Archive for June 2010
Friday was an eventful day at the SSE Labs offices (housed at AOL West Coast HQ). An awesome end to our first week!
We had a great turnout at the lunch with Brad Garlinghouse (AOL, president of consumer apps) and Mike Arrington (TechCrunch, founder/co-editor), including tons of Stanford students involved in the entrepreneurial community in the area. In addition to giving his perspective on the new era of Facebook, advice to young entrepreneurs, and finding any opportunity to grill Brad about AOL, Mike really plugged Stanford. A direct quote: “Stanford is the reason Silicon Valley is here.” He also gave us a sweet role in a “social experiment”- those in attendance will know what I mean! Maybe I’ll see you again in July?
It was a great event and we hope that this bodes an exciting partnership with AOL. Thanks again to our hosts, AOL, and everyone who came out to hear Brad and Mike talk! Be sure to stay tuned for future events with SSE Labs.
To end our busy day, later that night the teams had their weekly check-in dinner. Everyone has a lot to accomplish this summer, but we are all optimistic about the teams and excited to follow their progress through the coming months.
We were lucky enough to have Ooshma Garg as our first guest speaker at the dinner. Ooshma is both a mentor and an advisor to SSE Labs, and had a lot to say about mentorship. Since mentorship is one of the main tenets here at SSE Labs, she is really invaluable to our program, and all of the teams had great things to say about her advice. You can learn more about her start-up, Anapata, here.
We’re ready for the rest of the summer to be as amazing as this past week has been – we’re just getting started.
We are so excited to be starting the summer! This Friday we’ll be having lunch with Brad Garlinghouse, President of Consumer Applications at AOL (our generous hosts at our 401 Ellis office), and Mike Arrington, founder and co-editor of TechCrunch. We’d love to see you there!
11:30am -2:15 Fri, June 25 @ AOL West Coast Headquarters
401 Ellis St.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Brad Garlinghouse + Mike Arrington fireside chat
Follow updates at #aol or http://www.twitter.com/larrychiang
RSVP with full name in comments below, open to the first 160 comments.
Since leaving the so-called “dark side” of venture capital last year to jump back into the startup game, I’m come across a variety of people who’ve inquired about a transition they seem to view as scary and risky. The most persistent questions have come from associates and other young “investment professionals” still figuring out a career path. I’ve always been surprised at how few of them actually seriously considering joining an early stage startup. A disappointing amount of them seek refuge in business development roles at larger, public companies, slink back to their earlier life in investment banking, or move downstream into private equity.
So, whenever I get the “What should I do?” question over email or at happy hours, I always say one thing.
“Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.”
Of course, it’s not as easy or fun as it sounds.
To an outsider, this might seem silly. Venture capitalists and entrepreneurs seem so tied at the hip that a VC associate could tell a mortgage broker that he “does startup stuff” without raising any eyebrows. In reality, though, the difference between watching an entrepreneur get something done and actually getting something done is quite stark. At best, the relationship between an investor and an entrepreneur resembles that of a football coach and player; at worst, that of a sports writer and player. And face it, guys, no one actually likes sports writers.
If I reflect on what my “hands dirty” advice actually entails, I suppose it’s 2 things:
- Rip off the band-aid. Just pull the trigger and hop to the startup side of the fence. Don’t hang on to your junior principal role for 3 more years if you know you’ll be in the same position then as now. Yes, you’ll take a lower salary. Yes, your hours will be much longer. Yes, banging out wireframes isn’t as cozy as hanging out at the “VentureBucks” on Sand Hill. Yes, you may have to look for another job in 18 months if things go south. And yes, your MBA may not be respected by the database engineers on your team. But hey, you moved to Silicon Valley to take a chance at hitting it big, right?
- Grow, baby, grow. Probably the best advice I’ve heard on this topic is to simply look for fast growth environments. Growth isn’t necessarily tied to size – whether you’re 4 geeks in a garage or 200 hipsters in Soma, if you’re moving fast, you’re moving fast. A fast growth environment lets you punch above your weight class and be stretched to do many things at once. I think the diametric opposite of solving for growth is solving for “cool.” I feel bad for people who start or join startups in categories that impress new friends at bars and look sexy on LinkedIn, but don’t seem to have a viable chance of turning into a real business.
Of course, there’s never a template answer to anyone’s career choice, but I think these 2 mindsets can serve as solid rules of thumb.
In the meantime, say hi to everyone at the VentureBucks for me.
Chris Kelly does Marketing for DebtGoal.com, San Francisco startup that’s building the “Weight Watchers for debt” to solve one of the largest social problem in America – debt stress. He was previously an associate at Matrix Partners in Menlo Park, Calif and the co-founder of LicketyShip.com. Send him your thoughts at email@example.com or @chriskelly on Twitter. And no, he’s not running for Attorney General of California…
This blog originally appeared in http://gigaom.com/2007/09/04/8-tips-on-how-to-get-mentored/ and is reprinted with permission.
