Archive for the ‘Venture Capital’ Category

One Way a Founding CEO Can Survive Their VC

7 October 2012

SurvivorMany (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…)

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Founding CEOs; How Not to Get Fired by Your VC

15 October 2011

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…)

Report: 8 Cases When VC’s / Boards Should Hire An Interim CEO

25 February 2010

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:

  1. Interim CEOs are not consultants; rather, they are hands-on workers.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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: “Why Many USA Companies Now Hire Interim CEOs.”

30 December 2009

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

The article details three reasons why a company might choose to (more…)

Building on Michael Greeley’s Idea for Senior Successful Serial Entrepreneurs Joining Startups

31 October 2009

StartupI 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…)

My 1st Interim Assignment a Decade Ago, E Ink, Was Just Successfully Sold.

2 June 2009

Kindle2My very first interim assignment a decade ago was at E Ink, the maker of Amazon’s Kindle. I am pleased to see the company was successfully sold and will remain in Boston. Congratulations to Russ Wilcox and the great team at E Ink

Here’s what I say about E Ink in my resume:

“Reporting to the CEO, Jim Iuliano in an interim role as General Manager of a 22-person group within a 100-person Atlas Venture funded company that originated out of MIT.  Was charged with determining why divisional revenue targets had not been achieved.  Although I possessed no prior knowledge of the product space (electronic, centrally controlled signage) or the target markets (retailers and consumer package goods companies), within weeks determined that success could not be immediately achieved with the current product in the existing markets.  Created and managed four SWAT teams which rapidly conducted exhaustive research to find a new market opportunity for the Company’s technologies, the Ink-In-Motion line which is still in use today.  Currently, E Ink’s technology is the display in the Amazon Kindle and the Sony Reader wireless reading devices.  Eink was sold for over $215 million.”

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Four Tips on Raising Venture Capital

29 November 2008

cartoon4Friends occasionally seek my advice on raising venture capital, knowing I’ve been involved with a range of VC financings – from seed, through A, B, and C rounds, to investments by a “strategic partner,” to venture debt financing, through to trade sales.

Today I pass along four sources of advice – with a bit of my own advice thrown in for good measure – ranging from advice for the person wanting to plan for all their VC rounds as they are just starting out (analogous to the plan-ahead friend seeking advice on the process of finding that perfect person to marry,) to advice for the person just days from making a big VC pitch (analogous to the last-minute friend seeking advice the night before he’s going to propose!)

So whether you’re the long-range planner or the last-minute proposer, maybe you’ll find one of these right for you.

“Raising Venture Capital for the Serious Entrepreneur” by Dermot Berkery

antiaprilfools1Dermot’s advice is for the long-range planner.  Dermot was the first person my wife Jules and I met when we landed in Ireland on the first of April 2001.  Gratefully, he didn’t immediately laugh when we told him our plan to move to Ireland without jobs – “On spec?” he asked  – with our 6, 9, and 12 year old boys.  Rather he copped on right away that this was not an April Fools Day joke.  Months later, a fellow Irish VC described Dermot thusly:  “Des, Dermot’s an oxymoron because he’s both a (more…)