I have been involved with MassChallenge since its inception, mentoring over a dozen companies. Some went on to become cash prize winners, and most are still on-going concerns. I have also completed three interim assignments, helping MassChallenge itself by working on key operational initiatives. Most recently as Interim COO I implemented organizational changes so we could take the best practices from our Boston accelerator and apply them to the successful launch of MassChallenge UK, our first international in-country program. In 2015 we welcomed 90 startups to our London accelerator while spending $500k under budget. Based on what we learned in the UK, we created a “Play Book” to permit the simultaneous and efficient expansion of MassChallenge to multiple cities around the world, with three cities –- Jerusalem, Geneva, and Mexico City — added in 2016 vs. a plan for two cities. I once again will mentor companies in 2016.
Archive for the ‘Interim Management’ Category
As with all of 15 interim gigs, the success we had over the last year when I was Interim CEO at Cambridge Sound Management is due to the people. As my first boss said, “Success in business is all about the people.” Hire good people. Train them. Motivate them. Empower them.
I’ve found this to be true no matter what industry I’ve been in and no matter what size the company.
CSM is the number one sound masking company in the world. It’s main product line, QtPro is based on patented technology and is used by over 40% of the Fortune 100 companies to protect speech privacy and to (more…)
I’ve done 10 interim CEO / interim COO gigs during the last 10 years. In my view, there are four cases when hiring an interim CEO make sense:
- For The First 3 – 18 Months of a Startup: As detailed in this post (which in turn was prompted by a post from Flybridge Capital Partners venture capitalist Michael Greeley’s) there are times when hiring an interim CEO at the formation of a startup makes sense. Adding the experience of a senior, successful entrepreneur to the passion and vision of the founding entrepreneurs can increase the likelihood of the venture’s success. (This is the role I played at Ember Corporation.)
- Helping a Founding CEO: Often, later in a startup’s life, a founding CEO can use help. Rather than terminating the founder and “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” a better solution might be to bring in an interim COO to counsel the founder, and – in many cases – to actually (more…)
In an earlier post I discussed the consistent process I take the first week of each interim CEO / COO assignment. As noted, though my process is consistent across companies, the resultant actions taken are often quite different from company to company. My strangest -– but in hindsight maybe my most effective –- first action was as interim COO at a $20+ million, unprofitable software company: The first thing I did was clean the company kitchen!
Little did I know that -– before the last clean mug was in the strainer -– word traveled to the company’s remote offices in London, Dubai, and Perth that there was a new kid on the block and he was taking no prisoners. Unknown to me at the time, the foundation for a rapid turnaround was in place.
Arriving 45 minutes early that first day -– it’s amazing what you find out about a company arriving 45 minutes early on the first day –- the only employees in the office were four individual contributors having coffee in the company kitchen; a ridiculously extravagant kitchen any TopChef chef would die for.
I was told that the only available coffee cups were in the pile that filled the sink -– a pile of dirty dishes, it was noted, that was indicative of two of the company’s problems. (more…)
Many (most?) founding CEOs don’t survive their VCs. As Galen Moore states in his Mass High Tech piece, “Venture capital investors are notorious for investing in a startup, then replacing its founder with a more-seasoned CEO from their network.” Galen highlights four founding CEOs that have survived, though the article is a bit light on specifics as to how each achieved their success.
Here’s one way: In the last decade, I’ve seen first-hand a number of companies where a founding, first-time CEO heads the VCs off at the pass by bringing in a seasoned COO, on an interim basis, to help them through a rough patch.
It’s true that half of my ten interim assignments have been as CEO, where the VCs wanted to replace a founding CEO. In each case I was asked to take over from a fired founding CEO and “right the ship” before an executive search for an industry-specific CEO could be undertaken.
But the other five interim assignments have been as COO, where the founding CEO themselves decided (more…)
When I was signing up for this year’s unConference, I was reminded how last year’s event was great because of the impromptu breakout sessions where it was fair game to discuss controversial subjects. I wish every founding CEO could have been at last year’s session titled, “How founding CEOs can transition from visionary to leader.” Though that was the title, it was clear from the get-go that this session was really about, “How founding CEOs can avoid getting fired before they ever make that transition from visionary to leader.” Eric Paley and Katie Rae, the session leaders, did a great job covering this controversial subject, focusing on solutions to this common problem.
For the last decade, I have been “up close and personal” with the subject of founding CEOs getting fired. As interim CEO at a half dozen companies I bridged the gap after a founding CEO was let go by his investors. And as interim COO at another half dozen companies I helped the founding CEO endure the pressures of their job. (As one founding CEO said when he called asking for help, “Des, I’m one Board meeting away from getting fired. Can you give me a hand?”)
In last year’s unConference session, people had many reasons why founding CEOs get fired “early and often.” The reasons that resonated with me are: (more…)
Since summer, I’ve been interim COO at RelayRides, the world’s first neighbor-to-neighbor carsharing service. I work for founding CEO Shelby Clark. Yesterday we announced funding from August Capital and Google Ventures.
RelayRides is an innovative twist on the traditional carsharing model, ala Zipcar. I believe our business model will have an important impact on the young and rapidly growing $12.5B global carsharing industry. Adding neighbor-to-neighbor carsharing to a community with traditional carsharing is one of those instances when one plus one equals more than two, as detailed here.
RelayRides is a perfect example of Collaborative Consumption. Rather than putting new cars on the road like other carsharing services, RelayRides goes the eco-friendly route by leveraging existing, often idle autos. Neighbors help each other. Car owners recover some of the costs of owning an expensive asset while they simultaneously provide a new, convenient transportation option for their neighbors in need of a car.
After operating in Cambridge for six months, Tuesday we launched our second city, San Francisco, generating a slew of great press.
The Economist recently reported that venture capitalists and boards of directors of European companies are far ahead of their US counterparts in understanding when it makes sense to hire an interim CEO. Now, a new report out of the UK – which has perhaps the most sophisticated interim management services in the world – details eight cases when a board should consider putting in an interim CEO.
I’ve listed them below, but first three other key points from the report:
- Interim CEOs are not consultants; rather, they are hands-on workers.
- Interim CEOs are not potential employees; the good ones do interim work as a way of life (and not as a “filler” until a poor economy improves.)
- Interim CEOs can be taken into the confidence of a board (as an interim person has the advantage of impartiality.)
The report also talks about why younger and younger executives are turning to interim management as a way to achieve a more flexible and rewarding career. While delivering significant benefits to the client, interim managers provide themselves with (more…)
The Economist has a great article about the type of work I’ve been doing for ten years, Interim CEO. The piece addresses why many American companies are now adopting a practice that originated in Europe, and why so many top-notch execs are enjoying these temporary CEO jobs.
The Economist postulates that “interim executives may be the wave of the future in all rich countries, as these countries evolve from what Peter Drucker called a ‘society of organizations’ into a ‘society of networks.’”
Why Companies Do It
I agree with venture capitalist Michael Greeley of Flybridge Capital Partners who recently stated that building companies demands great passion, vision and intelligence but “it also helps to have done it before.” He goes on to say that what the marketplace really needs are “senior successful serial entrepreneurs” to serve on the next generation of entrepreneurs’ boards, to open up their rolodexes, and to share what worked and what didn’t work. He ends by noting that, “such mentorship is difficult to find.”
I would like to build on that suggestion; rather than having these serial entrepreneurs simply serve on boards, I suggest that in some cases they should actually serve as the startup’s interim CEO while the company is getting off the ground.
Every startup has a myriad of details and actions that need to be done. Rather than having a board member who simply advises, “You need to do this; and you need to do that,” in many cases the startup would be better served by (more…)