Month: July 2013

Jul 14 2013

The Awesomeness of Battlestar Galactica

cylon evolutionI was totally fried and fighting off a cold yesterday so I decided to spend my digital sabbath on the couch watching Season 1 of Battlestar Galactica. I took a short break at lunch time to try to induce a diabetic coma while gorging on pancakes at Snooze (which necessitated me skipping dinner and going to bed at 7pm, which resulted in me being wide awake at 11pm, hence the blog post at 200am on Sunday morning.)

While mildly ironic that I would spend digital sabbath watching Battlestar Galactica, it was deeply awesome. I have no idea how I missed the re-imagining of the series in 2003. I vaguely remember seeing the original in junior high school around the time everyone was obsessed with Star Wars. But it didn’t make a deep impression on me and my brain tossed it in the storage bin of “other sci-fi stuff.”

Season 1 from 2003 was stunningly good. The mix of low-brow CGI, complex religious metaphors, classical government / military conflict, scary prescient singularity creatures (the evolved Cylons) who are masterful at manipulating the humans, and rich characters made this a joyful way to spend a day relaxing.

I’ve got Season 2 ahead of me but rather than binge watch it like I did today, I think I’ll space it out a little. And – no more five pancake lunches at Snooze. Egads.

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Jul 12 2013

Special Boulder Event – Bill Aulet from MIT and Me on Friday 7/19

disciplinedent

On Friday July 19th, I’ll be hosting Bill Aulet in Boulder to discuss his new book, Disciplined Entrepreneurship: 24 Lessons To A Successful Startup.

Bill, the managing director for the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, is a close friend and amazing thinker on entrepreneurship. The book is a result of many years of his work and thinking on creating and scaling startups.

The event will take place at Rally Software in Boulder, CO from 9am – 12pm. Seating will be limited to 150 people which means you better get your tickets NOW!

Tickets are free and you can register for them on our Eventbrite page found here.

Bill’s book Disciplined Entrepreneurship is currently available for pre-order, but will officially go on sale August 13th.

I hope you will join us!

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Jul 11 2013

Don’t Let Fear Dominate Your Thinking

I’m doing a one hour CEO roundtable on an “about weekly basis” with each of the Techstars classes. Yesterday I did a face to face with the Techstars Boulder CEOs (they are across the hall from my office) and then I did my meetings with the Techstars Chicago CEOs and the Kaplan EdTech Accelerator CEOs by video conference.

This is a new experiment for me. I’m trying a different approach to mentoring the Techstars teams this year. I’m still a lead mentor for two of the Boulder teams (Kato and SnowShoe) but for all the other programs, including Boulder, I’m trying a weekly one hour CEO only session.

One of my big goals is to generate more peer interaction between the CEOs of the various companies. We do this aggressively within the Foundry Group portfolio and it’s one of the really powerful things about Techstars. But historically it’s been adhoc and random, rather than in an organized way. This is an effort to get the CEOs to really bond with every one of the other CEOs during the program.

So far the experiment is working great from my perspective. I’m stunned by the depth of the conversation and I can see the relationship dynamics being very broad as well as intellectually and emotionally intense.

Each of the three meetings yesterday were totally different, as Techstars Boulder is in week 8, Techstars Chicago is in week 4, and Kaplan EdTech is in week 2. As I was taking a shower this morning, I kept thinking about the rant I went on during the last 10 minutes of the meeting with the Techstars Chicago CEOs.

By week 4, a team is deep in things. The stress is showing. Everyone is tired and working at their max capacity. They’ve been exposed to a wide range of mentors and lots of conflicting data. Stuff is breaking all the time. Everything is uncomfortable and – in some cases – distressing.

In reaction to a particular conversation, I strung together quotes from three of my favorite books about entrepreneurship. The rant went as follows:

  • It’s not that I don’t suffer, it’s that I know the unimportance of suffering.” – John Galt in Atlas Shrugged
  • Fear is the mind-killer.” – the Bene Gesserit is Dune
  • “Anxiety, the next gumption trap, is sort of the opposite of ego. You’re so sure you’ll do everything wrong you’re afraid to do anything at all.” – Robert Pirsig in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

I used the quotes as the anchors on a longer rant, but I did it extemporaneously. I hadn’t realized how nicely these quotes fit together until this particular moment, prompted by the particular situation. In hindsight, the only quote I forgot was my favorite of all time – “Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda.

