High-Impact Entrepreneurship

Join the global conversation


Endeavor Entrepreneurs Spotlight Youth Employment at EY Strategic Growth Forum in Rome

At EY‘s first pan-Mediterranean Strategic Growth Forum in Rome, nearly 600 business executives, government leaders and entrepreneurs from across the globe came together to discuss the region’s business and investment potential. The two-day event included panel discussions with Endeavor Entrepreneurs Mostafa […]

April 24th, 2015 — by admin

Read more

In the news

Mexico’s Naranya Labs Partners with NXTP Labs to Form New Latin America-Focused Seed Fund

Mexico-based seed fund and accelerator Naranya Labs, founded by Endeavor Entrepreneur Arturo Galvan, recently announced a partnership with accelerator NXTP Labs to form a new early-stage capital fund that will invest at least $8 million in Mexico’s […]

May 23rd, 2014 — by admin

Read more
Get RSS Feed

Jonathan Livingston Seagull: entrepreneurial handbook?

Reprinted from feld.com. See original post here.

By Brad Feld

I read Jonathan Livingston Seagull for the first time in 1975 when I was about 10 years old. I’ve read it several times over the last 35 years, but probably hadn’t read it in over a decade. My first business partner, Dave Jilk (now the Standing Cloud founder / CEO), gave it to me as a birthday gift last week.

I just read it again and it was as powerful, inspiring, and enlightening as I remembered it. I’m often asked what books I’d recommend to an entrepreneur (especially an aspiring entrepreneur). There are two: Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

Whenever we are in the upswing of an entrepreneurial cycle, like we are right now, I start seeing all kinds of weird stuff appear. Random people, who get notoriety for themselves, blow up. The media is aggressively negative presumably in the quest for getting readership. Entitlement behavior runs rampant. The quick buck artists appear. Money becomes a central topic of many conversations. Established companies and government suddenly wake up to the power of innovation and try to co-opt the energy. The word bubble becomes so popular that a bubble builds around using the word bubble.

The great entrepreneurs just keep building their companies. They focus relentlessly on their products, their customers, and their people. They create things that delight, take chances, make mistakes, and iterate as they, and their organizations, get better. They just keep at it and the very best ones shut out and ignore all the noise. And they learn, and learn, and learn.

Just like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Young Jonathan realizes he is different and then outcast, but he discovers himself. He then discovers others like him, including his great mentors. He learns, experiments, tries new things, makes mistakes, and learns. And learns. And then he becomes the mentor and teaches other young seagulls to discover themselves. Throughout, he does what he loves the most – he flies, and practices, and learns.

If you are an entrepreneur, take one hour out of your day this week and read Jonathan Livingston Seagull. And then spend another hour, alone, thinking about it. I assure you that it’ll be worth the time.

Josh Silverman (former CEO of Skype and Evite) offers advice to entrepreneurs (interviewed by Om Malik) [Video, Transcript]

Endeavor is pleased to make public the following transcript and video from a presentation at the 2011 Endeavor Entrepreneur Summit in San Francisco. The event, which assembled over 450 entrepreneurs and global business leaders, featured dozens of entrepreneurship-related presentations by top CEOs and industry experts.

Josh Silverman is a leading entrepreneurship executive; the former CEO of Skype and Shopping.com; and the co-founder and former CEO of Evite.

Om Malik is the founder of the blog GigaOm; an Award-winning journalist; and Author of Broadbandits: Inside the $750 Billion Telecom Heist.

Full Transcript

Om: Everybody knows you as the guy who ran Skype for a long time. You fixed Skype, and you did a lot of things there. What were you doing before that? Where did you come from suddenly?

