Monday, October 10, 2011

Steve Jobs: The Founder Archetype

I started this post with a list of my top 10 favorite things about Steve Jobs, but soon realized that any such attempt is futile at best. As the Da Vinci of our time, Steve Jobs' accomplishments were not limited to a set of inventions, principles, or theories. They spanned multiple disciplines (comp sci and art, for example), multiple decades (starting with the 80's, remember the original Mac?), and will have far reaching implications into the future (wearable computing, for instance).

But the one thing that will make him forever immortal, IMHO, is the fact that he has established himself as the "Founder Archetype" for as long as entrepreneurship will exist. His passion, ambition, perseverance, dedication and determination will be that which all founders will be judged by and compared against. He has truly upped the game for all of us; and that maybe his greatest legacy!

P.S. For some inspiration on how others are preparing themselves for this challenge, you may want to read and follow #LiveLikeSteve

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Chamath's Golden Rule!

Starting with my first topical post on this blog, I have been praising the advantages of a high integrity culture as the foundation of a sustainable business. Yesterday's leaked email from investor Chamath Palihapitiya to Airbnb CEO, wherein he provides an eloquent reason for not wanting to participate in a financing round that does not pass his integrity test, is a great reminder to all founders and executives of the importance to stay vigilant about preserving a culture of integrity in their startups. I confess that I don't know much about Airbnb's culture, but based on some of their past notoriety in the press (see one thread on TechCrunch here), I can see how small, incremental compromises in integrity may have led to this point, and hopefully Chamath's email and the attention it has raised to this matter can be a turning point for the company.

Here is my favorite paragraph from Chamath's email, which provides solid practical advice on how to preserve integrity within your organization:
Treat your employees the same as you’d treat yourself. Do things that you will be proud of and can defend to anyone including your Board, employees, prospective hires etc. In such a competitive hiring market, you are competing with not just your obvious competitors, but also any successful tech company who is also looking for great talent. A principle that treats your employees as well as you’d treat yourself is a huge strategy for differentiation, retention and long term happiness of the exact types of people you will need to be successful. In contrast, if you are viewed as self-dealing and shady, it will only hurt your long term prospects…
The highlighted first sentence above is what I would like to call "Chamath's Golden Rule for Management", which is a great modern application of the ancient Golden Rule.

I recall that as I a lawyer I used to advise my clients against doing something they would hate to see on the cover of WSJ. Airbnb founders may find themselves in that uncomfortable position on Monday!

P.S. As full disclosure, Chamath is a good friend, personal hero, and former investor in my last startup Jaxtr, via the Mayfield Fund.