Transcript of What They Don’t Teach in Business School about Entrepreneurship – Part of 2010 Conference on Entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB…
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: MP3 – What They Don’t Teach in Business School about Entrepreneurship
Chuck Holloway – Professor, Stanford GSB
A session on what they don’t teach in business school about entrepreneurship. Having taught entrepreneurship in Stanford business school for something like 13 years, I can tell you there’s a lot. Some of it we know we don’t teach, and some of it we probably should teach if we knew a little more about the subject. So, I think it’s a very pertinent subject today. So Mike, why don’t you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you did, and just remember, I’ve got a little bio here. So if you don’t include things, I can include it, and if you do include things that, that aren’t in here, I may question you on it.
Mike Cassidy: Okay. It’s like the Senate Investigation Committee.
Chuck Holloway: Exactly. Except you’re not sitting out there.
Mike Cassidy: I do have lights flashing at me. So I’ve been the CEO and co-founder of four startups. I was very lucky with the first three. One was, the first one was, I started with $500 of myself and each of my two partners putting $500 so we had $1,500. We started in my second year of business school at the Stanford of the East Coast, in Boston.
Chuck Holloway: You’re very kind.
Mike Cassidy: We never raised venture capital. It started as a company called Dial A Fish. It was where you could order groceries from home. It was insane. This was before the internet and everything. We eventually sold it for — we had to change direction because that was not going to work into a computer telephony tool. We sold it for $13 million a few years later, which was tiny for Silicon Valley standards, but, a fair New England return on the $1,500 investment.
The second company was Direct-Hit, which was an internet search engine. Nobody ever heard of Direct Hit, but we were providing search results to Microsoft, AOL, Lycos. We’re kind of a behind-the-scenes provider. And it was the right time we grew to a market value of $500 million. 500 days after we launched it, and we sold it in January of 2000.
And then the third company was Xfire which is an instant messenger for PC video gamers. It spread virally. We got to about three million users, two years after launching. We sold it for a $100 million to MTV and now there’s 15 million users, using it. And I’m now working on my fourth one, which I could end up being, I want to be four now but I could be three and one because we haven’t sort of found the formula for success on Ruba. Ruba is a travel site, so that’s sort of my background.
Chuck Holloway: And when did you graduate from Harvard?
Mike Cassidy: A long, long, time ago.
Female Panelist: We have to get into numbers.
Chuck Holloway: Oh, yeah, well, the reason why is, is sort of interesting to know the timing of your first venture, right, because, that was, you say, prior to the internet.
Mike Cassidy: Yes.
Chuck Holloway: But, so you were actually a leader in that, others came after you, also didn’t do very well. Right? You may have been the biggest winner in that whole space of ordering food from home.
Mike Cassidy: If we’d started a different time.
Chuck Holloway: Well, you sold it for $13 million. Most of the other companies I know lost money, right?
Mike Cassidy: Sure. So I decided I was going to stop aging at age 31. So, I graduated Harvard from 1991. So I must have graduated around age 11. You can figure out.
Chuck Holloway: Good. All right, thank you. Nazila?
Nazila Alasti: So I’m Nazila Alasti and I started life as an engineer. I’m Iranian originally, and in my country if you’re a good student you either become a doctor or an engineer, so there was — that was the choice and I was scared of blood so off I went into engineering school. But it was actually a really great background I thought for Silicon Valley. I didn’t know I would end up here, but I did. And I was thankful for my parents for having pushed me into engineering.
Fast forward, five years of working at a technology company at Mass Microdevices. I became a project designer, project lead, went to business school, and learned that people can actually make money selling pencils. And that it doesn’t have to be semiconductors. That was my big learning from business school. Entrepreneurial activities at the time were not as hot as they are now.
Chuck Holloway: What was it — when did you graduate?
Nazila Alasti: I graduated in ‘88. So, I also stopped aging at 30, a few years earlier than you, yeah. And I have to say that my experience at business school was really eye-opening, broadening, but I wouldn’t say that I was focused on necessarily becoming an entrepreneur. It seemed very risky at the time. However after I got out and experienced the venture capital world for a couple of years and then went on to work at Apple, which I consider really my formative years at Apple, and worked on a big failure of a project called Newton, which was the original hand-held device. I came to understand that I really needed more freedom in my life, and that the corporate structure wasn’t providing that, and I was stupid enough or naive enough to say that I could do things on my own. So I started a long line of all sorts of startups, failures as well as successes. And ended up now running Jooners, which was my first, from Powerpoint to funding, to product startup, where I’m CEO, founder and I’m growing that business. So, that’s a little bit about me.
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.
Chuck Holloway: You’re thinking about a partner, is this a founding partner, or you’re thinking about a partner in terms of somebody in the supply chain or the distribution chain or?
Nazila Alasti: Oh, the founding partner more. Yeah, and I also, just let me briefly say that I think, my experience in business school told me what I was good at, not was I was lacking. And so if I were to do it again, I would emphasize a lot what I’m lacking, so that that defines the type of partner you’ll be looking for. So more on that if the discussion goes that way.
Chuck Holloway: Okay. Will?
Will Price: Yeah, for me I think it was just a combination of a lot of different variables. But if you think about where we live today, right now, in this Valley, it’s almost like how could you not do it. If not now when. And this is, the whole ecosystem here is geared toward risk taking, testing yourself. There’s a whole obviously, a huge base of institutional venture capital support. Legal systems are here. And really it came down to, I remember doing investment when I was in the investment side about how to test semiconductors. And at the time there was, the state-of-the-art was testing a quarter of the wafer, and then it was half the wafer, and then finally this breakthrough to test the full wafer. And I feel like entrepreneurship is a full wafer test. It’s testing every part of who you are. It’s testing your passion, your endurance, your perseverance, your leadership skills, your sales ability, and I just felt that if I was 65 looking back on my career, I would never forgive myself for living in this environment, at this time and not testing the whole wafer. And so, venture capital is a great job but it’s literally — it’s a research job. And it’s a job where you make investment decisions. And I always felt when I met with the entrepreneurs, I’m like, God, these guys. I admire them so much, and it just got to the point where I couldn’t imagine not doing it.
