I was incredibly fortunate to have had a teacher in high school that took time during the summer to teach me how to translate ancient Greek texts. While I never actually translated the original text, I have a great appreciation for the history (and the gift my teacher gave me). Interestingly, like so many things in history, our modern culture has taken the meaning to put it to its own use and the actual translation so far as I can tell doesn’t contain the phase “Do no harm” which we all generally associate with the oath.
For many years I have told entrepreneurs and other investors, that like physicians, venture investors should take some kind of venture equivalent of the hippocratic oath. While I know many associate venture more with the word hypocrisy (the two words are of completely different origins), when I was first getting started 13 years ago I didn’t appreciate the significance. As a venture investor, I try to help companies succeed in any way that I can. Its all the usual things like hiring and recruiting, strategy, financing etc. But sometimes I have found it means getting out of the way. The relevance of the oath is that I believe my first job is to not screw anything up that is working at a company. I am not nearly as skilled as a physician (and the consequences including death don’t apply) so the analogy only works to some extent. Venture investors can kill companies however and entrepreneurs invest everything they have in terms of time and energy trying to make these ventures succeed. Often venture investors will walk into a situation thinking they know the answers. It can be disastrous. Each company has a cadence, a personality and a lot of things that are working to build success.
I am sure I am better at it today than I was when I started, but I try hard to bend myself around companies as opposed to pushing companies into some other mold of success. I have seen many venture investors that have “been there done that” with a successful company dispense advice on what and how to do things with authority without regard to what is working at the company and the impact. They are usually great at talking and poor at listening. Venture investors don’t run companies – management teams do – but a vocal, opinionated, investor can cause a lot of damage if they don’t respect what is working. I understand that sometimes things have to be broken to be rebuilt and made better. Those are tough choices but made usually with the team. For me, however, since the goal is to build success and value for the company, doing no harm is a basic oath I try to make foundational with how I work with entrepreneurs and teams.
I originally published this post on Storm’s blog but thought it ought to be here was well.
I recently had the opportunity to speak at the OpenStack Summit in San Diego. It was a great conference and all the content is online for all to enjoy which is truly an opensource gift for those who couldn’t make it in person.
While its still early for OpenStack, I know its going to be a major disruptive force. OpenStack gives the opportunity for enterprise companies (or service providers) to offer similar basic capabilities as service offerings such as AWS to internal groups (or external customers) on their own private cloud. I am excited about the possibilities and so much so that I put together an entire presentation around the opportunity for startups and venture investors. My presentation with video captures most of our current thinking.
If you prefer just the slide deck
The high level summary is that OpenStack has started what will be a complete rebuild of the enterprise data center. It will take time and it won’t be a straight path but this shift represents one of the most fundamental changes to enterprise infrastructure in my 12 years as an IT investor. Many existing companies will adapt and thrive – many more will fail – but the massive disruption in the enterprise IT market will create enormous opportunities for startups in the years ahead.
Let me know what you think.
I have been an active venture investor for 13+ years. I have never been more excited about the opportunities in enterprise IT. I will post more in the future about Openstack, the cloud, mobile and the changing landscape but Matt Asay of ReadWrite and 10Gen did a great job of summing it up in his article “It’s Official: Legacy Tech Vendors Are in Permanent Decline
With Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and SAP all repeatedly missing key earnings numbers, a clear and troubling trend has emerged.
SAP has missed key financial projections five times in the last 10 quarters. Oracle has whiffed four times in the last seven quarters. IBM has done better, but has tripped over earnings and revenue in the last two quarters. Microsoft? It has gone four straight quarters striking out on guidance for big areas of its business. Across the board these and other legacy vendors blame sales execution or macroeconomic factors.
Perhaps they should instead blame their technology.
The cloud is having a profound effect on everything IT. Trillions of dollars of market share are going to shift hands over the next decade.
This afternoon LSI Corporation announced that it is acquiring SandForce for $400 million in cash and assumed options.
We are excited fo..