Bothsides of the Table

A while back when I was reading the press I saw a quote from Randy Komisar, a partner at Kleiner Perkins that was simple, yet profound. He was quoted as saying,

“Being a great partner is as important as being smart or being right.”

I liked it so much I wrote it down and tried to think about what it meant to me and I promised myself I would write about that one day. What does it mean to be a great partner? In business? In life?

When I think about partners I think about: integrity, loyalty, commitment, trust and knowing that somebody will be there for me in good times and bad. I think of somebody who is non-judgmental even when they have reason to be. And while it’s not always easy to avoid saying “I told you so” or trying to persuade others that you have the “right” answer – it seems like a rational goal to avoid “knowing better.”

In a way it reminds me of a lesson my wife taught me. When she’s unhappy about a situation and is frustrated or near tears I immediately move into problem-solving mode. And she said to me long ago

“I’m not looking for better answers to my problem. I just want some sympathy. Just say you understand.”

So maybe that’s it. Being a great partner is being there for others and listening. Being a great partner is being a mensch. It’s helping others even if they don’t truly know you helped them behind the scenes. Or maybe helping them just by listening or showing up when they needed you. Being a great partner is knowing that sometimes people lose their temper and not judging them beyond the incident. Being a great partner is saying you’re sorry when you screw up.

Being a great partner is not reneging on commitments. It’s not changing terms at the last minute because you can. It’s about finding win/win solutions even if you have leverage. Being a great partner is about

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Rental cars.

I have never met a person who loved their rental car company or the experience of turning up at an airport, waiting in line, paying a huge fee and then dealing with returns, airport shuttle buses and so forth not to mention half-washed and smelly cars. I think the closest parallel I have is the feeling I had for taxi cabs (inconvenient, smelly, expensive) before Uber. The rental car companies have a million scams to get more money out of you – mostly notably the gasoline scam. They either ask you to fill up your tank before returning the car (and gauge you if you don’t) or they pre-sell you “cheap” gas but when you factor in that you never return your car with a totally empty tank is also a scam.

And leave aside the fact that it’s very hard to rent cars if you’re below 25.

You simply can’t build a long-term great company by duping customers and with the top three rental car companies controlling 90+% of the market their behavior won’t change. It’s a classic “innovator’s dilemma,” making this market ripe for disruption.

Surely the startup can do better.

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Like many of you I read the Is Web Summit a Scam article making the rounds this week. I have attended Web Summits three times – it is not a scam. Let me get that out of the way. It’s a big conference and all big conferences charge money, make money and serve a diverse set of needs.

I even wrote about my experiences attending Web Summit, something I rarely ever write about. I have absolutely no affiliation with the event, no economic interests and had no other reason for writing about Web Summit other than as a person who has to attend many events for my professional life I found it to be the most meticulously plan and run and intent upon serving its audience of any major event I had attended. There is simply no way that an event grows from 400 people to 22,000 in 4 years without doing some things right.

The founder of the event, Paddy Cosgrave, smartly responded to the critics in a post I just read this morning.

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What Can You Do if a VC Pulls Their Term Sheet?

I was asked to answer this exact question on Quora and I did so some time ago. The beauty of evergreen content is that it resurfaces all the time and it is as relevant today as it was years ago when I answered it. One of my favorite ways to resurface content is when I see people on Twitter put out a Tweet linking to an old post. Tech Tidbits did this with this Quora answer and also linked to a Pinterest board with my quote, which I love.

Sorry for using fuck two posts in a row. This isn’t Dave McClure secretly taking over Mark’s blog. I’m just writing verbatim what I wrote in a Quora response years ago.

So, what can you do?

Legal actions = zero.

A term sheet is not a legally binding document.

Retribution actions = lots.

But why bother. There are bad people in life, yes. But the negative cycles you’ll spend on trying to bad-mouth somebody aren’t worth the effort.

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Something is rotten in tech startup land. Don’t call me a hater for saying so. It’s not that I’m anti innovation or a disbeliever in disruption or calling it a full-scale bubble or saying every darling startup is going to fail. None of those.


Somebody posted too many party fliers. The uninvited crowds have all turned up. The people here don’t respect your parents’ furniture, are throwing beer cans in your back yard and there’s a dude passed out face down in your sister’s bedroom. About an hour ago he thought he was invincible. That he defied the laws of gravity. He turned up for the fun but went too hard, too early.

There’s no one sane I know any more who doesn’t privately say that things have gotten out of hand. Few like to say so publicly.

And I blame unicorns.

Not the successful companies themselves but the entire bullshit culture of swash-buckling startups who define themselves by hitting some magical $1 billion valuation number and the financiers who back them irrespective of metrics that justify it. Unicorn has become part of our lexicon in a sickening way and will no doubt become part of the history we tell about how things got so out of control again.

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