Chuck Holloway: Nazila is also the mother of two daughters.
Nazila Alasti: Yes, I am.
Chuck Holloway: And someone who is passionate about trying to help those of you who are thinking about entrepreneurship learn more about it. So that’s why she’s here today.
Nazila Alasti: Yeah, let me add to that Chuck. Thank you for bringing it up. I also want to talk to the women in the group if you’re interested afterwards about why I believe entrepreneurship is actually a very valid choice and, compatible with being a mother. So anyone who is interested in discussing that, I’m open to doing that. The world will tell you no, it’s 24/7, etc. Unless you burn the midnight oil, you won’t be successful. I happen to have a different story. So if anyone is interested I’m happy to share that.
Chuck Holloway: Great. Thank you. So we talked to — we’ve heard from two people who actually had technical backgrounds. Will, give us your background and what you’re doing now.
Will Price: Thanks, Chuck. So I graduated in 1999 from Kellogg, and I’ve been in the Valley since then. I’ve done a combination of both startups and venture capital activity. So currently I am the CEO of Sequoia Hummer-Winblad funded company called Widgetbox. And I joined Widgetbox two years ago. And before that, I was a managing director at Hummer-Winblad and spent six years in the venture capital business. So since I got out of business school, I’ve had kind of the opportunity to see both entrepreneurs in action as a venture backer, and thinking through business models and deciding who to finance and who not to finance. And then also, having decided that to become an entrepreneur myself and it’s only recently I even considered myself one, quite honestly. But the last couple years of running a small startup that’s not profitable makes you one, I think. It’s been a very interesting time to run a company. So, now I’m definitely excited to be here today and kind of share my thoughts about what business school taught me, what it didn’t taught me, to teach me about, how to lead a company, bring products to market, sell, etc.
And Chuck’s right, like in terms of backgrounds, I went to Harvard, studied East Asian studies and finance and started my career actually in Asia. So I worked in Hong Kong, and Singapore, spoke Mandarin Chinese and thought I was going to be part of the Asian miracle, but so I’ve done — I’m not coming from an engineering background, in other words. And so part of, one of the questions today I think is, how do MBAs and finance people fit in to a culture that’s really run by engineers as opposed to business types, and kind of the MBA being a joke, as opposed to something good. So I’m happy to be here and look forward to a good discussion.
Chuck Holloway: Now one of the things, Will, if I am correct in reading this and listening to you, you formed, you joined Widgetbox after it had actually been founded.
Will Price: That’s correct. So there were three technical founders. They’d actually raised $10 million before I got there.
Chuck Holloway: Some from you.
Will Price: Some from me, I was the seed financier and then Sequoia did the A round and then Brent Jones and Tommy Vardell at Northgate did the B round. And at that point they were looking for a CEO and they did a nine month search and the last guy that we made the offer to, I told myself at the dinner if this guy doesn’t take the job, I’m doing it. He didn’t take the job.
Chuck Holloway: So, some different paths here, I mean starting their own company, going out and trying to find the idea, put the team together, versus joining a startup after it’s had the initial founders. The way we want to start this is to ask them a little bit about what led them to decide to follow an entrepreneurial path. Because many of you are in business school, or not in business school, you’re thinking about this and you’ve got a set of ideas in your head as to what it’s going to be like to be an entrepreneur. And then, what has been the biggest surprise for them as they joined the entrepreneurial world? So you got a vision, what led you to do this, and then, what’s been the biggest surprise once you jumped in? Let’s start with Nazila.
Nazila Alasti: So I think I touched on that. For me, my job was such a big part of my life that, unless I was very creative and had the freedom to do what I wanted to do, didn’t have to explain myself too much, I was unhappy. So I thought that a smaller environment, less bureaucratic environment would afford that. I wanted to be my own boss, and kind of live and die by the decisions that I made. I also like adrenaline, I like living on the edge. I like being pushed to make decisions. I felt that I had too much cushion at Apple, frankly, my decisions really didn’t make a difference. The juggernaut was going on, and I was doing my best but where was my contribution really. So those were some of the reasons that I decided to jump into the entrepreneurial pool.
The biggest surprise though, and this, probably you all are smarter than I was. I’m an immigrant so I always thought of myself as someone who can do anything, just give the problem to me, I’ll do it. I’ll take care of it. I really never put too much emphasis or attention on partners and I learned the lesson the hard way, that in a startup environment, the biggest surprise for me was how much you needed partners. Just like you can’t have — well you can have a baby on your own I suppose, you can adopt one, and maybe that’s what you did, coming in late as a CEO. I don’t know. The analogy stops there. But I cannot emphasize the importance of partners. And I cannot emphasize how much I was lacking in that dimension. And how much I wish, had I done things a different way, to go back and make ideas, joint ideas as opposed to my idea. So that was the biggest surprise for me.