And – it reminded me that three books should be on every Startup CEO’s reading list along with Matt Blumberg’s new book, Startup CEO.

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Jul 9 2013

Pre-Order Startup CEO, The Newest Startup Revolution Book

Pre-orders for the new book Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business by Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, are available now on Amazon. Matt, who writes the awesome blog Only Once (which stands for “you can only be a first time CEO once”) has put a herculean effort into writing an amazing book while running a very large company.

This is the latest book in the Startup Revolution series of books that include Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your CityStartup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, and Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.

I’ve worked with Matt since 2001 when I joined Fred Wilson and Greg Sands on the board of Return Path. At the time I was an investor in a company called Veripost that was a direct competitor with Return Path. Fred was an investor in Return Path. Each company was about 20 people. The founders knew each other well and were in a brutal competition in a market that didn’t yet exist. They decided they wanted to join forces, Fred and I cut a deal over the phone in 5 minutes, and Greg Sands (at Sutter Hill at the time) led a financing round that set a price for the combined company.

Twelve years later Matt is still Return Path’s CEO. George Bilbrey, one of the Veripost founders, is the President. They are incredible partners and Matt is still a first time CEO, but now running a 400 person company that dominates its market.

The book is broken up into five parts:

  • Part I: Storytelling
  • Part II: Building the Company’s Human Capital
  • Part III: Execution
  • Part IV: Building and Leading a Board of Directors
  • Part V: Managing Yourself So You Can Manage Others

Matt  has the entire outline of Startup CEO up on his blog. As with all books in the Startup Revolution series, it combines practical experience with advice with stories with commentary from other experts.

I think Startup CEO is going to be a must read for any CEO. Do Matt a solid and go pre-order it today.

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Jul 8 2013

Why Every Company Needs A DevOps Team Now

An increasing number of companies we are investors in are focused on DevOps. A year or so ago I read an early draft of a new book titled The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win. I really enjoyed it and asked Gene Kim, one of the authors to write a guest post on DevOps. He wrote it a while ago and it has sat in my draft queue waiting for the perfect moment to emerge. That moment is now. Following is a guest post on DevOps by Gene Kim, Multiple Award-Winning CTO, Researcher, Visible Ops Co-Author, Entrepreneur & Founder of Tripwire.

Since 1999, my passion has been studying high performing IT organizations.  On this journey, we benchmarked 1,500 IT organization to understand what differentiated the highest performing organizations and allowed them to do what the others only dreamed of.  Our findings went into a book that we published in 2004 called The Visible Ops Handbook, which described how these organizations made their “good to great” transformation.

Since then, this journey has taken me straight into the heart of the DevOps movement. Although I initially dismissed DevOps as just another marketing fad, my friend John Willis corrected me, in the way that only true friends can do, saying, “Don’t be dense. DevOps finally proves how IT can be a strategic advantage that allows a business to beat the pants off the competition. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.”

In that moment, I saw the light.  Over the years, I’ve come to believe with moral certainty that  everyone needs DevOps now, especially software startups where the successful execution of Development and IT Operations preordain success or failure.

Today, we can see how DevOps patterns enable organizations like Etsy, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter and Google to achieve levels of performance that were unthinkable even five years ago.  They are doing tens, hundreds or even thousands of code deploys per day, while delivering world-class stability, reliability and security.

DevOps refers to the emerging professional movement that advocates a collaborative working relationship between Development and IT Operations, resulting in the fast flow of planned work (i.e., high deploy rates), while simultaneously increasing the reliability, stability, resilience of the production environment.

The culture and practices that enable DevOps to happen cannot be delegated away.  In a growing startup where teams start to specialize and multiply, the chaos of daily work often starts to slow down the smooth flow of work between Development and IT Operations, sometimes even resulting in outright tribal warfare.

In this blog post, I’ll describe what this downward spiral looks like, and what everyone in the company must do to break this destructive pattern and ensure that Development and IT Operations work together in a way that creates such a competitive advantage that it may almost seem unfair.

Why Everyone Needs DevOps

There is currently a core, chronic conflict that exists in almost every IT organization. It is so powerful that it practically pre-ordains horrible outcomes, if not abject failure. It happens in both large and small organizations, for-profit and non-profit, and across every type of industry.

In fact, this destructive pattern is the root cause of one of the biggest problems we face as an industry. But, if we can beat it, we’ll have the potential to generate more economic value than anything we’ve seen in the previous 30 years.