Chuck Holloway: And once you jumped in, what was the biggest surprise?
Will Price: The biggest surprise was, it being okay that you don’t have all the answers, and trusting in process to help you get to an answer. Like I really thought, because as an investor you’re hypothesis driven. You believe that you’re making an investment based on the following characterization, a, b and c, therefore, d. And as soon as you start running a company you realize none of those hypothesis work, and because the venture guy, you’re paid to have an opinion. When they say, Will, what’s your opinion on this deal, do you have an opinion? And all the sudden I realized, like, shit, I don’t even know what to do now. And realizing that that was a very unnatural feeling because I’d find in myself of always knowing of you and realizing now that I don’t know. And we’ve basically, in the context of this is we had no idea how to make money, none. And like dealing with that and accepting that and then realizing, like, well how are we going to get out of this problem? And just deciding that, okay, I’m reminded of when Nick Saban won the national chair and he said that hey, we believe in process, not results at Alabama and what did that mean. What he meant was that if you know how to block, you how to play defense, you know how to do these things, you just play the game and then you trust the process to help you get to the result that you want. But, so rather than a random act of heroism where you’re going to have this flash of genius that’s going to make you rich, just deciding slowly, steadily, plod your way in a predictable way where you’re going and then trusting that that’s going to help you arrive at the right answer as opposed to a prior saying I have the answer, now we’ll just make that happen. That was a really hard transition from being an investment hypothesis driven thinker to a process driven thinker.
Mike Cassidy: Out of engineering school I went and worked at a place called Hughes Aircraft Company. And one of the projects I got to work on was a solar powered race car. And it was a totally cool job. We raced across Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. And this car, before we built this car, the fastest, again, this was a long time ago, the fastest solar powered cars were going maybe 20 miles an hour, maybe 22 miles an hour. And we built a car that could go 55 miles an hour forever, just on sunlight. Which is, from a knee jerk perspective like it’s an amazing accomplishment. And we won the race and we came back and I remember clear as ever my boss saying that’s amazing. I just want to let you know the average race at Hughes Aircraft Company is 6%, you’re going to get 6.5% this year. And just the feeling at that moment of your fate being in your own hands was like okay this is not going to work. I was also fired between first and second year at business school. I went to work with a consultant company. At the end of the summer everyone got an offer to come back except for me. And they fired me because I scowled at people senior to me in the firm. And they told me that I admired them for at least telling me that, but you know, talk about wanting to be in control, these are all sort of strong influences.
And one other thing sort of, how do you get into entrepreneurship, I was interviewed on Japanese TV actually and I said, well I think one of the key tests is how do you feel at 9 o’clock on Sunday night. If you feel like oh, yeah, it was a great weekend. I’m looking forward to this week because of cool projects, that’s one thing. But if you feel like oh, man, I can’t believe the weekend’s over. I’m really not looking for work, it’s time to change. Well they show this on Japanese TV and actually showed this at 9 o’clock on Sunday night and apparently they got flooded with 12,000 phone calls to the switchboards or whatever saying, yes, I need to get a new job. So those were my influences on doing a new startup and the biggest surprise for me at the risk of Chuck’s wrath because this is one of the Ben said things yeah, in terms of, I believe the most important things are a small team with high morale is really hard to defeat. And we had to change — three out of my four companies had to change. Original idea completely failed and had to change to a new idea and that was a surprise to me. It wasn’t so much the quality of the original idea, but it was the quality of the team and the morale of the team that I think were the key thing.
Chuck Holloway: Yeah, interesting. So similar to Nazila’s point, that you need a team, you need a high performance team, because let me just generalize what you just said, Mike. There are very few companies that start off maybe here, and just go like that. Most of them go, like this, even if they get there, and many more go like this, and end up over here. And, the question is, how do you do this, sometimes what’s called the art of small-boat sailing. Any of you who’re sailors, you tack back and forth. And a good team is the way to do it.
So now we’re going to turn a little bit to — thank you very much — we’re going to turn a little bit to lessons learned. And to start off just asking each one of the panelists so what are the two key lessons, one or two lessons that have been important to your success, lack of success, if there’d been failures, you learn more from failures often than from successes. And how and where did you learn them, and then we’re going to — after we leave that, we’ll come and talk about reflecting back on your business school experience and to find out sort of what you think was most important about your business school experience. So let’s start with what are one or two key lessons that have been important to your success, lack of success in your entrepreneurial career, how and where did you learn them, and, let’s get started with Will.
Will Price: I would say — I don’t want to repeat myself a little bit, but I think what Mike said is also really important, too, like, [Andy Cummers] wrote the book Plan B, and basically it’s the same point Chuck made about tacking back and forth. It’s being, having a smart, high-energy team that learns really rapidly what the signals the market are giving it, and we have a thesis about our business and now we’re on like thesis four I think, probably. And recognizing that like — I remember Chuck used to be on the board of ConEd and the founder of ConEd told me once, when I was thinking about starting a company. He said, hey listen the first step is the hardest, but once you start you’re just on a journey and a process, and then I think that’s right. Like so just beginning this work, be very, very aggressive about it. But at the same time be very flexible as a team about how to attack based on what you’re hearing, so thesis around revenue or monetization or customer acquisition, market segment positioning all that it should be taken with a degree of flexibility so that you can reconstitute yourself. And then being able to work with investors is really critical around that. Because investors again, going back to my original premise about difference between start ups and investing. Investors are thesis driven. So if you say we are going to go do this. I’m raising money for this purpose, and we are going to attack this market this way. We are going to characterize revenue model this way. And then the first board meeting you are like, well, that’s not, it didn’t work. Having the ability to have that conversation with them. So they are with you through the journey as opposed to being surprised by the attack. And so I would say being able to work down with your team and try to attack the market and learn and then other challenge has been, how do you work back up with your investor group to basically say, okay, well, here’s what we’re seeing in the market. Here’s the data points. Here’s how I’d characterize those. Here’s why I think we need to move direction a little bit, and then, making that an open conversation, so they become part of the solution as opposed to like, critically observing your problem. So, I don’t know if that makes any sense.