Josh: I actually started my career working for a senator because I thought the best place to change the world was in politics. So I worked for Bill Bradley for a few years in Washington and then decided that I thought the private sector and particularly entrepreneurship is actually a much better place to change the world. So I ended up at a public company for a little while to learn how to run something, and then founded a company which became Evite. I built Evite for a while and ended up selling that to Barry Diller. We founded it right in the middle of the internet boom and sold it after the crash. And then I went to eBay, and joined eBay with the idea that they could send me anywhere in the world that they wanted to. I wanted China; they picked Amsterdam. Not quite what I thought, but ended up finding an opportunity for them in classifieds, getting eBay into the classifieds business. I built their online classifieds business in Europe for several years. I came back to the United States to run a company called Shopping.com and then got the opportunity — the privilege — to go run Skype in early 2008. (more…)

How not to miss the next Kickstarter: My VC lesson learned

Reprinted from thisisgoingtobebig.com. See the original article here.

By Charlie O’Donnell

In March of 2008, Perry Chen contacted me to ask for my help with fundraising–not the kind of crowd fundraising that he specializes in–but venture capital. It was before Kickstarter got its “e” and it was spelled “Kickstartr.” I don’t think it had even launched publically at the time.

I wasn’t at a venture capital firm at the time, but since I had worked for USV and had also raised an angel round myself, a lot of people used to ask me about how to raise money.

When Perry first pitched, Kickstartr was about bands raising money to cut their next album. That didn’t sound like a huge business to me, because the dollar amounts raised wouldn’t be very big and I didn’t want to count on a bunch of bands to be successful fundraisers.

It also seemed to lack natural network effects–the idea that I would one day subscribe to Kickstartr e-mails and essentially “shop” the site didn’t seem apparent. So when he asked for an intro to Fred Wilson, I kinda ducked it. I just didn’t think it was the kind of thing Fred would do.

I turned out pretty wrong. What Kickstarter has become is nothing short of amazing. I do actually shop the site now, buying speakers and bike lights. It’s like the most amazing ecommerce store, where if someone can think of something amazing, you can buy it. And that’s on top of the impact that people have made in their communities through their projects.

None of this kind of thing was in Perry’s original pitch to me–so I can’t kick myself too hard over it.

So what’s the lesson learned here?

I didn’t realize exactly what I missed until I saw Simon Sinek’s TED talk, which I’m recently obsessed with. He says that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and that the most successful people start with an inspired drive and then work outward to a particular function. Apple for example, does what they do because they want to challenge the status quo–to reinvent our notions of what is possile. They do it through great design, and oh, they just happen to make some phones and tablets and computers.

Perry was that inspired about what he was doing–and the particulars of how he was going to get there and build a big business were kind of murky. Yet, it’s exactly these particulars that VC’s obsess over. Your pitch deck includes the “product roadmap” but there’s no slide for “why the hell do we do this in the first place?”

I didn’t understand how important that pattern was at the time, but now, four years later, I get it. Nowadays, one of the first things I ask someone is why they do what they do. I used to ask it out of curiousity, but now I get how important that is to the success of your business.

Had I actually been at a VC firm–and what I do now–is to take meetings with people like Perry. Even if I’m not sure whether what they have is a business, I want to spend more time with really inspired, driven people who have a bigger goal than just putting some nuts and bits together. Not only that, I try to stay close to them over time. My other failure after our call was not staying in better touch with Kickstartr and being more helpful over time. I essentially passed on making a rec to another VC, and that was the end of it for me, as it is for a lot of other investors. Maybe had I gotten to know them better, I would have seen more of their drive and understood the bigger picture.

You’re always going to miss deals in venture capital–but you want to go back and understand why you missed something and whether you can do anything to make sure you don’t miss the next one.

Charlie O’Donnell is a Partner at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, working on very early stage investments in the “Greater Brooklyn” area, which also includes Manhattan and the other boroughs of New York City. He previously spent two plus years at First Round Capital, where he sourced the firm’s investments in GroupMe (sold to Skype), Backupify, chloe + isabel, Refinery29, Docracy, Singleplatform, and Salescrunch. He founded New York’s largest independent innovation community group, nextNY, and was voted one of the 100 Most Influential People in New York Technology three consecutive years by Alley Insider.