I’m going to share with you what this destructive pattern is in Three Acts, that will surely be familiar to you. (You can get the whole story in my book, The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win).

Act I begins with IT Operations, where we’re supporting a large, complex revenue generating application. The problem is that everyone knows that the application and supporting infrastructure is… fragile.

How do we know? Because every time anyone touches it, it breaks horrifically, causing an epic amount of unplanned work for everyone.

The shameful part is how we find out about the outage: Instead of through an internal monitoring tool, it’s a salesperson calling, saying, “Hey, Gene, something strange is happening. Our revenue pipeline stopped for two hours.” Or, “the banner ads in my market are being served upside down and in Spanish.”

There are so many moving parts that it takes way too long to figure out what caused the problem du jour, which means we’re spending more and more time on unplanned work and increasingly unable to get our planned work done.

Eventually, our ability to support the most important applications and business initiatives goes down. When this happens, the organization suddenly finds itself unable to achieve the promises and commitments made to the outside world, whether it’s investors, customers, analysts or Wall Street.

Promised features aren’t delivered on time, market share isn’t going up, average order sizes are going down, specific revenue goals are being missed…And that’s when something really terrible happens.

In Act 2, everyone’s lives gets worse when the business starts making even bigger promises to the people we let down, to compensate for the promises we previously broke.  Often, the entire organization starts dreaming up bigger, bolder features that are sure to dazzle the marketplace, but without the best grasp on what technology can and can’t do, or fully realizing what caused us to miss our commitments in the first place.

Enter the Developers. They start seeing more and more urgent date-driven projects put in the queue, often requiring things that the organization has never done before. Because the date can’t be moved (because of all those external promises made), everyone has to start cutting corners.

Development must focus on getting the features done, so the corners that get cut are all the non-functional requirements (e.g., manageability, scalability, reliability, security, and so forth). This means that technical debt starts to increase. And that means increasingly fragile infrastructure in production.

It is called “technical debt” for a reason—because technical debt, like financial debt, compounds.

When technical debt begins to accumulate, something very insidious starts happening. Our deployments start taking longer. What used to take an hour now takes three hours, then a day, then two days—which is okay, because it can still get it done in a weekend. But then it takes three days, and then a week, then two weeks!

Our deployments become so expensive and so difficult that the business says that we have to lengthen the deployment intervals, which goes against all our instincts and training. We know that we need to shrink the batch sizes, not make them bigger, because large changes make for larger failures.

The flow of features slows to a trickle, the deployments take even longer, more things go wrong, and because of all the moving pieces, issues take even longer to diagnose. Our best Dev and Ops people are spending all their time firefighting, and blaming each other when things go wrong.

I’m guessing that most of you can relate to at least some portions of this story?  As I said, this happens both in large enterprises and growing startups alike.  In my fifteen years of research in this area, I’ve found almost all IT professionals have experienced this cycle.

Act 3: How DevOps Breaks Us Out Of Our Downward Spiral

We know that there must be better way, right? DevOps is the proof that it’s possible to break the core, chronic conflict, so we can deliver a fast flow of features without causing chaos and disruption to the production environment.

When John Allspaw and Paul Hammond gave their seminal “10+ Deploys Per Day: Dev and Ops Cooperation at Flickr” presentation at the 2009 Velocity Conference, people were shocked and amazed, if not outright fainting in the aisles at the audaciousness of their achievement.

It wasn’t a fluke. Other organizations such as Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and the ever-growing DevOps community have replicated their performance, doing hundreds, and even thousands, of deployments per day. DevOps is not only for large, established companies.  It’s for any company where the achievement of business goals rely upon both Development and IT Operations. These days, that means almost every company.

We all need to be putting DevOps-like practices into place. This is why Kevin Behr, George Spafford, and I wrote The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win.

A novel, you might ask? How is a novel going to solve my problems?

As a friend once told me, “Before you can solve a complex problem, you must first have empathy for the other stakeholders. And story-telling is most effective means of creating a shared understanding of the problem.”

Dr. Eliyahu Goldratt demonstrated the power of a novel as a teaching tool through his book, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. It’s a novel written in the 1980s about a plant manager who has 90 days to fix his cost and due date issues or his plant will be shut down. When I read this book nearly 15 years ago, I knew that this story was important, and that there was much I needed to learn, even though I never managed or worked in a manufacturing plant.

