Reid Hoffman (founder) and Jeff Weiner (CEO) of LinkedIn are amongst the most famous pair of founder / CEOs to buck the stereotypes that:
The only person who can take your company to it’s final destination or IPO if the founder
That the founder must leave the company if a new CEO comes on board
In fact, Reid wrote the definitive piece on the topic.
Many people don’t know that I actually became Chairman of my first company and relinquishing the CEO role before the company was sold. It’s a topic I’m well versed in personally and I understand the difficult emotional decision of whether to hand the reigns to someone else of the baby you’ve struggled so hard to launch into the world. Will they treat it with the same seriousness that you did through your years of blood, sweat and tears?
Some founders make great CEOs until the end, some don’t. And some (like me) love the first 5 years, first $30-50 million in revenue, leading the first 150 employees but don’t love the role after that point. So sometimes even if you want to stay put (as Reid Hoffman did) – it may make sense to bring on the new CEO that is more experienced and enjoys more the scaling / large growth phase of a startup.
I recently sat down with Fred Wilson, amongst the best investors of our era, and we discussed this topic in this short 2-minute video well worth your watching.
In it he talks about the skills of willing an idea into existence and whether those are the same skills to take the company to the next level. In my personal case I knew that my company had outgrown both my skills and my desires.
I recently interviewed Matt Mazzeo of Lowercase Capital. By now most of you know that Chris Sacca invested in what is now thought to be one of the best performing VC funds of all time having invested an $8.4 million fund in: Uber, Instagram, Docker and Twitter, amongst others. He then went on to build perhaps the largest single shareholding in Twitter. But did you ever wonder how Matt Mazzeo, who’s in his early 30s became Chris’s partner?
In many ways I wanted to focus on Matt because to those of us in the LA Venture community Matt really has become the public face of Lowercase Capital over the past several years. He has won many over (including me) through his hustle, his relationship, his service approach to venture and the fact that he is, frankly, a very likable and humble guy.
The viewer above (big thank you to ClipMine) will allow you to skip forward to key moments by clicking on the contents tab on the left but to give you some insights on Matt.
Crosscut Ventures has just announced their 3rd fund and clocking in at $75 million, which will be focused heavily on Los Angeles – FTW. A seed fund this size (and with increasing numbers of venture funds being raised by LA-based VC’s) has overcome a decade-long resistance and belief that you could only build great tech companies in Silicon Valley.
What you may not know is that the story of Crosscut itself is heavily correlated with that struggle for LA to have legitimacy as a national tech hub, which is now the fastest growing (and 3rd largest) in the US. Like many entrepreneurs, the founders of Crosscut quit their well-paid jobs in the belief that LA’s moment was about to arrive and they spent years on low (sometimes no) salaries to prove it.
I’ve heard many investors and some executives repeat the mantra, “Never offer exclusive deals,” and since this blanket statement is generally bad advice I thought I’d offer the less conventional but I believe more practical version of why exclusive deals can actually be a huge bonus for a startup and why I actively encourage them.
So that we’re speaking the same language I would define “exclusive” as a period in which your company is prohibited from doing business with certain customers or business partners, which is why many incorrectly assume this is necessarily bad. I need to give credit for the topic to PR Malloy who Tweeted me this question. I must admit I discuss this very frequently with portfolio companies but hadn’t thought to write about it.
@msuster looking for an inspired post on when an exclusivity deal (w/ major industry player) works (cons as well) for an early stage tech co
— PR Malloy (@diddly_do_indy)
Business leaders have many tasks to accomplish and prioritizing stuff can be hard. Yesterday I wrote about the need to “do fewer things, more often” in which I described that frenzied world we live in and why the shiny objects and distractions stop us from living up to our true potential.
Today I’d like to give that advice in more tangible terms and with a framework to think about your tasks – the funnel.
Sales people (and website customer acquisition folks) all think in terms of funnels and yet non-sales professionals seldom do. I’d like to encourage you to think about every new opportunity and every door opened as being at the “top end of your funnel” meaning something you’re working on that may or may not come to fruition. An example might be a business development conversation, a first customer meeting, the first candidate in a recruiting process, the first time you talk with a journalist at TechCrunch or the first meeting to consider your business strategy.
Having interesting and frequent opportunities at the top of your funnel matters.