Saturday, January 19, 2013

Swing for the fences

Randy%20_%20compThe closing speaker for the i-Lab’s Silicon Valley trek was Randy Komisar of KCPB. In addition to being a general partner, Randy is the author of the Monk and the Riddle and lead investment partner for Nest

With such a long history in the Valley Randy was the perfect person to provide a longsighted perspective to put our whirlwind tour into perspective.  Here are some of my takeaways from his talk and Q&A session:

  • Execution is underplayed in TechCrunch, but is the key differentiation between success and failure.
  • It’s all about timing.  The tablet wasn’t revolutionary.  It was just launched at a time when the parts became cheap enough to support a broadly appealing price point.  Steve job’s genius was in timing – he struck at the right time again and again.  Also, he was never ahead of his time.
  • No great company has been started in Silicon Valley as a lean startup.   For nest they know they’d have to invest $100M.  Have a big ethereal vision attached to a small solid grain of traction.
  • VCs are a herd.  Wallstreet is at the head of the herd.  Everyone else is trying to funnel in and get into the front of the pack to be the first in line for an IPO or M&A deal.
  • Only 25 VC firms make money.  The rest don’t.
  • It’s more likely for you to be replace as CEO of a successful company than a unsuccessful one.  As a great business scales an entrepreneurial skillset is less valuable at the helm.  If a business is still struggling to find it’s footing – the original entrepreneur is the person you want at the head.
  • Entrepreneurs rarely understand the competitive landscape as well as they should.  Understand the past, present and future landscapes.  Learn why your idea may have failed in past ventures.
  • Entrepreneurs generally don’t have a good idea of what’s going on around them.  Avoid tunnel vision.
  • Don’t leap to the final vision.  Nest is building an internet of things.  But they’re going to start by building a revolutionary thermostat.
  • Read Getting to Plan B.  Randy mentioned this book several times as a great framework for thinking about startups.
  • Entrepreneurship is important because it challenges the status quo.  It’s about questioning everything that doesn’t work around you every day. 
  • Attack a problem with your passion (work on a problem you care about).  If you divorce the two you’re at the squeaky end of entrepreneurship.
  • Entrepreneurs are fueled by a passion to change things for the better.  They believe they see something nobody else does.  And they want to make this vision a reality.
  • To find a great idea – take stock of the things you care about and then search for opportunities within those areas that match your capabilities.
  • Look for the smartest highest integrity people possible to get the best downstream opportunity set.
  • Young people shouldn’t try and start companies.  95% of them will end up with nothing to show for it in 10 years.

With that sobering closing remark (which I personally disagree with!) our Valley experience concluded.  I couldn’t have asked for a more well rounded vision of the bleak challenges and incredible promise that come with becoming a career entrepreneur.

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