It isn’t an overstatement to say that The Goal and Dr. Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints changed my life—in fact, it probably was one of the biggest influences on my professional thinking. For eight years, my co-authors and I wanted to write The Phoenix Project, because we all believed that IT is not a department, but a strategic capability that every business must have.

As you can imagine, I was incredibly honored and thrilled when Jez Humble, author of the award-winning book Continuous Delivery recently told me, “This book is a gripping tale that captures brilliantly the dilemmas that face companies which depend on IT. The Phoenix Project will have a profound effect on IT, just as The Goal did for manufacturing.”

Prescriptive Steps

For those of you are looking for some places to start your DevOps journey, here are my three favorite DevOps patterns:

  • Make sure we have environments available early in the Development process. Enforce a policy that the code and environment are tested together, even at the earliest stages of the project.In the ideal, IT Operations is able to create an environment (that is, everything except for the application code: databases, operating system, networking, virtualization layer, etc.) with one step.  That can be as simple as copying a virtual machine, or as complex as an automated build system that generates the environment from scratch (e.g., puppet, chef, etc.)Furthermore, use the same build mechanism to build the Production, Test and Dev environments at the same time.  If we modify the Agile sprint policy so that instead of merely having shippable code, we have shippable code and the environment that it runs within, we’ll have done code deployments many, many times when it’s time for the real-life production deployment.
  • “Wake up developers up at 2 a.m. when they break things.” Yep, you heard me. This quote came from Patrick Lightbody, the CEO and founder of BrowserMob.  He continued, “When we woke up developers, we found that defects got fixed faster than ever.”The goal is to shorten and amplify feedback loops, and to bring Development closer to the customer experience.  In DevOps work streams, developers often deploy their own code, and fixes forward when things go wrong. By doing this, developers can see the consequences of their decisions and actions.(Note the symmetry here: the previous pattern #1 about making environments available early is all about embedding IT Operations into Development, while this pattern is about putting Development into IT Operations.)
  • Create reusable deployment procedures: When every deployment is done differently, every production environment can become different, like snowflakes. When this occurs, no mastery is ever built in the organization in procedures or configurations. As Luke Kanies said, “If your infrastructure is special, you’re doing it wrong.”To make this reality, create reusable user story for IT Operations, such as “Deploy app into high availability environment,” which then goes on to define exactly the steps to build the environment, as well as how long it takes, what resources are required, etc.By doing this, we codify the deployment and engineering procedures requires to build reliable, resilient and properly configured environments, and can then factor that into our planning processes, such as in the PMO.

Conclusion

If you enjoyed this taste of DevOps and believe it can help achieve your goals, “The Phoenix Project” is available now, or you can download a free 170 page excerpt of the book.  And of course, you can always find the latest writings on DevOps at the IT Revolution blog, where you can get our free whitepaper “The Top 11 Things You Need To Know About DevOps.”

Long live DevOps!

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Jul 7 2013

How’s That No Travel Thing Working For You?

I stopped travelling mid-May (I arrived home in Boulder from San Francisco on 5/17). I’ve decided not to travel at all for the rest of 2013, except for three personal trips (my parents 50th anniversary, Amy’s birthday, and my birthday.) After travelling 50% – 75% of the time for the last 20 years, I needed a break.

It has been awesomely mindblowingly great to not travel.

I’ve had three other periods of extended no-travel in the last 20 years. I stopped travelling for three months after 9/11. Two summers ago Amy and I spent 60 days together in Europe (half in France / half in Tuscany) just living (no travel). Last summer we spent 90 days at our house in Keystone. It’s clear I had a taste of this, but nothing like where I am right now.

Even though it has only been seven weeks, when I look forward to the rest of 2013 I feel huge amounts of open space and time in front of me. I know this has helped me come out of the depression, which I just wrote about in an article in Inc. Magazine, that I struggled with for the first part of this year.

But it’s more profound than that. In a few short months, I’ve changed my work pattern a lot. I feel so much more rested and alert. When I’m doing something, I’m in the moment. The companies I’m an investor in are all over the place, but I feel like they are actually getting more of my attention because I’m not being torn in a zillion different directions.

I don’t feel like I’m constantly trying to jam in the “work” around all the friction time – in airports, in taxis and cars being driven to things, before I head out to yet another dinner on the road, or late in my hotel before I go to sleep. My environment is familiar and comfortable and things just flow.

I’m mastering video conferencing – I’ve now got every configuration a human could need. I figured out three big things that solve for 99% of the strangeness of it.

