POST WRITTEN BY:
Gene Banman / Forbes Technology Council
Chief Executive Officer at DriveScale, the leader in delivering Software Composable Infrastructure (SCI) for modern workloads.
They say that “change is the only constant,” and that seems to be a truism in Silicon Valley.
The Valley’s ecosystem changes and evolves constantly. I started my career back in the early days of Sun Microsystems when the Valley giants were Intel and Hewlett-Packard. Today, I run a software startup and the giants of yesteryear have given way to Facebook and Google. Nearly 25 years ago, we were just being introduced to the World Wide Web and software was delivered to the masses via CD-ROMs and floppy disks. Today, we see the widespread adoption of technologies such as big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning.
With ever-increasing pressure on CEOs to move quickly, keeping up is mandatory. The startup world has, for decades, moved fast. But now in our always-on, constantly connected world, it’s moving even faster. Whether you are starting a brand new venture or you are a seasoned CEO with many startups under your belt, here are some insights and tips for startup leaders in 2018:
1. Don’t Become Global — Start Global
The global economy is not going away. Our economies, supply chains and workforces are only becoming more intertwined with little respect to borders. As such, CEOs can and should create a global business at a company’s inception rather than focusing most, if not all, efforts on the United States. There are promising markets in Europe, Asia, Latin America and other regions. Be coordinated and diligent in going global at the outset. With such a large concentration of companies in Silicon Valley, it’s important to spread tech companies out beyond the Valley so as not to limit startup momentum and potential growth. Startups should explore the possibilities of other innovation clusters such as Tech City UK, Paris-Saclay, Israel, Bangalore and Beijing. Sales are often easier to close away from the hyper-competitive tech centers in the U.S.
2. Experience Is Back In Vogue In Silicon Valley
Don’t discount being an experienced CEO or bringing one on to lead your company. In an industry all-too-frequently stereotyped by the hoodie-wearing tech CEO, there is a resurgence of the experienced leader throughout Silicon Valley. While innovation will always come from all types of backgrounds, companies and VCs are recognizing the value of having leadership teams in place with proven track records in the industry — both from a technical and a business perspective — and that can make consistently measured decisions based on that experience.
3. Make Integrity A Central Talking Point
2017 may well have been the watershed startups needed to realize that running a company is about far more than providing employees with great snacks, gourmet cafeterias, posh gym memberships and flexible work hours. Amid the ongoing fallout from the scandals at companies such as Uber, CEOs and other executives must place integrity and honesty at the forefront of their companies’ ethos, creating and supporting more initiatives to inculcate and sharpen these qualities and (hopefully) turn the tide of the perceived (negative) culture of Silicon Valley. If everyone at the top becomes more aware and makes the behaviors of integrity and honesty a priority for both internal and external communications, 2018 could well be a turning point for the tech industry in restoring its reputation.
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Be Fiscally Conservative
In recent years, there has been an explosion of VC financing in Silicon Valley. It seemed that every startup was being funded in rounds of eight or even nine figures. What was already a highly selective process (securing VC funding) is becoming even more selective. What we’re starting to see now is still more money being put into startups but fewer overall VC funding deals. What this means is that it’s time to focus more on running the businesses and creating solid products than on offering the coolest, craziest, headline-grabbing perks. Close your deals now, conserve your cash and keep your runway long. This is what will lead to a strong, stable company in the long run.
Experience, a global mindset, honesty, integrity and a bit of fiscal conservatism when running a company never go out of style, regardless of the era you’re in. But even more so today, with such a focus on “growth at all costs” and our connected world, by following these tips and tricks, you’ll be on a steadier, more stable path in building and growing your startup.