Charlie was the Co-Founder & CEO of Path 101, an innovative startup in the career guidance and recruiting space, which raised half a million dollars and was a Business Insider Startup 2009 Finalist.

Things entrepreneurs never confess to their VCs

Reprinted from onstartups.com. See the original article here.

By Dharmesh Shah

Note: This is intended be a light-hearted piece that hits just close enough on some counts to (hopefully) be funny. Please don’t take it too seriously. (Oh, and for the record, I’ve actually said more than one of these things myself).

Things Entrepreneurs Never Confess To Their Investors

1. You know that candidate you introduced me to? Well, he was kind of a schmuck.

2. We had our management team meeting yesterday and we’ve concluded that we’re kind of screwed.

3. I know I should know this, but I have no idea what participating preferred means — and who should prefer it.

4. We’ve got a big launch of our mobile app scheduled for April 1st, we’ve lined up some great PR and everything is ready to go. Just one minor detail: We have no idea when Apple’s going to approve the app for the AppStore. We wisely refrained from putting an early version through the process, because we’re in “stealth mode”.

5. It finally hit me that revenue and cash are not the same thing. Customers provide “revenue”, employees want to be paid in cash.

6. I’m wondering if I should worry that the 10 year Oracle sales executive we hired for VP of Sales hasn’t really sold anything yet. Oh, and I think he wants my job.

7. My co-founder had a major life event come up (the event was that he decided he wanted one). He’ll be leaving us but is happy to continue to contribute as a strategic member of the board of directors. I didn’t know he had a lawyer, but the lawyer assured me that my co-founder would “Vest In Peace”, which sounds like an amicable parting.

8. Learned from tech guy yesterday that our entire back-end runs on a single “virtual” Amazon EC2 instance. Also learned that “virtual” means that it can virtually disappear whenever it wants. That’s why the engineering team has been working for months on this horizontally scalable, self-replicating, auto-healing architecture so that when we start getting some paid customers, we’ll be ready.

9. Had to execute some “executive leadership” yesterday. At the last management meeting, our VP Marketing was telling me we were getting crushed in the market because of two big missing features. I told her that on the startup battlefield, wars are not won by features. Besides, we’re investing in our future, not our present. That’s why the entire engineering team is working on building a scalable, self-replicating, auto-healing architecture.

10. We have 11 months of cash left in the bank. Adjusted for inflation. But, not adjusted for the fact that we have no idea if any of our large, enterprise deals that our VP of Sales sold is ever going to pay us in a form that can be used to pay bills and payroll. Our landlord is clueless and doesn’t understand the importance of the strategic deals we’re doing and the raw brand-value of the logos we’re collecting for our website.

11. Our VP of Sales keeps saying “land and expand, baby, land and expand”. I don’t know what that means exactly, but we’ve been doing a lot of landing and not a lot of expanding.

12. I’m super-excited! We had our first acquisition offer yesterday. Well, it wasn’t really an offer. And no, they didn’t really use the word acquisition, or M&A or “buy”. But there was some high-level, strategic talk about how we could work together. And, he paid for lunch, so there must be some interest.

13. We’re planning on throwing a big, bad, holiday party. It’s not one of those crazy launch parties. We want to treat it as a “recruiting” event. Yes, yes, I know that there’s no additional head-count in the budget, but we to be proactively filling the candidate funnel. Startups are “all about the people”.

14. Back in college, when you “audit” a course, it meant you just tried it out and see if you liked it. Why does “auditing financials” have to be so intense?

15. We’ve found new office space. To be consistent with the 5 year pro-forma we showed you at the last board meeting, we’ll be signing a 5 year lease that matches the space needs based on those projected numbers. It’s nice when things just work out, isn’t it?

16. I woke up this morning with this really big idea. It’ll make the idea you invested in pale in comparison. The good news is that we can reuse the work the engineering team has been doing. Not only have they been building something that’s horizontally scalable, self-replicating and auto-healing, they had the foresight to build something infinitely flexible too. Now I know the importance of hiring great people — ones that have the vision to see your vision and can adjust their vision based on your new vision. This is going to BIG!