  1. Make your video conference full screen – don’t have ANYTHING else going on your computer other than what is in the meeting.
  2. Use a BIG monitor – seeing heads that are normal size makes a huge difference.
  3. Make sure your audio and video are on channels with enough bandwidth. Shift to a conference call for audio while keeping video up if you are having performance issues.

I’ve also started using my Mezzanine video conferencing system extensively – it’s just incredible. More on that in a separate post.

I love Boulder and I’m finding myself running a lot again. It’s hard to run as much as I’d like when I’m on the road – early morning meetings, fatigue, and being in random places gets in the way. But here, I just put on my shoes and head out the door for one of my favorite trails. With or without Brooks the wonder dog.

On that note, I think I’ll go for a run right now.

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Jul 5 2013

Your Words Should Match Your Actions

Over the past few months I’ve watched several powerful and successful VCs and entrepreneurs damage their reputations by having their words not match up with their actions. I think this is especially true in the context of a long term relationship.

This is a deeply held value of mine and of my partners at Foundry Group. I occasionally screw up and when I do I own it, apologize, and learn from it. But it stuns and amazes me when others assert strong style / values / culture and then consistently have their actions not line up with their words.

Here are a few VC examples:

VC asserts he’s “founder friendly”: This is currently in vogue across many VC firms. Very experienced VCs are talking about how they are focused entirely on supporting the entrepreneur. But then, when something goes wrong, they act randomly and capriciously. Or they simply disengage without warning. Or they try to retrade an earlier deal just because they think they can. Or they threaten to veto a deal unless they get something more than they are entitled to.

VC asserts certain followup behavior with every entrepreneur they meet with: In the vein of “we are holding ourselves to a high level of interaction”, the VC suggests a certain behavior pattern in their deal evaluation process or interaction with entrepreneurs. They do this sometimes, but are inconsistent.

VC suggests that the deal is firm and will happen: Then, two weeks into “due diligence” which, based on the previous evaluation, should be a proforma exercise, abruptly pull out of the deal because “some of my partners aren’t supportive.”

This, of course, isn’t limited to VC behavior. I see it all the time with entrepreneurs. For example:

Entrepreneur suggests he’s “radically transparent”: Nice, and popular, but do you tell your employees exactly how many months of cash you have left? Or do you keep the fact that you and your partner are having a major conflict from your investors? Or how about that your business isn’t doing very well and you are working every backchannel you know to try to have an acquihire happen for you that will have a negative impact on your investors.

Entrepreneur asserts he isn’t shopping the deal: And then he does. It’s ok to shop a deal, just don’t assert you aren’t!

Entrepreneur inflates his relationship with another entrepreneur or VC: It’s fine to be connected on LinkedIn or say you worked at the same company in the past, but don’t say you are best friends if you haven’t interacted with the other person in over a year.

I could keep going. It’s similar to what Amy and I wrote about in Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur when we talk about your words having to match your actions. When I tell Amy that she is the most important thing in my life, and then am 30 minutes late to dinner because “I’ve just got to get something done” my words aren’t matching up with my actions. Or, when we are together, the phone rings, and I automatically answer it rather than asking if it’s ok for me to take the call. Or, when she gets hurt if I don’t drop everything I’m doing and go help her out.

Words matter. And having them match your actions matters matters even more.

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Jul 4 2013

I Love Living In America

I woke up to a flurry of grumpy stuff about our government intermixed with lots of posts wishing everyone a happy 4th of July. The dissonance of it bounced around in my head for a while and – when I was on my walk with Amy and Brooks the Wonder Dog – I finally asked Amy a few questions to calibrate my reaction to some of the stuff I had read this morning.

For example, in the “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me category”, the U.S. Postal Service Is Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement. I don’t send physical mail anymore (except for the occasional post card to a friend or thank you letter) so I’m not sure I care, but then I realized all my post cards were probably being scanned into a computer somewhere and I shouldn’t be writing messages like “The NSA Is Spying On You” on my postcards (or on blog posts, for that matter.)

Then there was this awesome, long post on TechDirt by Rob Hager titled Snowden’s Constitution vs Obama’s Constitution. It does an outstanding job of explaining the Snowden situation in the context of the Fourth Amendment and the concept of reasonableness. And there are some great hidden gems in the article, such as the notion that Hong Kong is rated above the US for “rule of law” and “fairness of its judiciary system.” Oops.

