better … Continue reading What’s Hard and What’s Not as a VC.
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.