By Larry Chiang
Finding a mentor is one of the most important things a founder can do. It’s hard to overestimate the value of a confidant from whom you can seek feedback on your idea, advice on strategy, or a little support when that entrepreneurial energy flags. But cultivating a mentor can be difficult – it takes finding the right person, and then a lot of investment. One of the benefits of living in the Bay Area is that we rub elbows with people nearly every day who have achieved things — created new products, built businesses — that we would also like to achieve in the future. This means we have a lot of opportunities for mentorship. The good news is many high-achievers want to share their lessons-learned with a young founder, because doing so adds to their own fulfillment.
I created a company that incorporates mentorship into the sales process. My first company in college, UCMS, mimicked my mentor, Grif Frost. He had an international trade company and I ‘copied’ a marketing company after it because I argue that selling to college students is like selling to a foreign country because students consume different media, live in insulated dorm environments and communicate using IM/chat/sms.
I like mentorship. I love the dynamics between student and teacher. I love the short cuts to learning and insights that mentorship fosters. I mostly love the fact that it taps a higher consciousness and improves decision-making. One of your jobs as a founder is to tap into this resource for mentorship to help yourself learn better and faster.
With this in mind, I offer 8 Tips on Mentorship that I have collected from my own founder experiences, and my voracious consumption of books on the topic:
1) Woo your mentor by reading so you’ll be ready to meet him. There’s a quote: “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.” Well, I don’t know that it’ll be as magical for you but I do know that if you don’t prepare, you won’t be ready. Read what they read and if they tell you to read something, email them with follow-up questions.
2) Follow-up. A kiss of death is to NOT do something immediately that your mentor has told you point blank to do. Trust me, the email follow-up technique is critical and effective. Follow-up with regular snail mail too…. follow up early and often.
3) Bribe your mentor with a personal touch. Sure you can use gifts but mentors also seek thankfulness or recognition. Sometimes people access people of power by going through the mentor’s kids. My bribes come in the form of handwritten cards — simple, I know, but that’s what works — notes interwoven in office junk mail to brighten up the post box leave an impression.
4) Find a C.A.T., a “Consumer Advocacy Truth,” to gain access to VIPs and amplify your megaphone. Aligning with a powerfully good CAT gets you access to powerful people. My mantra at d.u.c.k.9 is “interest is a KILLER” and “college students FICO prepped”. It gets me branded and gets access because of the C.A.T. halo.
I met Congressman Tom Campbell based on a CAT that aligned with his legislative agenda. I argued at a previous company called CampusBackBone that college students’ private information shouldn’t get sold by the three reporting credit bureaus. Congressman Campbell invited me to introduce a privacy bill and he pointed me towards DC resources in our government affairs push.
5) Thank your mentor publicly. I have this guy that I think is genius. I met him on a panel at Stanford VLAB. He’s helped me for free for a few years now. When I see him at networking events, I point and say: ‘Hey look there’s my mentor!’ That makes me look good. My mentor hates being embarrassed but you know what?? He answers work snafus via email in under an hour even when he’s on vacation. I found him by using the next tip…
6) Be a value-added stalker. Let’s say you hear a book recommendation for “Moneyball” from Roelof Botha at Sequoia Ventures during a panel. Email him about it. Stalk him into being a temporary book club pen pal. Study buddies turn into work buddies and work buddies will mentor you.
7) Leverage mentor dynamics. a. People that are like each other, tend to like each other b.Father-son or mother-daughter dynamic. Maybe their kids don’t listen. But you will, and you’ll get their help. In my family, the men listen to their uncles more than we listen to our fathers. c. Gender dynamic. I can’t speak for women, but there’s a woman who wrote this book called “Goal Digging”. She dates men for mentorship. I can’t make this stuff up. Maybe I should ask Jessica Simpson about FICO score hacks at our next dinner. d.Mentorship involves BOTH parties learning. Often the mentor gets to solidify his knowledge in transferring it to you, so mooch away know that you are helping smarten your mentor too.
8) Kiss mentor butt region. Hey, I read your blog post, your book (or your article on Found|READ! hahaa jk) and I am a fan. Entrepreneurs or investors who write personal blogs are probably good candidates for becoming mentors because they’re already demonstrating a desire to share. Authors often publish an email address on the back of their books, and certainly on their websites, so use them.
Try out these tips and let me know how they work for you. Comment below what ONE thing you’ll change/adopt/coopt or candoodle in the comments section to publicize your effort to get mentored. I hope the mentor who will take you to the next level is right around the corner!