“By international standards, the US and its judiciary rank below Hong Kong on a 2012-13 rule of law index . While American propagandists routinely imply that the US system is a paragon against which all others must be measured, in fact, objectively, Hong Kong ranks #8 and #9 respectively on absence of corruption and quality of its criminal justice system, well ahead of the US’s #18 and #26 rankings . The World Economic Forum – which certainly suffers no anti-US or general anti-plutocrat biases — ranks Hong Kong #12 in its 2012-13 index on judicial independence. That is substantially higher than the appallingly low US ranking of #38 on the same index, which is proportionately not that far ahead of China’s #66 ranking. If due process was his priority, Snowden was clearly no fool in choosing sanctuary in Hong Kong, though he is aware of the coercive and corrupting power that the US can and does bring to bear on virtually any country. Though China is better situated than most to resist such pressure, it appears that even China preferred not to pay the cost. Or perhaps his security could not guaranteed as effectively in Hong Kong as in Moscow, for the time being.”

Then there was the semi-expected self-referential “what is a journalist” articles such as Snowden’s leaks force media self-examination and Jeff Jarvis’ There are no journalists. I love Jeff Jarvis.

“Journalism is not content. It is not a noun . It need not be a profession or an industry. It is not the province of a guild. It is not a scarcity to be controlled. It no longer happens in newsrooms. It is no longer confined to narrative form.

So then what the hell is journalism?

It is a service. It is a service whose end, again, is an informed public. For my entrepreneurial journalism students, I give them a broad umbrella of a definition: Journalism helps communities organize their knowledge so they can better organize themselves.”

After our walk Amy sent me another article about the Fourth Amendent – If PRISM Is Good Policy, Why Stop With Terrorism? that included additional applications of PRISM to child pornography, speeding, and illegal downloads.

Then I noticed my friends at Cheezburger supporting the latest Internet Defense League Standing Up for The Fourth Amendment campaign, which as a member of the Internet Defense League, I also support.

After all of this, I was able to convince Amy to go to see White House Down with me this afternoon. I love going to afternoon movies, and it’s awesome to live in a country that not only shows a movie like this, but allows it to get made!

Happy 4th of July. For all of its flaws, America is an amazing and resilient country and I’m proud to be an American.

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Jul 2 2013

Problem Solving Versus Empathy

A classical relationship problem is the dichotomy between solving a problem and providing empathy. If you really want to understand this, spend two minutes and watch the awesome “It’s Not About The Nail” video below.

Amy and I have figured this out extremely well in our relationship. We talk about it in Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur using the example of the scene from the movie White Men Can’t Jump to frame the situation.

There’s a delightful scene in the movie White Men Can’t Jump. In it, Billy Hoyle (played by Woody Harrelson) and Gloria Clemente (played by Rosie Perez) are in bed together. Gloria says to Billy, “Honey, I’m thirsty.” Billy gets up without saying word, goes to the kitchen, fills up a glass of water, brings it back to the bed, and gives it to Gloria. As Billy is crawling back into bed, Gloria tosses the water in his face. Startled, Billy says, “What?!” A long conversation ensues, which can be summarized as, “Honey, when I say I’m thirsty, I don’t want a glass of water. I want empathy. I want you to say, ‘I know what it’s like to be thirsty.’”

But this isn’t limited to personal relationships, or the difference between men and women (lots of men need empathy, even if they don’t know how to ask for it.) I see this all the time in my interaction with entrepreneurs and CEOs. I see it in the board room. And I see it in the way a CEO works with her leadership team.

The natural reaction in many of these cases is to immediately jump in and solve the problem. Granted, this is male-centric, as the ratio of men to women in these meetings at startups and entrepreneurial companies is very high. But it’s also CEO and entrepreneur-centric behavior; most CEOs and entrepreneurs are heat seeking problem solving missiles.

If you are an entrepreneur, CEO, or VC take a moment and think. Do you ever focus on “empathy” rather than “problem solving.” If you want to see an example of this in action, watch Jerry Colonna’s brilliant interview with Jason Calacanis. There’s a lot of incredible things on display in this interview, including plenty of empathy.

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Jul 1 2013

Living the Startup Life

I loved this video review of Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur. I watched it this morning and smiled a huge smile.

Thanks  Cynthia Morris for taking the time to do this. And, as the sun shines in my world again, I’m happy that others are spreading the love around.

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