What do you think?

Dharmesh Shah is the founder and CTO of HubSpot. HubSpot provides marketing software for small businesses. The company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has raised over $33 million in venture capital, and has over 1,800 customers.

He developed grader.com – a free suite of online tools for marketing measurement. These tools, including WebsiteGrader.com and TwitterGrader.com are used over a million times a month.

Endeavor Entrepreneur Cheryl Nesbitt offers advice for scaling your business

Reprinted from Cape Business News. You can find the original article here.

The transition of growing your business from a small business to a medium-sized operation poses many challenges for entrepreneurs who may not be equipped to deal with the change and some of its effects.

This is according to Cheryl Nesbitt, founder and owner of South African cooking school, Capsicum Culinary Studio, who recently addressed entrepreneurs at the University of Stellenbosch Business School’s (USB) Leader’s Angle and discussed how to survive the stressful transition period of expanding a business. According to Nesbitt during the transition phase of Capsicum, her goal was to run a R100 million business. In order to achieve this she hired a CEO with skills she did not possess but were necessary to bring her business to success. “Once a CEO and/or new management are hired it is likely that the culture of accountability will change. During this process it is important that the original culture created stays the same,” warns Nesbitt.

Nesbitt says the key to growing a business and expanding the footprint is to document all business systems, processes and routines utilised during a typical day of operation. “This is the reason why franchises such as McDonalds stay successful. They ensure that everything is documented exactly the same way,” she explains.

Nesbitt says that as a business grows, more management will be required to take on the increasing number of responsibilities of the operation. Furthermore, Nesbitt says the original employees generally won’t have the skills required to work for a medium-sized business. She refers to Steve Jobs who once said that the original team is not the team that takes entrepreneurs to the next level. “There is often a resistance from old staff to adapt to the changes of new management and for this reason they may resign. You need to have a clear succession plan in place before you decide to grow so that these frictions do not lead to unnecessary interruptions. Another alternative is to upskill staff members so that they are equipped to deal with the new responsibility when it becomes necessary,” she says.

Furthermore Nesbitt says that in order for a growth strategy to be successful, business owners must be able to adapt their strategies and compile regular competitive analyses to assess their position in the market. Moreover she says that entrepreneurs should not underestimate the value of attending conferences and networking. Attending conferences and networking often bring about idea’s that could take a business to the next level.

Endeavor Entrepreneurs receive guidance through House of Genius at SXSW

Last week, Endeavor Entrepreneurs from Gyft (South Africa/USA), Mural.ly (Argentina), and Campo Alto(Colombia) had the opportunity to meet with members of the Austin chapter of House of Genius, an organization that brings together entrepreneurs and a diverse mix of business leaders from the community for an evening of disruptive thinking, supportive input, and creative new ideas.. This intense, thought provoking event took place at the end of SXSW Interactive and just four days after Endeavor Entrepreneurs met with several House of Genius members for 1-on-1 mentoring sessions during Endeavor’s Austin Innovation Tour and nearly a week after the Endeavor and Startup America hosted Entrepreneur’s Unconference at Dell headquarters in Austin.

The House of Genius session gave the entrepreneurs the opportunity to expose their products to the scrutiny of industry experts from a variety of fields. Composed of executives, artists, entrepreneurs, and academics, House of Genius engages innovators in an intense dialogue and debate to, as they say, “disrupt normal thinking patterns and ignite new ideas.”

The entrepreneurs presented their business and then listened as the 20 “geniuses” went around the table and shared feedback, ideas, potential use cases, and concerns. Each entrepreneur was then able to narrow the focus on 1-3 points and raise specific questions to the panel. Mariano Suarez-Battan, an Argentine entrepreneur in the social media, gaming and mobile app space, found the event to be helpful for his new online venture and said the House of Genius members helped him to “frame the problem he’s trying to solve, dive deep and work with interactive agencies and teams to figure out what problems arise off-line that his online tool could address” They helped him see beyond his scope as a designer and better understand his customers’ perspective. Vinny Lingham, a South African entrepreneur in the mobile space, commented, “It was like having 20 meetings with industry experts in just 2 hours. Kind of like an incredibly efficient focus group. And the feedback was collaborative, not critical.”

