Attributes of People I Would Never Purposely Do Business With (although it could happen by accident)

Here is the list – have some fun and add to this in the comments:

Childish

Selfish

Narcissistic

Paranoid

Embarrassing

Bully

Spoiled

Entitled

Irrational

Inability to reason

Inability to compromise

Wholly unpredictable

No self control

Unprofessional

Obnoxious

Vulgar

Disrespectful

Tactless

Who does this sound like?

A possible solution to the Electoral College

So this post is not about startups or venture capital. Rather is about the Electoral College. I have been thinking about ways to have it disappear as it truly in my view is a solution to a now non-existent problem. Sure, a problem existed in 1787, but, come on, that problem does not exist now. We should be electing our president by popular vote for, frankly, a ton of reasons. I am happy to debate those with you but not in this post.

Getting the Electoral College to evaporate completely would be challenging, and I doubt enough states (38) would ratify that. But how about an amendment to the Electoral College procedure so that it only was used in very close elections. For example, if the popular vote was X number or more in favor of a candidate, then the Electoral College would not be used. If the popular vote was less than X number it would be used. What should X number be? I honestly don’t know, but how about 3,000,000 for a good proxy.

Why do I think this is an idea worth considering? Here are some reasons:

  1. It would make candidates work really hard to get people to vote all across the country. It would maximize voter turn out. And that is a great outcome. The voter turnout for the current election is wonderful!
  2. It would truly make every voter feel like their vote counts!! Currently that is not the case. My vote was meaningless in the national election. I live in New York, not Georgia or Pennsylvania
  3. It would stop a small number of states from being overly targeted by candidates as the Electoral College mandates.
  4. It would be the epitome of a national election. We have taught the modern world democracy for heaven’s sake.
  5. It would enable a national voting system to be put in place assuming it could be done securely (I am way out of my league on this one – not even sure if this is practical).
  6. This solution is a compromise, and I think only a compromise has any chance of implementation and ratification by the states.

I am sure there are many more reasons. Have a great weekend. I love our country. And I am tired of public officials embarrassing us.

What the heck does that mean?

I have been a VC since August 2004.  And I have always gotten a kick out of short company descriptions that I read in VC daily reports (like Term Sheet and Pro Rata).  While I understand most of the descriptions, there are always some curve balls.  Honestly, sometimes I read them and just say to myself “what the heck does that mean?”  I am assuming part is just my lack of understanding/knowledge/expertise.  And I am also assuming part is not related to my deficiencies.

Here are some examples of some recent descriptions for you to enjoy (my simple-minded remarks in parens):

Data-centric wiki of tech information (huh?)

Log analytics firm (like wood logs?)

Kubernetes observability platform (no clue!)

Dentists studio operator (do dentists have studios?)

API infrastructure company (do APIs have infrastructure?  I guess yes!)

Low-code platform for custom engagement (is there high-code?)

Cybersecurity platform for finding blind spots across operations (like being in a car)

Spend management platform (maybe it yells at you when you are charging things on your credit card!)

By the way, most of the descriptions I read do make sense….for the most part!  Just trying for some humor here in the crazy Covid times.  Have a great week!

Accountability is What Matters Most

Every executive (startup or otherwise) needs to be accountable to the rest of the leadership team and the company’s board.  This is pretty obvious.  It is perhaps even more critical at startups compared to larger companies as larger companies typically have more executives who can mitigate the negative impact of one under-performer.

In my experience, lack of willingness to be accountable is one of the leading “business” reasons for executives resigning or getting fired.  I write “business” reasons to set them apart from non-work related matters.  Here are some red flags for non-accountability:

  1. Failure to communicate in terms that are clear and concise. This might be a sign of communication inability or just dancing around lack of good results.
  2. Failure to give explanations that make business sense. I have seen this from engineering heads, for example.  Even for complex engineering problems the head of engineering needs to be able to explain to the rest of the team what those problems are and how they are being solved.
  3. Failure of a sales executive to talk actual numbers ALL the time. This is a big one.  To have any credibility, the head of sales must be crazily numbers focused. Building customer relationships only goes so far – getting orders is what counts ultimately.
  4. Hearing “almost done” too many times.  Almost done = not done.
  5. Inability to deliver simple things to CEO after repeated requests.  This needs no explanation.

I would love to see some more red flags in the comments so please chime in.  If you see red flags, act quickly, which is often very hard to do.

Sorkin and Smith (two very prominent Cornellians)

This morning I read “Dealbook” like I do every morning.  Andrew Ross Sorkin at the NYT created Dealbook many years ago.  He happens to be a Cornell alum (irrelevant to this post but nice to point out), and still is one of the primary writers of Dealbook.

Terrible racist acts have stunned most of us over the last few weeks. Andrew reprinted a memo in Dealbook today that Robert Smith, founder of Vista Equity Partners, wrote to his firm’s employees over the weekend.  Robert Smith is also a Cornell alum (also irrelevant to this post but nice to point out). If you have not already read the memo, please read it. I have nothing to add – it says it all.  Thanks.

Dear Vista Family,

This has been a heartbreaking and painful week for America and a reminder that in our endless pursuit of a “more perfect union,” a great deal of work remains.

When I see the face of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, or Christian Cooper, I see myself as a young man; I see the faces of my children; and I am reminded of the many times in my life when I have been judged not by my character, but by my skin color. I am not alone. I have heard from many of you that you have been deeply moved by these events, and I did not want them to pass without sharing a few thoughts with you.

I can still vividly recall the pain I felt as a youth when I found my mother and father comforting each other as they just learned that my uncle was shot dead, by a white gas station attendant. I was quite confused by this as my uncle, who had just received his masters degree and was recently married, was quite excited about having landed a job with the State of Colorado inspecting various facilities across the state. Apparently this gas station attendant couldn’t imagine why an African American would have a state gas card and felt the appropriate action was to shoot and kill him. This was almost 50 years ago, and the pain still lingers.

In so many ways, this is a better, stronger, more inclusive country than it has ever been. In other ways, progress still feels so elusive. There is still so much hate, bigotry, anger, violence, and misunderstanding in our society that’s a lot harder to overlook after the events of this week.

It’s natural to feel helpless in light of the events we’re seeing in the news. Each of us has to choose to overcome. Each of us can embrace the words that Dr. King spoke in a sermon in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1957. He said, “We must discover the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world.”

We may not be able to mend all the broken parts of our society immediately, but we can each contribute the love and understanding in our hearts and in our souls to our families and our communities. Take the time to reach out to the communities that are grieving most, and let them know that you support them and we are one.

Let’s each of us hold the people we love a little tighter this weekend, and do our part to make of this old world a new world. We have work to do.

With love and gratitude,

Robert