Chuck Holloway: So the lesson is, be ready for changes of course, and embrace them. And also, have the courage to go back to your investor group and explain to them, this is not — this company is not doing what they invested in. And your point about as an investor, you’ve got a thesis, and you are investing in a market. And if at the first board meeting, they come back and say, oops sorry, guys, I just took your $10 million, but – we’re not going there.
Will Price: Right. And the other thing I’ve really learned I think, and I say this with all due respect is that investors are extremely opinionated lot, like alpha male type people typically. And they have lots of opinions. The other thing I learned was to acknowledge and be respectful and listen to all of them without being overly reactive to respond to any particular one of them. What I mean by that is they’re going to say, you should do this, this, this and this and first, I’d be like, I’d go back and be like okay well that doesn’t make sense. Why would I do that? But, so there’s a fine line I guess between having an open conversation with investors and being extremely respectful of their opinions because CEOs who don’t listen to their board get fired relatively quickly in my experience. So, you listen, but then you still are in charge. And so, you have to decide how you incorporate their feedback, make them feel like they’ve been heard without making decisions that you go against your own gut feel or what you think the business should really do. That’s something that’s also hard to learn, I think.
Chuck Holloway: Just so, he was an investor with a firm called Hummer Winblad. One of those two was Ann Winblad. so, let me change a little bit the alpha male to very determined and opinionated. How is that?
Will Price: That’s very, very fair.
Chuck Holloway: All right. Mike?
Mike Cassidy: So for me, one of the golden rules is speed is the ultimate weapon. And I’ve learned it in a good way and a bad way. I have all these little sayings. I think the probability of any business development deal ever happening declines by 10% everyday it doesn’t close. And I really believe that. So, we closed the Microsoft deal with Direct Hit where our results were shown on the Microsoft search result page. And that deal was done in less than ten days. And I think if it stretched on to six weeks or something it would have never even gotten done. Same with AOL deal. I’ve just seen through my history which ones close and which ones don’t. Same thing with raising money. I think I’ve raised seven rounds of financing and six out of the seven had a signed term sheet the day I pitched. And I think if we stretch it out longer, all these questions and second thoughts, and more market research and whatever comes up and, and even closing employees. Someone comes in for an interview, we’ll do due diligence checks while they’re still interviewing other people in the company, and before they leave the building, we’ll give them an offer if we like them and say, are you ready to accept? And they’re like floored. And right now? Yes. We say okay, I understand, we don’t want to rush you sleep and let us know 9 o’clock tomorrow morning. But we get a lot of those people, and if we don’t, I’ve seen people spread out and then, you lose them. Also, launching products, all my company we’ve launched, launched a product within three months, three and a half months of starting the company. And then it’s not a very full-featured product but you get the feedback from the market and everything. So speed for me is far and away the most important lesson I’ve learned.
Chuck Holloway: So, one of the points you made there had to do with raising money and signing the deal the same day you pitched it. Were you able to do that the first time out? Let’s assume that that these people are all going to be the first time out.
Mike Cassidy: So, people always ask that. And so let me just say, part of the reason all of us I think here are doing this is for aspirations. To sort of get you guys motivated and excited so some of these things may seem like oh, I can’t believe that. But it’s sort of a goal to go after. But actually — my second company, so I had one under my belt, $13 million one. We pitched them at 8:15 on a Tuesday morning in April of 1998, and we got a signed term sheet from them by 4:30. And the way you do that, anyone in this room can do that. I think some of the techniques are, you come into that meeting with what I call and if then contract. And if then contract I go get a customer for the product and, and make these amazing claims. Like, if we can provide search results in 50 milliseconds that 80% of your users think our results better than your current results, would you buy them for a dollar per thousand? And almost anyone will say yeah, okay. So, they sign a letter or whatever and then walk into the Trevor Fischer with this letter.
Now there’s all sorts of caveats and clauses and no legal contract, but at least Trevor Fischer says okay, market risk has been eliminated. He’s got a customer. And also you walk into that meeting with sort of how you’re going to build that product. Here’s the Gantt chart, here’s the people. Here’s the three people I’m going to hire. I’ve already talked to them, they’ve already committed to joining. Here’s the database schema. Trevor Fischer doesn’t know whether the scheme is right or not right, or which way they are going to take six. But at least they think, okay, this person seems to know where they are going. And so, it is much easier for them to say okay, yeah. And of course you also play competitive pressure. I always do my meetings, I’m meeting — Will’s been on the receiving side of this probably. I meet with three VCs in the same day. And I say it’s moving fast, and I’m actually expecting a term sheet by 5 o’clock today. And sometimes, they’ll call me back the next day and say, we’re in. And I say, it’s gone. And they’re like, what do you mean it’s gone? And I say, I told you 5 o’clock. And they say, but all entrepreneurs say that. And I say, well, sometimes, it is gone. So I think if you just project this, if you project this, you can get it done. And a lot of times, the venture capitalists will sense this. And they say, wow, this is moving.
Chuck Holloway: Who were you dealing with at Draper.
Mike Cassidy: On that day? I had Tim, Steve and John all in the room at 8:15.
Chuck Holloway: Yeah. They are a group that can and does, and do make quick decision, so that’s pretty good. Let’s see, who do we – Nazila?
Nazila Alasti: Yeah, wow. I’m floored. I want you on my board. My experience has been very different. The small sailboat analogy I think corresponds to our journey definitely with Jooners, the company I’m leading right now. It was different with eCircles, this was late 90s, ‘98 ‘99, we raised $27 million and it was very much of this quick, now or never but I guess my biggest lesson is that you shouldn’t give up. And if 9 o’clock at night on Sunday you still feel that you have the passion, it’s an affair that’s not finished. If you’re still coming up with good ideas, then keep on added, even if you don’t have the term sheet, right? So, persistence always pays. And it’s kind of what Will was saying about the process. Be very focused on what you’re doing, where you are in the process, and don’t give it up. Don’t let people derail you. Because they will try to.
The other lesson I learned is that, maybe I’m too much of an engineer. I really don’t have it in me to go and bluff like that.
