Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

A Chat with John Chambers

jchambers4I wrapped things up in Cisco at the end of May and moved onto Kansas for the last week of the Kauffman Global Scholars Program ’08. Before moving on however I completed my project on the Connected Technologies for the IBSG team at Cisco. Before I left I also had the privilege to talk with John Chambers (wiki, Bio, Time, Forbes) of Cisco Systems. Since January 1995, when he assumed the role of CEO, John has grown the company from $1.2 billion in annual revenues to its current run-rate of approximately $40 billion. In November 2006, he was named Chairman of the Board, in addition to his CEO role. I managed to get some of his time and attention thanks to a common friend of ours. The main question I had for him was simply what advice he would give to aspiring entrepreneurs, and what motivates him now that he is CEO of one of the biggest companies in the world. His advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is below, some of which is reiterating what I had heard throughout my time as a Kauffman Global Scholar, but coming from a MNC hi-tech titan such as John really pushes the statements home:
1. Markets
– Try to catch a market in transition
– Come with the capability to differentiate yourself from your peers in a market
– Be realistic – have you got a market in transition
– Be realistic – does your business actually differentiate you from your peers
2. Team
– Its all about the quality of your team
– If you have a great team that you can motivate well – its hard not to be successful
– If you have just very average players – then its very difficult to win

When I asked him about what motivates him:
3. Motivates him now:
– Building a company that has the chance to be the best for the world, and best in the world
– Cisco’s role in the hi-tech industry has the chance to really dramatically be different from any other hi-tech company in history, and also to be dramatically different in terms of how they’re viewed in the world, and not only how they give back, but how they’re able to partner with countries, companies and citizens in a unique way to really make a difference in their lives and the standard of living of their organisations
– He considers Cisco a family; one that works together towards common opportunities and common challenges, and its one that really cares about each other and one that is probably one of the best places to work. They watch out for each other like a family. Its making that difference that motivates him, and realising that it is a once in a life opportunity for everyone
4. Motivated him initially:
– Loves competition
– Loves building organisation
– Loves teamwork
– Loves to win
– Loves to sell (admitted candidly!)

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Next Stop…..Governator Central

copy-of-img_4803.jpgWeek 5: 18-22 Feb: We moved onto San Jose, California, on Sunday 17th after a 6hr delay at Kansas City airport which was closed due to severe snow storms. During the delay some of us slept and some worked!! It was warmer in CA to say the least, about 20C! Monday was spent in San Fran touring about seeing most of the sites around Fisherman’s Wharf. Owen and I also cycled across the Golden Gate bridge to what I think is one of the best viewing points in the city.

On Tuesday 19th we went to ‘Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati’, the premier legal advisor to technology and growth enterprises worldwide, as well as the investment banks and venture capital firms that finance them. Two representatives from WSGR discussed IP issues in technology ventures.

2ndlife.pngIn the afternoon we visited Linden Labs, which was founded in 1999 by Philip Rosedale to create a revolutionary new form of shared experience known as Second Life. Second Life is a 3D virtual world entirely created by its Residents that’s bursting with entertainment, experiences, and opportunity. The Second Life Grid provides the platform where Second Life resides and offers the tools for business, educators, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs to develop a virtual presence. Headquartered in San Francisco, Linden Lab has over 200 employees spread across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Although our visit to Linden Labs was brief we had a change to get some insight into where Linden Labs is going with Second Life in the future. They were more than willing to answer all our questions. Second Life generated some interesting debate among the group. Some of the group had difficulty seeing its practical usefulness, whereas the rest of us saw endless opportunities for the platform in the future.

sbiodesign.jpgWednesday 20th saw us at Biodesign, a Stanford University initiative encouraging multidisciplinary approaches to biology and medicine. Biodesign are refining a method that produces both world-class innovators and state-of-the-art medical devices. We were introduced to the biodesign leadership (incl Sandy Miller) and fellows from both the US and India. We had a chance to tour the Stanford campus during lunch before continuing with a seminar by a biodesign spinout company – Simpirica Spine. The CEO gave us some practical insight in the startup process based on his own experiences. He shared his experience of equity dilution through various rounds of investment as well as many other

msstartupzone.jpgOn Thursday we visited Microsoft’s campus in Silicon Valley where we met Dan’l Lewin, corporate vice president of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Don Dodge from Microsoft’s Emerging Business Team (& ex-Napster VP), Roy Levin Distinguished Engineer and Director, Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, as well as the general manager of the Microsoft Startup Zone. I had the privilege to chat with Roy after the formal presentations about pervasive computing and how he envisions its realisation in the future. I have my own specific thoughts on the matter but it was insightful to have a conversation with such a seasoned computing researcher and visionary.

