In 2010 when I was serving as co-chair of the Information Task Force for Sen. Pat Roberts’ Science, Technology and the Future advisory committee I saw this “Firm Formation: The Importance of Startups” report published by Kansas City’s Kauffman Foundation, a think tank dedicated to fostering economic independence by advancing entrepreneurship and education, that shows “without startups, there would be no net job growth in the U.S. economy.” So why aren’t public economic development activities putting more effort and investment into the start-up market?
What are some of the key characteristics of successful teams charged with planning and decision-making responsibilities? A friend and former college classmate who worked for some years as a VP of Marketing for Microsoft once told me about working with Bill Gates. “He’s super smart” he said, “in our product marketing team meetings he could be pretty brutal.” He went on to elaborate further; “you’ve got to be totally prepared; he asks a lot of tough questions and he’s quick to call bull shit.” What Gates was doing was challenging assumptions, a key ingredient of critical thinking.
Entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital often look to early stage investors as validators for their vision and business acumen in addition to their value as financial supporters critical to the venture’s growth and survival. Thus, early stage investor may have a substantively different type of influence on the founder and the company. Unfortunately, in many cases, such early stage angel investors may be friends, family members, or local business executives with little to no experience in mentoring a founder of his company’s product, market or business strategy. Even worse, the investor may believe that he or she is an expert and mistakenly assume that they know better than the founder and his team what the company should be doing.
<- Snapshot from early LaGarde website Bob LaGarde entered the technology arena in 1996, about a year after the phenomenal Netscape IPO. He began programming in IDC/HTX, an old Microsoft methodology that is coincidentally somewhat like .NET with presentation layer and code behind architecture. This was back in the day when CGI was the dominant method of making web pages do something. The coolest stuff on the web was thought to be “eye-candy” things that blinked, spun or scrolled across the page. A few artifacts from the scrapbook: