When the student is ready, the master appears - Buddhist Proverb
Lots of entrepreneurs believe they want a mentor. In fact, they’re actually asking for a teacher or a coach. A mentor relationship is a two-way street. To make it work, you have to bring something to the party.
Silicon Valley is built on simple myths – one of the most pervasive is that all winning startups are founded straight out of school by 20 year olds from Stanford or Harvard. The reality is these are the exceptions not the rule.
Too Old at 30?
I was having coffee with an ex-student at the ranch, watching our bobcat hunt in the front lawn. This student had called and said he had to meet – “I’m having a career crisis,” was how he described it. I invited him to make the drive down.
Over the last few weeks I’ve gotten involved in hiring for two startups, a public agency and a non profit. Part of each conversation was getting asked to help them put together a “job spec.”
I had them leave with a pie chart.
Foreign visitors to Silicon Valley continually mention how willing we are to help, network and connect strangers. We take it so for granted we never even to bother to talk about it. It’s the “Pay-It-Forward” culture.
We’re all in this together – The Chips are Down
in 1962 Walker’s Wagon Wheel Bar/Restaurant in Mountain View became the lunch hangout for employees at Fairchild Semiconductor.
Over the last 40 years Technology investors have learned that the success of startups are not just about the technology but “it’s about the team.”
We spent a year screwing it up in our Lean LaunchPad classes until we figured out it was about having the right team.
I’ve never been shot at. Much braver men I once worked with faced that every day. But for a year and a half I saw weapons of war take off every day with bombs hanging under the wings. It never really hit home until the day I realized some of the planes didn’t come back.
I often get asked about finding cofounders and I usually give the standard list of characteristics of what I look for in a founder. And I emphasize the value of a founding team with complementary skills sets – i.e. the hacker/hustler/designer cofounder archetype for web/mobile apps. But Jessica Alter, Cofounder & CEO of FounderDating, pointed out that cofounders did not mean two founders in the same room. She suggested that I was missing one of the key attributes of what makes successful startup teams powerful. She suggested that how cofounders fight was a key metric in predicting the success of a founding team.
That he which hath no stomach to this fight, let him depart…We few, we happy few, we band of brothers - William Shakespeare, Henry Vth
There’s been a lot written about the individual characteristics of what makes a great founder, but a lot less about what makes a great founding team and how that’s different from a great founding CEO
I think we’ve been imprecise in defining three different roles. In doing so we’ve failed to help founders understand what it takes to build a great founding team.
I am honored to be with you as we gather to celebrate your graduation.
This school has a distinguished roster of graduates… Earl Bakken, the founder of Medtronic, was an Electrical Engineering grad, and Bob Gore of Gortex, and your current president are both alums of your Chemical Engineering program.
Listening to my the family talk about dividing up the cooking chores for this Thanksgiving dinner, including who would peel the potatoes, reminded me that most careers start by peeling potatoes.