09/14/19

CEO Shoptalk — Fragility

In the early days of a startup, when you are running on pure adrenalin, co-founders are in constant contact. Every new development is shared completely, you are likely to be in close physical proximity, and the novelty of it all creates a glue that binds the co-founders together thereby provoking a level of communication that ensures the founding team is fully informed.

At the beginning you are giddy with communication.

This chaotic time builds trust and generates confidence. It is a heady and energetic time. It is the camaraderie that soldiers create on the battlefield. Co-founders are at war against the market, so that comparison is not a great leap.

But, then the company raises money or gets traction or screams, “We have product-market fit, y’all!” and the closeness that was there at the crib side of the new baby begins to change.

Roles are more distinct, there are spheres of responsibility, employees are hired, parts of jobs are delegated, board members begin to deploy their wisdom, and the pace begins to quicken.

The ability for the co-founders to attain full communication and full knowledge of what is going on is tested by the actual progress.

It is at this junction in time — almost verifiable by a watch — that the strength of a co-founding team is tested.

And, the test is this — Is the organization robust (as it relates to co-founder communication) or is it fragile?

The answer, dear reader, 104% of the time is that the relationship is hopelessly fragile. It is the normal state of affairs because it requires specific work, organization, and that most precious of all commodities in the universe — time, to beat the fragility out of your fledgling company.

Continue reading

08/18/19

CEO Shoptalk — The Founder’s Tale

In the life of the successful startup is a slightly disorganized story of its founding. It is a powerful story. It provides a keen insight into the who, what, when, why, where, how of the company. It is a story of creation. Only one person can tell it with an authentic voice.

It is a tale told best by the founder, hence the name: The Founder’s Tale.

It is a story that is the glue that binds people to the company and makes them want to follow the leadership. If you want to lead a pride of lions, then you have to tell the story of how you formed a pride.

Continue reading

08/5/19

Practice Like You Play

One of the best bits of advice I ever received was to practice the same way I intended to play — good advice when pertaining to sports, the military, and business.

Startups are often given a pass for not following sound practices.

“Hell, they’re just startups.”

Continue reading

04/1/19

Believing — An Essential Leadership Skill

This is the big month for a few things — Christianity, college basketball, and CEOs. It is all about believing.

For Christians, Easter is the essence of their belief. Jesus came to Earth to atone for our sins, lived amongst us, taught, provided a living example, offered a few miracles for the disbelievers, was crucified, died, and buried. On the third day, He rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father to judge the living and the dead.

If you are a Christian you believe the preceding paragraph to be a true statement. That belief — faith — is the glue that holds your life together. It is, literally, what makes you a Christ follower.

If you are a college basketball fan, next weekend is the Final Four and you believe with all your heart that your team is going to win it all.

You have had a tough time of it as the #1 seeds have been decimated — Duke, North Carolina, Gonzaga — leaving only Virginia to represent the elite and the Atlantic Coast Conference. ACC had three #1 seeds and only one remains.

You — like me — have been forced to transfer your allegiance to, say, Auburn University. War Eagle!

Image result for war eagle images

[Allow me to digress for just a second, WAR EAGLE! Is that a great motto or what? I went to a military school and we never came up with WAR EAGLE! Auburn was, once upon a time, a military school, but still. WAR EAGLE!]

Continue reading

03/27/19

Anchors Aweigh, Tech IPOs

First quarter of 2019 was a bust for tech Initial Public Offerings. Some blame it on the government shutdown and the inability to get the United States Securities and Exchange Commission to respond to preliminary S-1s (registration document). Fair play to that sentiment.

A company files an S-1, the US SEC reviews it, the SEC provides comments, and the issuer makes revisions in response to the SEC’s comments. Now, your preliminary S-1 has become a final S-1 and you are registered. In two weeks, you can begin banging your drum. If the government is shut down, this process doesn’t happen.

If you just take a Mulligan for Q1-2019 and focus on the rest of the year, you may see a deep lineup of tech companies, familiar names amongst them, getting ready to make the leap.

Here is my favorite recent public offering, demonstrating her flexible approach to the world. Can you reach down and grab your foot while in a seated position? Her name is Tempe and she is a Southern girl from Savannah. But, I digress.

Continue reading

03/27/19

Drone Profits

For the first time ever, a drone has been used in a commercial application that derived revenue for its owner. This is the story of UPS and Matternet providing a drone delivery service in Raleigh, North Carolina. UPS is a delivery company while Matternet is a drone tech company.

This just happened yesterday, so it is a fresh and new happenstance. Here is the actual drone.

UPSDrone 20

Their customer is WakeMed whose campus is in Raleigh. Using the drone reduced a 30-60 minute transportation time across campus to three minutes and fifteen seconds. This time savings could be life saving as, sometimes, the delivery might be blood or an organ sample.

Continue reading

02/21/19

Scaling Talent in a Growing Startup

Today we talk about how a company scales its talent as the company grows. Can it be done? What do you need to watch for?

So, a conversation that recurs from time to time is this — the talent with which you found and initially grow a company may not be strong enough to grow the company in the mid to long term, and get to the Promised Land.

When you are a band of brothers or sisters, it is beguiling to believe that you have the right mix of people to grow the company to its ultimate size.

This is how co-founders think of themselves when they first found the company. They are killers, happy, genial killers, but still killers. Look at these sweet co-founders.

Image result for images of lions

Beguiling.

Continue reading