These sessions went beyond advice and consulting, as there was optimistic talk of forming strategic business alliances and the possibility of launching House of Genius in some of Endeavor’s countries. A House of Genius member commented that the entrepreneurs really “grabbed his attention,” as much from the creativity and innovation of their ideas as the passion and energy they brought to their businesses. Mariano continued, “We used the word ‘partnership,’” elaborating that he and the cofounders of House of Genius planned a more in-depth strategic session once the South-by-Southwest activities calmed down.
The feeling of success was palpable as this House of Genius event wrapped up. These emerging market entrepreneurs proved themselves in front of a group of experts and were able to walk away with invaluable advice and potentially lifelong connections. With such a great end to Endeavor’s Austin Tour and South-by-Southwest, it only remains to be seen how Endeavor will top this event in the future.

Endeavor Entrepreneur launches WOBI, a platform for sharing innovative business ideas

Whether you’re a visual, kinesthetic, or auditory learner, WOBI (wobi.com) has got you covered. Say hello to WOBI, the versatile new platform powered by Endeavor Entrepreneur company HSM, a global multimedia group that has been inspiring leaders with innovative experiences and ideas for over 20 years. Based in Argentina, Endeavor Entrepreneurs Nelson Duboscq and Eduardo Bruchou joined Endeavor’s network in 1999, and have received global recognition for ExpoManagement and World Business Forum — annual events that assembles thousands of top business executives worldwide to share ideas and trends.

WOBI, which stands for “World of Business Ideas,” curates and delivers the best management ideas and practice in a well-woven blend of four distinct channels: Events, Television, Magazine, and wobi.com. On its website, HSM introduces WOBI as “a powerhouse of actionable ideas from people shaping the business world,” and “available for all those with a thirst for knowledge – anytime, anywhere.” WOBI’s homepage delivers an inviting, eye-catching blend of colors and a wide range of content selection featuring the world’s top thought leaders delivering actionable ideas.

WOBI’s lineup of videos resembles a reel of TED Talks, but designed especially for the global community of those interested in becoming global business leaders – those who put ideas into action every day. WOBI’s magazine arm is a bi-monthly publication offering a selection of global content, local cases, exclusive reports, and never-before-published interviews.

Want to get in front of a VC? Get a little creative — human even.

Reprinted from thisisgoingtobebig.com. See the original article here.

By Charlie O’Donnell

Since I launched my fund, I’ve gotten around 50 offers to work with me. For some reason, everyone wants to be a VC. Instead of responding, I decided to sit on them. The way I figure it, how someone approaches me is indicative of how they’d approach an entrepreneur. Since the best entrepreneurs are busy running their business and get pinged by VCs all the time, you’re not going to wind up getting a deal if all you do is e-mail once, give up, and walk away.

So what happened? The “applicants” (not that I’m hiring) went 0 for 50. Not a single one of them followed up with even so much as a nudge to see if I saw their note. They mostly just sent resumes and cover letters once and that’s it.

Seriously? (more…)

My three most important lessons learned at Harvard Business School

Reprinted from robgo.org. See the original article here.

By Rob Go

Business school sometimes get a bad rap in the startup world. Some of it is deserved – it’s big opportunity cost, and until fairly recently, the approach to most business schools to entrepreneurship has been more about theory than practice.

Thankfully this is changing. But what is very positive about business school and what hasn’t changed is that they are an amazing collection of people and opportunities that can significantly shape ones education and even personal character. Many of the founders we’ve backed at NextView are graduates of top business schools and bring many of their leanings from those two years to bear.

