The Latest From Stanford’s Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Series

Stanford’s ecorner is always an amazing resource and the Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders series is usually great.   Here’s a quick rundown of the latest sessions I’ve listened to and some very quick takeaways from them. The talks are all about an hour long so depending on your commute they’re the perfect amount of time.

Check out the whole list on the site as there are plenty more or you can get them off of iTunes, SoundCloud or just about anywhere else.

Entrepreneurship Gives Life Meaning: David Friedberg, CEO of The Climate Corporation.  I liked this talk a lot because he talked about starting a company from the very beginning, dealing with large amounts of data and at about the 28 minute mark talks about the differences between some typical myths of startups (cashing out, freedom) vs. a corporate career.

Great Entrepreneurs Go Out and Do: Brad Feld (@bfeld), managing partner at Foundry Group and a co-founder of TechStars.  Brad is always great and it was a very engaging talk about life as an entrepreneur from someone that is obviously very insighful in that area.  I also liked his commentary on finding “the pressure point of an opportunity.”

No Exit Strategy for Your Life’s Work: Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote.  While I still struggle to remember to use Evernote, Phil’s talk was great.  Interesting commentary on the newer ways companies are being looked at from an investment standpoint in terms of decoupling exit from liquidity and the liquidity available on secondary markets. Liked the quotes and his elaborating on the following statements throughout his talk: “most people confused difficult decisions with unpleasant ones,” “startups shouldn’t innovate at all or investors will get too nervous,” and “we wanted to be 100% buzzword compliant.”

Reach Your Escape Velocity: Geoffrey Moore, Venture Partner at MDV.  Very insightful if you have any interest in big Corporations and how they can stay innovative and breakthrough or making sure your company doesn’t inherit some of the negative traits of big Corporations.  Here are some points I took away from this one but the talk has the full explanations:

  • massive resistance to moving resources away from big money makers (cash cows vs. rising stars)
  • in a performance oriented system of management an issue is that power fuels performance and performance consumes power.
  • in those systems people don’t get rewarded for generating power (new stuff, strategies) except in qualitiative ways because the quantitative business results take over in short term.
  • there are various powers in the hierarchy of powers: category, company (share), market, offer and execution.
  • all companies incubate innovation, but most kill them during the execution of making them into a business.
  • many companies don’t understand high growth businesses.  When you have five businesses and four of them are at 4% growth, but one is at 8% growth the one at 8% is not a high growth business.  High growth is at least better than 15%.
  • venture investing focuses on power.  Stock market investing focuses on performance.
  • products/budget should be designed to differentiate, neutralize or optimize against the market.
  • you can’t have the same team doing all three mentioned above.  That’s why Nokia didn’t have a response to the iPhone (too proud to neutralize vs. differentiate) and why Yahoo had to fam out it’s search business (to free company from the past or would of hurt itself trying to beat Google.)

Building an Entrepreneurial Career: Ted Zoller, Kauffman Foundation. A great talk with lots of points I took away including:

  • you can either have an idea then find the market, or find a market then go get ideas (what are problems we’re facing then see them as a consumer.)
  • you can either be an innovation based entrepreneur or a marketplace based entrepreneur (related to the above.)
  • the best place to be is at the intersection of opportunity and need.
  • you need a leapfrog strategy because you can’t be successful enough with just incremental.
  • entreprneurship is a pattern of action and applied intelligence
  • “Ocean’s 11 Entrepreneur”
  • a great path and common one into successful deal maker positions is to work your way up to the C-suite (about 12 years) at a Corporation then go to a smaller company.
  • we make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Finally, two quotes I loved from Dana Mead’s talk “Understanding Venture Capital” are: “would you as the investor be willing to apply your network to the problem/idea” and “in Cambridge if you told someone at a cocktail party that you failed in building your last 3 companies they would look at you weird. In Palo Alto they say that’s awesome.”

The talks are great and I hope you check the entire site out.  Put them on your iPhone and listen while sitting at the beach.

Matt Kane

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