Archive for July, 2009

Entrepreneur Success Stories

July 31, 2009

FountainBlue’s June 8 High Tech Entrepreneurs’ Forum, our final high tech event, was on the topic of Entrepreneur Success Stories and featured:
• Facilitator Sara Rauchwerger, CCICE and BG Strategy
• Panelist Matthew Denesuk, Partner, IBM Venture Capital Group
• Panelist Victoria Livschitz, CEO, Grid Dynamics Consulting Services
• Panelist Pascal Lorne, CEO, Miyowa
• Panelist Lynda Ting, Director, Emerging Business Team, Microsoft

The stock markets are down, salaries are down and job security is low, which means that stress levels are high, as is unemployment. But it is the nature of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to be resilient and remain optimistic despite all the bad news. Our rich infrastructure, integrated network, robust technologies and entrepreneurial culture support that optimistic nature. An integral part of that resilient entrepreneurial outlook is the success stories of entrepreneurial firms launched in partnership with corporate venture partners.

Notes on the conversation are below:
Our esteemed panel shared their wisdom and their learning with the entrepreneurs in attendance, emphasizing the importance of win-win partnerships, which benefit start-ups as well as corporations, fluidly serving the needs of customers and markets, leveraging your experience and connections, building and leading teams, and together, resiliently and passionately sallying forth to fulfill the corporate vision.

Corporations are under tremendous financial pressures to cost-effectively innovate to round out/expand solution offerings, and partnering with smaller, nimbler independent start-up firms in alignment with their corporate goals is a key strategy for fulfilling this need. Start-ups also need the infrastructure support, products and services, relationships, partnerships and channels that corporations can offer. But only the start-ups who are well prepared to partner with corporations, and who are best in alignment with the current and future needs of these corporations, and who are in a hot technology space in general, will be able to successfully develop corporate partnerships.

Whether the company is large or small, the focus must be on staying attune to the needs of customer and the shifts in the market overall. Feature set prioritization, channel partnerships, development schedules, etc., must be tied to the needs of the customer in order to maximize both sales and service. Fluidly tracking the customer needs and responding to these needs will separate a company from its competition, regardless of the size of the company.

In this time of difficult financing, it is more important than ever for early stage companies to find the customer BEFORE designing and implementing the solution, and only AFTER products and customers have been established is the company likely to secure financing. It is also more important than ever before for founders to be even more resourceful and resilient than before. The entrepreneurs on the panel each spoke of how they took advantage of serendipitous opportunities to connect with decision-makers for corporate ventures during the formative stages of their organizations, and how those initial conversations materialized into corporate partnerships that accelerated the growth and potential for their respective organizations.

The panel shared many words of wisdom for aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs:
• With IPOs real anomalies in today’s market, and with no end in sight for this trend, partnering with corporations is essential for start-ups interested in accelerating growth, but one must be strategic in terms of which organizations and individuals to partner with and how to go about initiating and managing that partnership.
• Focus on your core strengths, your specialized skills, and deliver technology solutions for a growing market.
• Plan your growth so that you can scale optimally.
o Design initial products so that they can be scalable, but don’t add the advanced features until after you’ve proven a market need with initial products with more basic features. Then collaborate with your customers to add features prioritized to their needs, and keep delivering products and services with the same standard of excellence.
o Don’t expand your sales and marketing teams too early, too quickly, especially if your product is not yet successfully developed and launched. Instead, rely on channel partners who would also benefit by distributing products and opening markets for you.
• The biggest risk is not getting your ideas to market, so err on the side of disclosure when it comes to IP, while using common sense on who you disclose what to when.
• Although partnerships are important, your focus must always be on the vision for the company. Find a way to focus on that, despite the external pressures you will receive from partners, investors, staff, even initial customers.