Mike Cassidy: Yes you do.
Nazila Alasti: Yeah, exactly. So I need you as a coach. I will urge all of you to find a Mike and learn from. Seriously, there have been board members in my company that have told me, you did this and this is how you spoke about it? I think it’s also, perhaps, not too fine a point on it, a female characteristic. Well, yeah, you were expecting me to do this, right? Why should I even brag about it? As opposed to, because you’re dealing most of the time with these alpha males, that are — I characterize them as lions. Right? I am an ant. You know, I build. And then I face the lion, and the lion just basically, all he does all day long is sit under the shade and watch. Ooh, that looks like a good prey over there. Attack. And that, when the lion is attacking Mike, Mike is like, whoa, I’ve got 3 other lions coming quick. Whereas with me, I’m okay. So we’re laughing about this, but this is a serious point. Find out if you’re an ant, get yourself a lion partner somewhere, if you’re a lion, get yourself an ant partner, right? Because both are necessary and that’s the combo is really unbeatable. The combo is what lets you do the speed. Right? And the ant and the lion better trust each other. You don’t look like me. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know you wear lipstick. Yeah, I know. But I have a brain I can help.
Let me also share since I’ve got the audience laughing, I think I have permission here. I was 6 months pregnant with my second daughter. Amazon made an offer for the company I was at, eCircles, at the time for $250 million. $245 million to be very precise. Imagine, second child, belly comes out much faster. I am this big, and I’m literally jumping up and down on the table saying to the CEO, take it, take it, take it. And he looks at me and he says, you’re not an entrepreneur. You really don’t have the balls. An entrepreneur will say no to them. I’m like, no, this is $245 million. Don’t say no. We sold that company for $13 million to classmates.com 6 months from that point, right after, whatever, February of 2000, April of 2000, right? So at that point, I really felt this small. I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s right, I’m pregnant and my hormones have gotten the better of me, and I’m definitely not an entrepreneur. That’s why I’m working for this guy as a VP of Marketing. I may have all these ideas. I may know where I’m going, but yep, I’m not an entrepreneur. Don’t let ever the world tell you that even if you’re 6 months pregnant. Right? Seriously. Stick to it. Go to the board. Do whatever you need. Because sometimes right. People come in different packages. And don’t let the world tell you that you need to look different. Anyway, I stop.
Chuck Holloway: And there’s a female intuition in some of these things, I think that’s pretty important. I’ll tell you one other story. Hotmail, Sabeer Bhatia had an offer from Microsoft for $250 million. Sabeer is from India. Sabeer called home and he’s talking to his father and he said we just had an offer for $250 million from Microsoft and his father says that is really great. And he says I turned it down. His father hangs up. A nanosecond later his mother’s on the phone saying, Sabeer, call that man back and tell him you’ll take that offer. He took the offer.
Nazila Alasti: So the moral of the story is better be a mother than an entrepreneur.
Chuck Holloway: And Steve Jurvetson was on the board saying don’t take the offer.
Well, so let’s turn now to business school education and how that might, or might not, have helped prepare you for your work. In general, and in specific, instances, sort of, in general, but then, they did or didn’t. And then what were the most valuable classes you took and what classes didn’t you take that you wish you had taken and I guess we’ll start with Will.
Will Price: Okay. I thought about this quite a bit. I guess I have three comments that I thought of. This is more about what I didn’t learn. The first is that risk is really relative. People think that doing startups is risky. My, a lot of the guys that when I look back, I went to my tenth this past year. Went to Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, BCG and McKinsey. They all got fired. All of them. And fired in two different waves. The first in 2002 and then again in the last year. There’s no such thing as a safe haven in this economy. People will cut jobs as soon as they decide. And by the way, you’re like a number in some budgeting exercise. The CFO says, we got to cut heads, 15%. And there’s like all right, take this whole department out. So, just first thing I think is just, there’s no such thing as a safe place, so if you’re going to take risk, which you are, whether you realize it or not you might as well be in control of your own destiny. That’s the first thing that I think a lot of my classmates got wrong. And by the way, when you’re a 10 year Merrill Lynch vet and you get whacked in New York City, in the meltdown of a financial market. What are you going to do then? You’re screwed. If you’re an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley and it doesn’t work out, there’ll be plenty of things to do. I guarantee you.
Second thing is I really think business schools over-teach how rational organizations are. They basically, basically make up this thing that every business is some DCF model or some rational exercise and then everyone gets around and they make a logic based decision about how, what to do. When I first got out of the business school, I remember going into meetings and going, what the fuck just happened? Like, how did that decision just get made? It makes no sense whatsoever, and I literally was like, this is so weird. I was like, disoriented for like weeks and just like, I don’t understand how anyone’s making their decisions. Like, no one’s even doing any analysis, they don’t understand what they’re talking about and I read this book and it was kind of a cliché’, but it basically said there’s two types of companies. There’s companies that are idea driven, where they’re flat, they’re merit based, and people, and they’re generally engineering companies in a lot of ways, and they make decisions based on rational logic.
And then there’s people driven companies that are driven by politics and personal affiliations, and logic has nothing to do with it. There may be this kind of pretend that there’s a process but basically, there’s some decision that gets made based on who knows who or this or that, and all of a sudden it gets announced to the company. And generally if you work in those companies, everyone goes, whoa, what is going on? And I worked in a lot of people, call it, political based organizations and as a MBA, a business person, I just was completely dumbfounded by how companies were working. And I think that there’s — there’s like OB and people talk about that, but really, I think one of the challenges about business in general is economics or finances, people presume logic is the basis for how large companies make decisions and all we have to do is look at Washington D.C. to realize that’s not true.
