Roizen believes that in the VC business, most companies fail. Therefore, the rare successes of their portfolio companies has to be big. Often you hear 10X, i.e. you should see 10 times your capital coming back, she says. It is also calculated as dollars in, dollars out, or internaI rate of return (IRR). The Mobius fund today has an IRR of 90%. Roizen notes you will almost never hear a VC use IRR.
Founder of the Palm Jeff Hawkins shares his story of graffiti, a handwriting recognition software, and the intuitive leap of using a keyboard to show that users can and will adopt to new technology. He elaborates on the role of market research, as well as how to listen to customers and follow your intuition and vision for the future.
I never had a technology company, says Hawkins. He believes that products come out of product marketing people who really love and understand products. He asks his employees to use competitor products to learn something from them. The focus should be on what people want and what they need, rather than only on technology.To build a successful product one has to innovate continuously, focusing on what people do and not what they say. And if you build a product, use the thing yourself.
Byers explains that smaller companies need to pay extra attention on how they spend their cash because if they run out of cash, it is game over for them. Byers uses the example of Palm Inc. to show how well the company managed their cash flow.
Doerr offers advice on pursuing initial VC funding, including how many firms to approach, how to evaluate the firms, and what kinds of questions to ask. He also reminds us to treat all negotiations with respect and fairness.
Kawasaki explains that hiring infected people is the most important factor. Often, how a person looks on paper means nothing if they are not enthusiastic and ready to work hard. All of the experience in the world means nothing if they are not bitten and infected by the start-up bug. He also tells you how to avoid the bozo explosion, which only leads to layoffs, and how to apply the shopping center test to know if you’re hiring the right person.
The best entrepreneurs know how to talk about and sell their company, and the way they define their enterprise can often be a polarizing sport. Essentially, propelling a young company – either to investors or to talent – is a sales job, and one that a company founder must find compelling. Marc Andreessen, serial entrepreneur, speaks at length about the necessity of a founder to define their company and to establish early on what it is, and what it is not.
Hawkins believes you have to be conscious and methodological about your company culture. The culture starts at the top and permeates to the bottom. The culture at palm is a product culture. High integrity is not just internal, but integrity with vendors, suppliers and customers. A lot of companies keep secrets, but the transparency has been very good for Palm, Hawkins points out. A good, solid culture can help a company go through hard times.