Following the slightly rushed MS visit we went to the British consulate in San Fran. They offered us the opportunity to utilise their extensive network in Silicon Valley. Also they detailed some grant support which is available for us to attend conferences and companies in the US. In the afternoon we visited iRhythm, a biodesign startup in the medical devices area. The CMO at iRhythm, Uday, detailed some of trials and tribulations of starting a business. Uday’s talk was very impressive, he provided practical and insightful advice for us going forward and starting our businesses.

otl.gifOn Friday we attended Stanford’s Office of Technology Licensing. Linda Chao brought us through Stanford’s approach to technology licensing and related equity issues. This proved a very interesting talk as probed Linda for information on how University spin-offs are handled by one of the world’s leading research and teaching institutions. Basically Stanford claims IP on everything developed through the use of their resources. Not only do they pay for IP protection, such as patenting, but they are also willing to enforce IP – this being the main reason why anyone would want to license IP they generated from an institution such as Stanford.

johnhennessy.jpgOn Friday afternoon, after a long tour of Stanford’s campus we all attended the launch of Stanford’s Entrepreneurship Week and their annual Innovation Tournament – which this year requires entrants to add as much value as possible to a rubber band(s) within 1 week. Prof. John Hennessy, President of Stanford, gave the introductory speech for the launch in which he talked about Karl Schramm, the Kauffman Foundation and its global role in entrepreneurship education.

Entrepreneurial marketing & Sales – Bill Aulet

bill_aulet.jpgDay 13, Wednesday 6th Feb: Bill Aulet is a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Entrepreneur in Residence at the MIT Entrepreneurship Center. He has 25 years of experience in technology business operations and financing. He started his career at IBM and then ran two private companies, Cambridge Decision Dynamics and SensAble Technologies. Most recently he helped engineer a dramatic turnaround at Viisage Technology as its Chief Financial Officer. He has created hundreds of millions of dollars of shareholder value by building focused, fundamentally sound businesses. He has raised $100 million in institutional financing via private placements and public offerings. Mr. Aulet now works with students and start-up companies to build strategies and operating plans that will create sustainable value. He has an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and a graduate degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management, where he was a Sloan Fellow. 

Bill’s seminar titled “Entrepreneurial Marketing & Sales”was most definitely my favourite seminar so far as a Global Scholar. His unique combination of commercial “successes” and “failures”, academic excellence, and charisma makes him intriguing to listen to. When Bill started talking about this experiences my brain clicked into auto-pilot as he shared such practical and interesting knowledge with us. I felt privileged to have the opportunity to meet with him in a small seminar. Talks like Bill’s are what make the Kauffman Fellowship so unique – you simply wouldn’t hear it in ANY business school! His presentation was in 2 parts, with the following specific outcomes related to each part:
Part 1
1. Increase understanding of the definition of entrepreneurial marketing
      – How entrepreneurial marketing differs from traditional marketing
      – The different elements of marketing and what is most important to an entrepreneur
2. Increase understanding of the role of entrepreneurial marketing
      – Unique and crucial role
      – How integrates with other functions
3. Increase understanding of how to effectively implement this function in a new enterprise
      – Framework
      – Practical considerations and tradeoffs
Part 2
1. Increase understanding of the different types of customers when starting a business
2. Become comfortable with steps and elements of Entrepreneurial Marketing Implementation Framework
3. Real world case studies – SensAble Technologies & Brontes Technologies

Some of the main points Bill emphasised included the following:
Team goals
– Co-founders MUST be aware of what each member of the team wants out of the project, what their vision is, when/how they want to exit.
– There MUST be synchronicity among the team in this regard to be successful
– Being aware of this makes the journey and decision encountered easier, or at least oriented in a direction.
Market selection – need to be able to do disciplined market selection, and have the ability to deselect markets (in order to focus the business)
– Get extremely efficient at one market
– Don’t sell your soul (diversify unnecessarily) for money, or payroll (easier said than done)
Raison d’Etre
      – Product Innovation
      – Low Price
      – Customer Intimacy
– 3 question to bare in mind when selecting a market
      – What do we want?
      – What are our competitors doing?
      – What do our customers want?
– Get to know and understand the customer intimately – entrepreneurial marketing is a not a spectator sport!
      – What’s their real pain?
      – Is it common among customers?
      – Can I address it effectively in a unique way?
      – Keep asking them questions….
      – Customer does not imply Market!
– Technology push versus market pull
– * Book: Geoffrey A Moore – ‘Inside the Tornado’ (Google books)
– * Book: Richard C. Dorf, Thomas H. Byers – Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise (Google books)
– Categories of technology adopters – same as Melissa Schilling’s description
– Bill discussed how one crosses the charm between some sales to innovators & early adopters to determining the beachhead market.
– A key thing is doing this is
      – (as mentioned above) becoming “intimate” with your initial innovator customers – leverage the first pin/beachead
      – Carrying out a comprehensive and tedious market analysis
– When obtaining first VC funding:
      – Better to obtain too much $ than too little
      – Need to be 100% confident that you can meet objectives within time with available money
      – Get continuous advice from mentors as VC will abuse their dominant position dealing with a novice
      – “The most important thing during funding cycles is that the team doesn’t cut corners on culture
– When crossing the chasm:
      – Revenue may be reasonably high but profit will most likely be non-existent – which will be part of the plan
– Bill’s marketing mantra – “Keep the main thing the main thing”
– Take the business very seriously, but not yourself
– “An entrepreneur is the person who solves the right problem at the right time
– Reoccurring revenue is king
– Innovate on the business model – be disruptive here, not just on technology (e.g. Google)
– Bill advised us to try and maintain the attitude that “I am always open to rational business discussions”