Politics – A Third Rail

At the risk of creating a feedback “maelstrom”, I want to discuss “politics” – well, not politics per se but the discourse of politics as it pertains to the workplace.

The recent presidential election has generated a significant amount of controversy across the entire political spectrum. And, many people have felt compelled to use a variety of communication channels to express their political points of view.

We should applaud, embrace, and cherish the fact we live in a democratic society and respect and revere individual free speech rights. However, there can be consequences for expressing those rights. And, while many of us have been trained to respect employment law regarding religion, gender, and sexual issues, I have found very little guidance regarding how to manage the discussion of politics in the workplace – a topic which can be divisive and hostile.Continue Reading …

The Interview

If you sit down with a number of HR executives and ask each of them which questions companies should ask candidates during the interview process to ensure they select the “best fit” person, you will likely hear a spectrum of answers.

Over time, companies tend to develop their own processes and/or techniques (e.g. psychographic testing) to suss out whether or not a candidate will succeed in their organizations. Even technology is beginning to play a role. A new company has emerged – AIngel spun out of NYU – that is using AI to assess candidates, even entire management teams, based upon their social media posts, LinkedIn profiles, and any other digital “exhaust” to predict their ultimate success. No permission is required by the candidates/teams nor do they need to know they are being profiled. AIngel uses its ML-based algorithms tp compare an individual’s traits against others known to be successful in similar roles to determine the likelihood of the candidate’s (or an entire management team’s) success — with surprising accuracy.

Beyond ensuring no employment laws are violated, companies of any size must develop a talent recruitment and hiring process that enables them to quickly and accurately identify which candidates are the most likely to be successful in their company. 

The dilemma is that interviewers are typically required to reach a conclusion in a 60-90 minute span of time and decide whether or not the candidate is capable and best suited to perform the role. This is truly a difficult task. The industry statistics suggest many don’t get it right.Continue Reading …

Wildcat Venture Partners & The Traction Gap Framework

Well, I know it has been quite some time since my last post – some of you have emailed me asking what’s up.

As you will soon read, I have had a few things on my plate over the past year and a half since InterWest Partners made the decision to go forward as a healthcare only venture firm. That decision set in motion many cascading events for me and my partners.Continue Reading …

In Pursuit of Becoming a Platform

StartupsI focus exclusively on investing in software startups that build products used by businesses and business users. My current and past portfolio includes infrastructure companies such as Aria Systems and Splice Machine as well as application software companies such as Doximity, MarketoStellar Loyalty, and Workday. Most of these use a SaaS business model.

My investments are often very early stage – Seed and Series A – with either just a product/market concept (e.g. we invested in Marketo when it was just an idea, no code or customers; the same with Doximity and Stellar Loyalty) or prior to a Minimally Viable Product (MVP) such as the case with Aria Systems and Splice Machine.

This involves a lot of risk because these companies have significant hurdles to overcome — incomplete teams, lack of product/market fit and/or a repeatable go-to-market process. The trade-off for that risk is ownership. We can secure 20%+ ownership in these companies so that if they are successful, they have the opportunity to be significant drivers in our fund.Continue Reading …

Bend Polytechnic Academy (BendPoly) – A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

BendPoly_Logo_F-BigIn the 20th century, when the US was largely based upon a manufacturing economy, American schools provided two educational tracks and career paths for students: higher education and vocational.

Higher education focused on delivering a broad general education to those students who had the aptitude and desire to pursue management or professional careers. Vocational schools provided students with the skills needed by the vast number of industrial manufacturing companies at the time: carpentry, welding, plumbing, electrical, and others.

Today, however, the US – and global- economy has been transformed to be primarily service-based. According to a 2014 Bloomberg Business report, “Worldwide, services account for 70 percent of value added and…that’s true in some developing countries, too.”

The majority of manufacturing jobs that still exist have been shipped outside the US and are unlikely to return – at least not at the scale prior American generations experienced. Many of the skills required for excelling in our service-based economy are not taught in either higher education or in vocational schools.

Higher education must continue to focus on providing students with a solid and broad educational foundation. These subjects are important to learn how to think critically, and understand who we are and how we fit into an ever-increasing global economy.Continue Reading …