The last thing I would say is, for some reason business schools are prejudiced against sales. And I guarantee you when you graduate none of your classmates will become sales people. And yet John Thompson, John Chambers, Sam Polusamo, the guys who run Siebel. Yeah, John Mortgage, Steve Ballmer ran sales at Microsoft. Sales people run the world. You know, like they are the guys that go and like, and it’s very rare that a marketing person is going to run Cisco or IBM. You know, it’s sales people. So, why is it that business schools don’t embrace sales in sales cultures, and variable based compensation? Like, all right, we’re going to pay you 100, but you can make 300 if you knock it out. Most MBAs are like, no, I just want 125 and a little bit of variable. But it’s like why? Like, if you’re good and you can sell, then you should go and sell. Certainly, whether you’re selling to raise money or selling your product. Like, sales is the heart of everything we do. And I just wish that someone had said to me like, go become a sales guy. Or like learn sales or sales management. Or and it’s kind of like this dirty thing, like yeah, I will do product management, I will do business strategy, oh, and then someone’s going to sell it. Well, who? And if you’re going to manage sales people it would probably be good to do that. So I just don’t get that part of it.
And then one last thing and I am done really quickly. MBAs all have the same mental frameworks rather than make decisions, and when you go into a company you have to — you get almost challenged a little bit. Like, you went in with a visual designer and they’re very creative and they think in terms of pictures and design. And then engineers are very logic architectural driven and they won’t understand scale and all the other things. And when you do a lot of group work at business school, everyone’s kind of sharing a common framework, because they’re teaching you a frame, a method of decision making, and then you get into a company, and you realize there’s a lot of this communication problem. You’re like, how does this person not understand how they think, or it makes no sense what they’re saying to me. Well, that’s because they’re looking at the problem completely differently than you. And I would say, the other thing I wish I had done more in business school is do cross-discipline work, like with other people not in my school. And I think that D school here’s a great example of that, where you can go work with some creative designers and some engineers, and you can really realize that to solve a problem with people from different disciplines requires to be a flexibility in how you communicate and how you think about it, and that was a real shock to me too. And you end up like, I have a of couple people for me who are designers. And like whenever I talk to them, I realize like, wow, I don’t — they’re looking at this problem from such a different vantage point than me, but yeah, it’s very valuable. The way they’re thinking and they’re better at it than I am. So, those are all things that I wish I’d learned more of I suppose.
Mike Cassidy: So, a while ago I had this dream, this fantasy, like gosh I wish I had this magical power that I could get my company to work. I could control the brain of someone I’m trying to get a business development deal with, you know, get inside, get Google to do this, get Google to up, change my page rank or whatever. And I’m trying to get around to supporting Will’s point that and then I realized you actually can. And that’s through this persuasion, this charisma, this sales technique that I think is the most important thing CEOs do. One way that I got a lot of experience was in my first company, we were selling this software product, $500 software product over the telephone. And there were 3 people in the company. And we had just gotten this article in this magazine, and sure enough, 300 people called in the next two days saying yeah, we want to get the product. We didn’t even have it finished yet, we were a little bit, jumped the gun. And so we created this database and we started to put everybody’s name down and call them back. And then more people would call in about the product.
So in the beginning, out of every 100 calls, I would take their information down, I would send them a brochure and I’d say okay, I’ll follow up or something like that. I basically was closing nothing. In 10 weeks later, out of every 100 calls, I could get 33 of them to give me their credit card number by the end of the call. And you just learn to say well look, we have a 30 money back guarantee, so why don’t you just give me your credit card and I’ll send it to you, then you can just do the tutorials. You don’t like it, why do you want to spend time reading the brochure? Why don’t we just have the product in your hand? And you can try different techniques and different approaches, and learn which ones work.
And the other thing I think that happens, that’s very powerful is when you ask for something huge, something you think is maybe a little bit outrageous, and someone gives it to you, it’s a very eye opening experience. When you say to AOL, why don’t you put our search results right here and split the revenue 50:50 with us. And when they say okay, you’re like, oh my goodness. There’re some other analogies I could give maybe, probably not appropriate in this environment but, if you go for something you think is maybe unattainable and sometimes they say yes, it’s a very powerful experience. And it makes you try more often.
Nazila Alasti: Good. So I said that business school should require every student before graduating to sell $10 worth of goods. $10. I second your point, and I’m going to move on. Selling is underestimated, and it is hard to get $10 out of a person, believe me. It doesn’t matter the age, doesn’t matter the size, doesn’t. So, in our company, at Jooners, we started as a free service, we debugged it and then realized that we have a long way to go for this market to realize, and we’d better have some money coming in. So, we turned it into a subscription service. And the amount of effort and thinking that went into this exercise, I can write books about. But, the net result of it is that we became the masters of our own universe, if you will. It’s a very small business, but it is self-sustaining. Right? So, important stuff: sales. I can’t highlight it enough.
Similarly, I thought that in business school my biggest learning was on organizational behavior, just because I love to learn more about people and how minds work. And accounting, because I knew nothing about it. Right, so those were the courses that attracted me the most and I learned the most from. I think there is an over emphasis at least in my years. But I’m sure things have changed on maximizing revenues and profits as opposed to maximizing value. And that’s a critical question that – and the reason for it, I think, goes a little bit to the fact that all of us living in U.S capitalist society, and so forth, I don’t know what the reason is. But we always think bigger is better. And I’m not sure if that’s the case for everyone. So, understanding on the spectrum of very, very, very small to very, very, very large where your idea, product, mentality, personality, wish for life, whatever. Where that fits I think we’ll with the question what am I maximizing? Certainly you can’t create Cisco, just maximizing value. Although some would argue that if value wasn’t maximized in some form or fashion, Cisco wouldn’t be created. We can have a debate about which one comes first. But at the end of the day, the question that I face as a CEO in my company right now, is, what am I maximizing? Certainly I’m not maximizing number of people coming to the site and registered members because I am putting in front of them a $19.95 barrier, right? Subscriptions. Give me money. Otherwise, you can’t use the product. But I’m maximizing, the fact that I know the people that I have are going to pay this money, because there is a pain that I solved for them. That’s what I’m maximizing right now. So, on that.
Another point, scale. When I was at Apple, I was so ignorant. I would look around and say this is so stupid. This is so big. And they don’t really see the value of my great ideas. You know, what, what is going on? I was like you. I was like I’m an MBA, Use me! I’m smart. I can do, etcetera. But if you end up in a big company, please, do me a favor and take the time to learn about scale. You know just watch it. Just watch how organizations are billed, watch how products are shipped. Just watch it. Because there are a lot of lessons that you’ll learn, that you don’t know where did, when and where they’re going to come handy, but they will. I guarantee you.