As I think back on my own business school experience, I often recall three very important lessons and pieces of wisdom that impact me every day. One was academic, one was advice from a professor, and one was self discovered thanks to the entirety of the 2-year experience,

Lesson #1: What Makes a Good Market

Before Business School, I had heard of Porter’s 5 Forces and probably memorized it at one point during preparations for consulting interviews. But I really started to internalize the concept at business school and I think of it every day. When one thinks of attractive markets, it’s easy to just think of markets that are “really big” and “growing fast”. However, that is NOT what makes a market attractive.

A market is attractive relative to the player involved. And its attractiveness to that player is based on how the forces in the market work to make it easier or harder for that player to create and extract value. The forces described by Michael Porter in his framework are:
– bargaining power of suppliers
– bargaining power of Customers
– competitive rivalry
– threat of new entrants
– threat of substitutes

I don’t want to spend much longer on this point, but I’ve found this immensely helpful. And it’s not just important for investors who are analyzing new businesses in different markets. But it also dictates the strategy of a founder as they think about their own market and what they need to do to win.

For some additional thoughts of mine on the difference between BIG markets and ATTRACTIVE markets, see this post here.

Lesson #2: Authenticity Works

Authenticity works. It was an off-hand comment from Felda Hardymon during office hours one day when I was a student in his VC/PE class. But it was a word of wisdom that I really try to take to heart for myself and when speaking to entrepreneurs.

It turns out I’m a pretty socially awkward person. But much of business school (and much of business interaction) are awkward social situations. Think about difficult conversations with employees, cocktail parties, cold calling, negotiations, selling, etc. Those types of situations are a nightmare for someone like me.

But I’ve continuously found that when in doubt, the best thing to do is to drop any social posturing and be authentic. Talk about what really gets you excited and what you really care about. I remember when was interviewing for my job at Spark, one partner questioned my willingness to take risks and pound the table for what I believed. I ended up telling him the story of how I pursued my wife – a very personal but authentic story, and it won him over.

Similar things happen when we speak to entrepreneurs at NextView. We love founding stories that are driven by highly authentic experiences in a market or with a problem. We also love interacting with entrepreneurs that are transparent about the things that excite them about their businesses and the things that they worry about or are really hoping go their way. It’s a highly personal business after all, and we try to put that front and center as a core part of our firm ethos.

Lesson #3: Do the ACTIVITIES You Love

One very interesting aspect of business school is that it can be a 2-year soul searching process about who you are and what you want to do with your life. A lot of business school students find themselves paralyzed, because it feels like there is a lot at stake in the career choice post B-school, especially with large sums of debt and 2-years of opportunity cost.

That said, I think business school is a wonderful time to step back and reflect on what you want out of life professionally and personally. The problem is, I find that when we think about careers or jobs we want, it’s easy to get caught up in a lot of different motivations – what would other people think? How can I make the living I’d like? Is this job impactful? What kind of a role is suitable for me? Etc.

But I find that business school students (and especially myself) often don’t ask what I think is the most important question. To me, that is – “what activities do you love?”. We spend a lot of time at work, and you’d better be doing activities you enjoy, otherwise, it’s a terrible way to spend your time until you die. And activities are not jobs. They are not roles or functions. They are activities.

For instance, being a VC and being a doctor are very different jobs and roles. But some of the activities are the same. Doctors and VC’s meet people 1:1 or 1 on a few all day long. They have a lot of first time meetings and hear people’s stories. They try to solve problems based on pattern recognition. On these dimensions, doctors and VC’s do very similar activities.

But you never hear VC jobs and medical jobs compared. You do hear VC’s and entrepreneurs compared, and many job seekers out of B-school contemplate both paths. But entrepreneurs do different activities. They sell more (or in different ways), they meet very often with their team to solve common problems. They may actively make design and product decisions, talk to prospective customers for feedback etc. The activities can actually be quite different.

I’m not making the point that being a doctor is more like VC than being an entrepreneur. But my point is to look at jobs and life as a set of activities that you are doing all day long. Do those activities map to what you are excited about doing? Are they activities that are life-giving to you, or draining?

Or, put another way (as I’ve heard from an old boss and mentor), think of the times when you were happiest at work. What exactly were you doing at that time? Try to do more of it.

