I was very excited to attend Stanford GSB 2005 Conferenece on Entrpreneurship. I heard about this conference only a few days ago. Luckily, I was still able to register.
The Morning Keynote
The morning keynote speaker Jeff Bezos told his story of starting Amazon.com. I was little late so I sit in the meeting room to watch the live video of the talk. He talked about choosing a name for the company, competition, media publicity, strategies, etc. It appears to me that most successful entrepreneurs are great speakers. Or, at least, they are all becoming great speakers.
Forming and Managing a Board of Directors
There are many interesting sessions. I was torn between Forming and Managing a Board of Directors and How the CEO Affects Firm Culture. Finally, I went to Forming and Managing a Board of Directors. The following people are on the panel:
Todd Masonis of Plaxo, Heidi Roizen of Mobius Venture Capital, Carol Sands of Angels’ Forum, and Jim Watson, of CMEA Ventures. Travis Nelson was the moderator. They gave very good suggestions for selecting a board of directors:
- Size of board of directors should be relevant to the company’s. Normally between 3-5 people, with ideal size of 5 people.
- Never have more than 3 VCs on the board
- Outside directors are crucial because they bring in outside eperspectives
- Do not have more than one employee on the board for the reason that board will discuss many sensitive issues such as compenstion, aquisition, etc.
- Select the board members carefully and make sure to check credentials, looking for someone who is willing to put the time.
- Set the term limit for board menbers (except VCs). Usually, two year is a good term
- CEO is responsible to keep the board informed. There should be no surprise at the board meetings.
- The number 1 reason that CEO gets fired is that he/she let the company run out of cash.
The Lunch Keynote
The lunch keynote speaker is Donna Dubinsky, who co-counded Handspring with Jeff Hawkins. This is my first time to hear Danna speak. She appears to me a very straight forward and competent. Her topic was Lessons of an Entrepreneur:
Lesson 1: It’s All about the Team. Donna stressed that it is very important to have good and right people on board. One of the major reasons that Palm succeeded at the first place is that they have star employees.
Lesson 2: You Can’t Row Straight with on One Paddle. You should always have multiple options. For example, doing financing and acqusition at the same time.
Lesson 3: Stratgies Don’t Move Mountains. Bulldozers Do. No matter how good you are at strategies, if you cannot execute, it doesn’t matter at all.
Lesson 4: Ignore Sunk Costs. If you made a mistake yesterday, you should move on today, rather than trying to saving yourself from that mistake.
Lesson 5: Managing by How Things Are, not by How You Wish.
In the end, Donna suggested that three partners are more stable than two partners. From my gut feeling, I believe this makes sense.
The Early State Sales Force
The afternoon sessions include Path to Liquidity from Abroad, Build A Management Team, and Build an Early Stage Salesforce. I think the Early Stage Sales Force was very helpful. Chuck Devita of Growth Process Group was the moderator. The panelists are Steve Blank, Janet Chaffin from Velosel, and Scott Edgington from Voltage Security.
An important take-away for me from this session is to have a parallel process for product development and customer development in the early stage. The customer development process includes customer discovery – customer validation – customer creation – company creation. It’s important for the founder/CEO to get facts outside. The sale force is the main engine to generate revenue for the company. Normally, it cost 10% of company’s revenue to compensate the sales people.
At the end of session, Chuck talked about Sales Management Process Model. It starts out with company’s goals, linking with the sales compensation and sales cycle model, and then it goes to funnel development and pipeline for each of the 4 quarters. I thought this is a very powerful sales management model. I would like to refer it back in the future.