Last night, I attended an SDForum Startup SIG featuring Bill Trenchard, CEO of LiveOps. Bill is a prime example of a serial entrepreneur. In 10 years he has been a founder and CEO of three successful start ups. One of which was Jump Networks, Inc., that was acquired by Microsoft in April 1999.
Bill said that he had learned to do the following things routinely:
- Do not be afraid to ask for help
- Learn from failure
- Understand your limitations
One experience Bill shared was from when Jump Networks started taking off. He received a call from Microsoft stating they were interested in buying his company. At the time, Bill had very little experience with negotiating. He turned to his advisory board for help. The most important thing he learned was, “no matter how big the deal is, sometimes it is best to walk away.”
Another experience Bill shared was trying to start a company that provides software for PDA’s. After designing the software, he realized that the market did not exist. The problem was, at this time, there were only 1 million PDA users. Essentially, Bill had never failed before and he became depressed. Bothered by thoughts of being a one hit wonder, he evaluated his experience, learned from his mistakes, and tried again.
“When you start a new company as an entrepreneur or a founder, you need to recognize that they are building something bigger than yourself.” Good CEO’s can handle pressure and have experience in many aspects of business: Marketing, Finance, Sales, Engineering, etc. CEO’s must have the ability to multi-task and make decisions. “You need to ask yourself if you truly believe you are the one for the job, it is okay to be the inventor and not the entrepreneur.”
For more background: Bill has an extensive video clip set in the Cornell eClips collection (registration required, but this transcript matches last night’s talk pretty closely if you are interested); he was recently profiled by BusinessWeek as one of dozen technology entrepreneurs under 30.