So scale, it’s kind of – if you don’t understand it, like I was when I was at Apple, it’s easy to pooh pooh at and just say, ugh, I’m just going to go be an entrepreneur. But if you pay attention and learn from scale, then you can be a better entrepreneur, I think. And I would harp once more, again, learn where you are weak. I think, in business school, because it’s such a selective program at Stanford. People that come in, we all felt we were the chosen and the school does nothing to diminish that, right? We’re continuously pumped, at the very same time that I was going through business school my husband, my now husband, then boyfriend, was going through a PhD program at Stanford and every day he was told how stupid he is. Seriously. He was writing a thesis, he was doing cutting edge work, he was doing modelling like you wouldn’t believe. And every day, they were telling Murph, yep, you came short, you came short. And every day, I was, just for sitting in these great chairs, I was being told I’m wonderful. And so what happens is that you really, I think, gravitate towards what you’re strong at as opposed to finding out what you’re weak at. And you may be fine, I’m good at talking, so I’m just going to keep on talking. I may not be very good at thinking, or understanding people’s feelings, so I’m just going let another person do that. That certainly is a strategy, nothing wrong with that.
But, if you want to be a more holistic manager, and more well rounded entrepreneur, I would definitely pay attention to the negative space. And what it is that you don’t do well. And why and how can you, how can you beef it up?
Chuck Holloway: Thank you. So, we’ve got a couple other questions that we can throughout here the panel. But let’s open it up here and see if there’s any questions from the audience.
Audience: Nobody’s mentioned financing on your own. Growing organically. I actually have started a number of businesses one of which 30 partners who are each partners have made a million dollars and the company is now the biggest company in the United States in this particular field. Can anybody comment on that, I never think on any of it in any business.
Mike Cassidy: I can, so my first one was self financed with $1500, we never raised debt or equity from investors. It’s quite painful to run a company with $1500 in invested capital, it reduces your flexibility about having any computers, for example, in the company. So I don’t think you have to raise venture money, but it’s sort of an optimization decision. The fastest way to get there a lot of ways is to raise venture money. Now I actually haven’t raised a lot of venture money, Direct-Hit started with $1.4 million and Xfire site with $1 million. So, I think you can do just fine with – See, I’m even — drink the Kool-Aid in Silicon Valley. Even small amount is like a million dollars. I think you can do quite fine with that.
Audience: Yeah, I just, thank you, by the way. My name’s Erica, and I’m a first year. And we’ve had an ethics class and an OB class, and in both of those classes we’ve been talking a lot about biases recently, and just how we’re inherently biased, kind of like self fulfilling nature, and I’m constantly struggling with that and then also looking at entrepreneurial spirit, because it’s like, head down, get it done, like, how do you, there’s a little bit of talk about in attacking and reacting to the market, but how do you reconcile your own biases with also just moving straight forward ahead?
Chuck Holloway: By biases, you mean, in terms of thinking about what consequences might be of a particular action or are you thinking about biases against entrepreneurship or for entrepreneurship? How do you deal with your personal might call prior priors in terms of how the world works? Anybody want to?
Nazila Alasti: I’ll take that. So, I came in with my biases about where the direction of the product should be. And was fortunate that I had team members that helped me see how the market was reacting, what was good and bad, we switched that. But I had very strong bias and I am of the school that says, if you don’t believe it, nobody else will believe it. Right, so in that I drove really hard, and then people kept presenting me with data of here is how it is not going to work. Other times I haven’t done so well, so it’s a continuous struggle. But one of the things I do at the end of everyday, I allow ten minutes to just sit. And it’s amazing the things that occur to you – to me in those ten minutes. I would highly recommend you doing that because those types of answers don’t come by sitting and thinking about it. You know what I mean? You just need to let them percolate a little bit and then the answer will be self-evident. But if you don’t believe as an entrepreneur, nobody else will believe, so.
Will Price: Yeah, the only thing I’ve found is that’s really been helping me through that is being very authentic with people. And you think of entrepreneurs maybe — there’s a fine line between being constant salesman optimism and being authentic. And we’ve all met plenty of people where you’re like this guy is such a snake. So you don’t believe it. So, what I’ve found that’s been really helpful is having access to people that where I can just be completely honest with and let my guard down and say here’s I’m really struggling with this and I have — obviously if you’re a leader you don’t want to panic people by making it seem like it’s hopeless or anything. But if you can have access to people – you can just generally lay out your concerns and get feedback. You really find out that having — with the David Hornik’s Conference, the lobby in Hawaii and it was just great for almost like just the people sharing pain basically. It was willy. But in a way, that was very cathartic in the sense that you realize like everyone goes through this. Even people who are super confident super accomplished have gone through very dark moments and even you’re going through that and you’re concerned, you can get recharged by just having that kind of conversation and being able to go back and get stronger to deal with your issues.
Audience: Nazila, you mentioned that the things you learned from [inaudible] —
Chuck Holloway: Well, Mike, I already told you get a 6% raise. Mike, so what do you think? Other than the fact that you learned you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Mike Cassidy: I mean, Will’s point made me think about why some decisions are made. I mean, I was at, let’s just say an unnamed big company where all day long people would go into meetings. There would be no agenda. People would talk for an hour. There would be no action items taken. People would walk out of the meeting and it’s as if the meeting didn’t happen. It’s kind of like, why? So we don’t have very many meetings at my companies. We have a 12 minute weekly all hands meeting on Monday and we have one on ones at 30 minutes in between back and forth and it’s about it.
Chuck Holloway: So, you gave some examples of the problems that you saw. But was there anything you took away from that that was valuable to you and your entrepreneurial career. I think that’s part of the question.
Nazila Alasti: So one thing to do is watch executives. How they run meetings, what they do, what they’re paying attention to. And the best way to do that is to get to know their admin. If the admin knows and likes you, you’ve got access to the executives. So — and don’t be shy, go and ask them all your dumb questions. How do you run meetings and why? What kind of — so those types of access to people that when you come out of that company you will not have access to.
