Keys to a successful partnership: Video presentation by Endeavor Entrepreneur Wences Casares and business partner Micky Malka
Endeavor Entrepreneur and Endeavor Global Board Member Wences Casares, who this week is featured in Newsweek as a “Foreign-Born Job Creator,” recently delivered a talk on collaboration as part of The Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP) Entrepreneurship Corner, an online archive of entrepreneurship resources. Joining him was his long-time business partner, Meyer “Micky” Malka.
The lecture is described as such: “The two are serial entrepreneurs who believe in the fundamental power of partnerships. Empowered by working in close collaboration for years, these co-founders have started multiple companies including Patagon, Lemon Bank and Bling Nation. In this lecture, Wences and Micky describe the value of over-communication, the decision process in making a pivot, and the challenges of entrepreneurial ecosystems outside the United States.”
Wences articulates that partnerships are the “core” of successful companies, and that often problems that arise — e.g., running out of money, a perceived bad market fit — stem from the dynamics between partners. When he and Micky advise companies and consider whether they should invest in them, they often discover more by hearing the story of the partnership than by looking at the spec sheets or numbers.
In discussing why their own partnership has been so sustainable and successful, they share lessons they have learned over the last thirteen years of doing business together.
A few excerpts:
The first night the two met, Micky had flown in from Venezuela. They were starting similar businesses in different countries. Over some beers, the two men got into a fight with someone else and they recall of the night, “something clicked there, some important factor about trust. There we were two guys who met the same day and even after that we were covering one another’s ass and trying to make it out of the place alive. And it has stuck with us.”
Wences: “In general I find a lot more success when the founding team has met and sort of chosen each other based on merit, in some meritocratic way. And maybe then because of the things that you go through together starting a company, you sort of have no choice about but become friends. Often the opposite is not true. When you start, when you see teams that started being friends and then they tried to also become good partners, it brings a yellow light — not a red one — but it’s harder. You have to make a number of decisions that are very hard to make with someone who you didn’t choose based on merit but who you chose based on friendship and attachment or emotion, etc. In our case, it happened by chance the other way around and we think that there is something to that. Becoming a partner starting with something that is based on merit that goes from there to friendship, that’s fine, but don’t go the other way around.”
ON TAKING THE CREDIT
Wences: “We have a lot of ego from the door out, but when we’re together, there is nothing like that. We leave it at the door. I still remember the shock, I left [for a sailing trip across the Pacific] as the CEO and I came back and Micky was the CEO. But all it took was a phone call to understand why it was the best decision. I never doubted that it was done in the best interest of our company. It’s a tricky thing because I believe that to be an entrepreneur, you need to have a high ego or at least a very strong conviction about what you do. It would be very hard to be an entrepreneur with a low ego, I don’t know if that’s possible. So like Micky says, from the door outwards, you need to have a very, high strong ego, strong conviction but between the partners I think a low ego is a requirement. A good partnership cannot work without that. Sometimes you see a partnership when one of the two partners is OK not taking the credit. I think it’s healthier when neither of the partners really cares who takes it, as long as the partnership is successful.”
Wences: “It’s being able to communicate more than average. I mean we, we overcommunicate. It’s the way to have a very coherent think-through process. We had times where we were overcommunicating. We were going for lunch everyday just the two of us and going over all the issues that we had in our minds that we wanted to bounce back and forth to make decisions on, etc. And at one point as it all got larger I said, ‘Hey Micky, you know what? Why don’t we start going to lunch. You go with some people and I’ll go with another group. It would probably be good that we don’t do this lunch you and I alone. It would be very helpful that we use lunch to spend time with the rest of the team.’ And, also at the same time we had our desks in an open office but together and I said to put them on opposite ends. And it was a disaster of an experiment. In less than three months we were back to having the lunches just the two of us and the desks together again. We tried to figure out why it didn’t work. You have to feel like one, and for that you have to be really overcommunicated. Also, when we have issues between us — and we have tons of them — that they don’t become public and open to the organization. It’s not a matter of secrecy and not being transparent, it’s sort of the opposite. It is because it would be a problem for people to understand what to do, who to follow. When it’s outward facing we show one face, that we agree. And if there’s something we don’t agree on, it would be very, very counterproductive to the partnership to show those sort of different faces. The organization doesn’t know what to do with that. Acting as one, we think it’s super important and it requires overcommunicating to the point where it can be funny.”