That’s it. Pretty simple. Don’t overthink it or plan too far in the future. Do something that you think is interesting and allows you to spend as much time as possible doing activities you love. I think it’s hard to go wrong if that is actually achieved.

So, those are my three biggest lessons learned from 2 years at HBS. Worth the 2 years and $100K+ of fees? You be the judge

Rob Go is a cofounder of NextView Ventures, a seed stage investment firm focused on internet enabled innovation. He spends as much time as possible working with young entrepreneurs and investing in businesses that are trying to solve important problems for everyday people.

Thoughts on startup org structures and titles

Reprinted from robgo.org. See the original article here.

By Rob Go

I have the benefit of seeing lots of startups pitch their teams and watching many seed-funded companies establish their early org structures. I’ve found that there are certain types of orgs and titles that I have a naturally visceral reaction towards. For example:

– Having any more “C’s” than the CEO and CTO

– Seeing a head of product that isn’t a founder

– Seeing VPs (the more I see, the worse I feel)

Here are some guiding principles that I think explain why I’m averse to these in most cases.

1. You need DO-ers in startups. You are either building or selling, and if someone isn’t doing one of those two, it’s hard to justify having that person on board. It’s actually pretty extraordinary to find a truly VP level or higher person who is actually a do-er. Most of the time, one becomes a VP because they’ve excelled and have progressed to the point where they are leading a team. Their functional skills are a little dated, their mentality is a bit different, and they are just a little (or a lot) less scrappy. Seed and early stage companies are in need of people who like hand-to-hand combat. There will be a time and place for more senior people, but you want to bring them in when they have the chance to be as effective as their seniority would suggest.

2. You need to create room for exceptions and growth. The problem with having an army of VPs and CXO’s is that it eliminates room to really distinguish extraordinary talent. This is when you start seeing titles like “EVP or SVP”, which again is pretty meaningless and frightening. If you do want to bring in someone much more senior, usually that person is an outlier. Make the outlier role the VP role, not something else weird. I noticed this to be true at many extraordinary companies. I remember looking at the early org at Twitter (even when there were dozens of people) and there was maybe one or two VP’s. Most of the leaders of their divisions (product, business development, etc) were directors and stayed that way. I also am biased because even at Ebay, when it was a public company, VP’s were pretty few and far between. Being a Director meant you were directing something significant. I think that’s appropriate.

3. Some may object to my first two points and say “I can’t recruit people because they won’t take a lateral role or anything less than a VP title.”. My answer to that is – you don’t want those people. Early stage companies need to be free of politics and that kind of ego. Everyone talks about wanting a flat culture. But I find that title focused people don’t really want flat, they just want to be as close to the top as possible. Earlier today, I stumbled upon the team page of a seed funded startup in Boston, and saw 7 VP-level and higher people NOT including the CEO. That’s so not-flat, I guess it’s almost flat!

4. Even better than my suggestions above, how about not even having titles at all? Just describe people based on their areas of focus and responsibility. It’s impractical for a large company, but not for a small company. Check out the team at ThredUp. Aside from the CEO and CTO, you see almost no other titles, just descriptors of what people actually do.

5. I’ll get in trouble with some of my friends on this, but I also think that the best companies are founded by product-oriented founders. As a result, I almost always second-guess a team when there is a senior “Head of Product” that is NOT one of the founders. Usually, I’d hope that the head of product is actually the CEO or CTO, at least at the seed stage. You just can’t punt on product decisions at the earliest stages of the company – the founders need to be able to make the calls. Also, external heads of product are often not folks who are great product designers, but are more librarians than poets. Seed stage products need to be inspired by poets, and you can hire librarians later to build a scaleable product process.

Rob Go is a cofounder of NextView Ventures, a seed stage investment firm focused on internet enabled innovation. He spends as much time as possible working with young entrepreneurs and investing in businesses that are trying to solve important problems for everyday people.

Contact us

Press center


Newsletter Sign Up