The other thing I learned was the decision making process in a big company. So if you’re searching for a partnership with an AOL, what you want to do is understand how AOL works inside so that if you have a notion of what a VP looks like and what type of decisions and the size company they concern themselves with, what a director looks like, what a manager looks like. Then when you’re facing them, you speak to their concerns. You’re not speaking out of context, if you will, their context.
Lots of lessons about effective meetings as well as non-effective meetings. Again, depending the executive, depending on how the meeting was run. And then the whole idea that, how do you make a ship move when there are thousands of people involved and are there any lessons that can be taken from that to apply to a small company. So, yeah, I think it was a really rich environment. Oh, one last thing, lots of training, classes and so forth as they look at large companies. Come to a small company, there is none of that. You have to beg your boss, can I please go for this $200 entrepreneurship conference whatever. The answer is, in my company, no. And so benefit from those because larger companies are more accommodating.
Will Price: Yeah, I started my career at Morgan Stanley. And I went through the analyst training program there, and I learned excellence, work product, and how to just get stuff done. And that was just — you’re like Friday 4 O’clock, MD calls and says, all right, we’re going to go see a client on Monday. We need to build this gigantic model and run these 50 different scenarios. And by the way, there better not be any mistakes and have it printed, bound, and at my home in Westchester by 7 a.m. Monday. And I just remember there at Morgan Stanley, they taught me once like, hey, the difference between good and great is 10 minutes, and so what do you mean by that, okay, you do something and you go give it to you the seniors at Morgan Stanley, print it out, put on your desk, go walk around the block, go get a coffee, come back and then read it again and you will find four mistakes. If you print it out and take it to him and put it onto his desk he will find them for you or she will find it for you. And big companies that maintain a culture of excellence in execution can really teach you how to be very personally effective and to learn, to functionally execute very quickly. Like build this DCF now and do this and do that. And so Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, those are companies that are big companies but they’re high performance companies where a lot of good work gets done. I remember joking like, those army commercials we do more by six am than most people do all day. I used to say that, I’d go down to the lobby at Morgan Stanley in New York at 5 pm and everybody would be going home. You’d be like all right, shift two is about to start, let’s go back up and crack some more stuff out. You know, you learn to work. And that I take, I took that away.
Chuck Holloway: So some of you have probably worked for, or are working for large companies. I mean, I think one of the things you should do is take from that that there’s things to learn. And it can be important to you as an entrepreneur. 15 years ago, certainly 20 years ago, but even 15 years ago if you asked a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, what was the right profile for an entrepreneur they wanted to back. It would be five or ten years at Hewlett-Packard, or some other company to learn these life lessons. If you ask them now, they don’t say the same thing. And the reason why is because you have people like these three people here. You can go to work for an entrepreneurial company, and you can learn these lessons because you have a set of managers in there who really are excellent and can teach you that. Other questions?
Audience: I’m an engineer and I don’t know if I would learn sales. How am I going to get sales?
Chuck Holloway: Well, you could try selling.
Audience: I mean, like.
Chuck Holloway: How do you get in there? Well, on sales, let me just reinforce what your panel has said here. You think about this, so you have a company, and you’re generating revenue, and it comes time for a vacation. So who do you want to go on vacation? Let’s say you’re going to take a month vacation. Could you get by with the marketing people gone for a month? Could you get by with the finance people gone for a month? The only people you couldn’t let go for a month are sales and operations. You’ve got to ship the product, and you’ve got to have someone to sell it, right? So it is really important.
Now, your question is, how do you get a chance to do that? Is that right?
Audience: How do I get a chance but also I never had an opportunity to work at like a telemarketing firm or something like that.
Chuck Holloway: It’s only one kind of sales. So let’s get to the panel here.
Nazila Alasti: All right, I have the answer for you. I think any company you work for as an engineer would welcome an opportunity for you to sit on help desk. In my company, I am on help desk at least once a week, at least for a couple of hours. You’ll answer emails and technical problems or issues people are having using your product and so forth. And then through answering those, you will learn how you can shift their perception of the product. That’s like step number one in sales. You don’t have to necessarily get dollars in exchange but you help the company maintain that customer. Right?
So if you’re an engineer, best place for you would be to sit on help desk. And do it and offer yourself, and I know wherever you’re working, people will jump at the opportunity because you have the technical know-how. You’ll learn a lot that way. Then tag along to the sales people as the expert, right? They always know how to sell, but they may not have as much in-depth knowledge of the product as you do. So, just ask them, hey, take me with you next time you go on a sales call, I promise not to open my mouth. Or, if this is a really hard customer that has technical problems, tell me what they are and I’ll come prepared to answer those. So I think the first step is just observation. I’ll also say that when I was an engineer I wanted more money, and so I looked around at AMD, and I saw sales people making a lot of money, so I said I want to go be a sales person. So I went and applied. And they told me, what! you’re an engineer, go back to your corner, what do you mean you want to be a salesperson? You’re an engineer, sit there. And that was the reason why I applied to business school, because I thought okay in my limited worldview, if you wanted to sell, you have to go to business school only to learn that there’s really no selling happening in business school, right? So anyway, there are avenues.
Chuck Holloway: We now have a sales course. This course was created, because I was teaching a class on Netflix, and Reed Hastings, the founder was in the class and John Morgridge was there. And so, John asks the question, he says how many, and also there were Frank Quattrone, who was the guy who took them public, and the lawyer who took them public. So John asks the question, he says how many people in this room have been in sales? And, so one person raised his hand, John, none of the students raised their hand. So he looks at Frank Quattrone, says what are you doing these days, Frank. And Frank sort of looks at him and says, oh, I get it. Raises his hand, okay. And then of course Reed Hastings, the CEO raised his hand. The only person that didn’t raise his hand is the lawyer sitting over there, taking notes. So John, so, what are you doing these days, he looks at him and says, oh, raises his hand. So we left that meeting and went out and decided that class, and decided we needed that sales course. So we have it now. I don’t know how many of you students have taken it or thinking about taking it. And this is something that I think a lot of students are taking advantage of. I think we have four sections this year.
Anything else on this question?
Audience: Question for you guys, because, so far I’ve been hearing two years, three years cycles and you sell your companies. So I’ve been running my company for about nine years now. Have you guys had any experience of other people that, really, start at a small medium size level could be plus 50 or 60 people. In nine or ten years do you have the problem — getting tired or impatient and stuff like that. And how do you handle that?
Mike Cassidy: That’s one of the reasons why I like to sell my companies in two years. I think there’s all sorts of benefits you get from exponential growth. From a valuation standpoint, when you’re raising additional financing. From valuation standpoint when you’re selling the company. From an employee morale standpoint, literally if you show this exponential growth of any metric then everyone’s so excited. With the meeting, wow the number’s up. I think it’s really hard to have to maintain the intensity and drive over longer periods of time. I think there are different sets of people. There are certain sets of people who they couldn’t do it. I mean I couldn’t do it. And I guess the only other comment I have is I sometimes advise startup companies, and they say oh, yes, engineering team’s feeling a little bit, not driving as hard, they’re leaving early and whatever, and how do I get them to work harder? And a lot of times I say, that’s the wrong question. The question is, the problem isn’t what they’re doing now. The problem is who you got in the company in the first place. It’s a little bit simplistic, but I think it comes down to the questions you ask during interviews, and the type of people you get in the first place, so you may want to consider switching the team out to people who are — I mean, you don’t have to worry about motivation and drive issues, that they are — it’s so much an internal part of them that it’s not an issue for you.
Chuck Holloway: Greg, you had your hand up?
Greg: Well, I was just going to say that I’m the anomaly in the room because I’m a soft drink company, and not a software company but we, sales and marketing has been very much a part of we have been doing and a more important part of course is the next session in which I’m going to which is on angel investing, because we’re at the stage we need more money. But I think that there are so many companies out there where there are opportunities to get sales experience. And it doesn’t necessarily need to be in your particular field either, and that’s something that I want to emphasize, is that you go out and get any kinds of sales experience – why that is important to another area. So, I was wondering whether any of you in your careers — and everything, technology is focused obviously, because where we are. But I guess you have had experiences in your lives that taught you that sales experience or marketing side of the world.
Will Price: I remember working for an entrepreneur and he told me that every CEO has basically two jobs: to sell and raise money. And so I’ve had two — I’ve been CEO twice now, and I’ve basically — my view is like I’ve subscribed to Mark Lesley philosophy. This is like crack the sales code, the formula for sales yourself, get renaissance people that are not typically functionally aligned in any one area but they can do everything and work out the process for how you sell. And as soon as it starts and be codified and repeatable then you can bring in execution people who are expert at a discipline. And so I think that’s been my approach to make the first five or six sales, realize what works, what doesn’t work and as soon as I feel like, this is kind of be guarded then, you can go hire someone who is literally their resume says sales person. You says okay, here’s the sales process, here’s the collateral, here is your number. Let’s go do it together three, four times and then like launch them off, and so that’s kind of what I did, yeah.
Audience: Actually to follow up to your point, [inaudible] you worked for HP first, what do they say now?
Chuck Holloway: Now they don’t say that anymore, because the people who are running startup companies often have the same kind of experience and they are sophisticated, so you can learn from them. They don’t say don’t do it, but it used to be that’s exactly — that’s the past. We want invest in you Kleiner Perkins unless you’ve been at HP for ten years, not quite like that.
Will Price: Chuck, did you see what Leone said when he went to give a talk in San Jose?
Chuck Holloway: No.
Will Price: They said no one over 30. Seriously. That’s what he said. He got a lot of trouble for it. But Sequoia, they were quoted as saying —
Chuck Holloway: Well, Sequoia is in extreme — yes.
Will Price: We don’t want to hire guys over 30.
Chuck Holloway: Sequoia, Mike Morris told me the other day that he doesn’t believe in market research. So, what do you mean you don’t believe in market research? He says, he says the individual entrepreneur has to understand the market so well, and have the million other people that are just like him or her, or else we are not going to invest in them. So that’s, I would say that is an extreme approach.
Let’s see, we have one here. Anybody else? Right up here.
Audience: So, you all have kind of a long term experience around, and you’ve seen several cycles. Can you comment on opportunities in this, this specific period in time in terms of economy and once have like model that may be broken [inaudible]?
Will Price: I would say that one of the big challenges of venture business, of course everyone’s talking about is, there’s a surplus of committed capital and there’s no public market, M&A exits are challenged, and so, you have the situation where the median ITX is like $50 million. And the average company is raising – median company is raising 18 million or something, so like how does the math work? So I would say there’s this rise of this new like Mike Naples the first rounds, the true ventures, founders fund, there’s this whole new class of investors who are trying to be super capital efficient. Y Combinator would probably be the best example of that. And so I think, that combined with huge differences in the cost of operations, the rise of Amazon EC2S3, the ability to not own a single machine and run a pretty big web application. So I think the rise of capital efficiency, and a new class of investors whose expectations are slightly different from someone who’s got an $800 million committed capital fund. It’s pretty interesting. And it makes it possible, especially if you’re a software guy, to be very capital-efficient and find access to capital where people have expectations where a $50 million exit is actually part of their model.
Nazila Alasti: I will add something else. I think every interaction now is so dependent on email that there will be a shift towards actual customer support and customer service. So, to the extent that you can have more hand holding you can have a more complicated product that’s web based. Not just rely on user experience for that and how you train these people to help you and what technologies they use. I think that’s going to become a very rich environment. The whole idea of customer support and customer education I think we’ll see a renaissance tagging along all the things that Will said.
Chuck Holloway: Mike, any last comments?
Mike Cassidy: I think you should ignore whatever macroeconomic trends are around. I think, sure there’s disadvantages in some situations because it’s hard to raise money, but there’s counterbalancing positive energy — it’s easier to hire and retain people now, and it’s easier to get cheaper office space now, and the competition is lower because they can’t get funded. So I really think you should ignore macro things and just build your company and just not worry about it.
Chuck Holloway: I think we’re going to close with that. Thank you very much, and we appreciate your feedback.