The panel concluded that success will always be dependent on having a compelling company vision well executed through clear, constant and transparent communication to all stakeholders. Collectively, they recommended the following books as resources:
• Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore
• Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, by Jessica Livingston
• Reality Check (and other entrepreneurial books) by Guy Kawasaki


Working with Millennials

July 31, 2009

FountainBlue’s June 12 When She Speaks event was on the topic of Working with Millennials and featured:
• Facilitator Lisa Orrell, The Generation Relations Expert, The Orrell Group, author of Millennials Incorporated
• Panelist Urvi Bhandari, Sales Manager, AT&T
• Panelist Megan Campi, Customer Service Relationship Manager, Cisco
• Panelist Kristen Dearing, Leader of Strategic Sales, Global Communications and Media, Sun Microsystems
• Panelist Claudia Galvan, Lead, International Program Management Group, Microsoft
• Panelist Shalini Govil-Pai, Lead PM, Google
• Panelist Lori Smith, Director of HR, Cisco

Working with Millennials
The Millennial Generation, otherwise known as Generation Y, is no longer made-up of just kids and teens. Born in the early 80s and 90s, the eldest are now graduating college and entering and impacting the professional workforce. As the earliest Baby Boomers are starting to reach retirement age, and with the increasing pressures for organizations large and small to recruit and retain in key talent from the millennial generation, it is becoming increasingly more important to understand and work with this generation of workers.

Millennials are in general energetic with a plethora of ideas and a direct, assertive style in communicating them, without necessarily following established business etiquette or without respecting chain-of-command expectations (speaking to top management over direct bosses for example). They are globally-minded and techno-philic, leveraging social media tools such as YouTube, FaceBook, texting and Twitter. They are used to multi-tasking (texting during meetings, committing to many work and life projects and juggling multiple priorities), to confidently speaking what’s on their mind (directly communicating their goals and objectives), and to being global in their interests and connections.

With all these strengths, a noted weakness is that many Millennials are more interested in generating ideas than in seeing them through to results and conclusions, often distracted by the next idea. There was also a conversation about the perceived sense of entitlement that many Millennials have, and how to better understand and work with Millennials who are perceived as having a sense of entitlement. There was general agreement that it is more a perception based on the confident, direct, salary- and role- centered communications and desire to move quickly and make a positive difference than an ACTUAL desire for privileges and rights and title, etc, without merit. Therefore, the suggestion from the panel is for Millennials to understand how they are coming across and folks of younger and older generations to understand the Millennials’ perspective and therefore be less likely to take offense to it.

The panel shared some sage and practical advice on how to recruit, retain and communicate with Millennials. The overall emphasis was on training managers to be more resourceful, more communicative, and more flexible in understanding what motivates Millennials, and in keeping them engaged in projects which interest them, and specific suggestions are listed below.
• Leverage the strengths and global interests of Millennials to direct them into leadership opportunities outside work, while also keeping them engaged at work.
• Challenge managers to make their projects appear more compelling and exciting to Millennials.
• Encourage managers to open communication channels between Millennials and senior management as an opportunity to share ideas, motivate Millennials and even provide reverse-mentoring opportunities.
• Initiate friendly competitions leveraging social media will help Millennials participate in strategic conversations ensuring that technologies and ideas address the needs of younger target audiences, for example.
• Help Millennials to develop patience while building successes and skills and personal brand as they strive to achieve their short-term and long-term career objectives.
• Provide continual feedback and communications to Millennials as they were raised in an age of instant communication and crave this level of feedback.
• Leverage global communication technology to better attract and retain Millennials.
• Take every opportunity to mentor and support high-potential Millennials, for they are our future leaders.
• Welcome and encourage play in the workplace, from scooters to XBoxes for example, as part of the corporate culture.
• Engage Millennials in strategies to better communicate with Millennials and others through social networking channels.

Leaders and organizations will find that following the practices noted above is not only going to better attract and retain Millennials, but it will positively impact workers and overall culture. Indeed, Millennials speak for other workers when they express displeasure or ideas for change, but they are more vocal and direct about expressing their ideas, and less tolerant if change doesn’t happen. Listening to the needs of Millennials and making the changes will positively impact working conditions for all.

• Order one of Lisa Orrell’s Books, Millennials Incorporated by visiting FountainBlue members may also receive a 20% discount off Lisa’s speaking and training services

Life Science Leaders: From Strategy to Execution

July 31, 2009

FountainBlue’s June 15 Life Science Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Life Science Leaders: From Strategy to Execution and featured:
• Facilitator Dick Haiduck, Partner to the CEO, Haiduck Consulting
• Panelist Rich Ferrari, Partner, De Novo Ventures
• Panelist Stevan Jovanovich, PhD., CEO, Microchip Biotech
• Panelist Yvonne Linney, VP, Strategy, Marketing and Business Development, Life Sciences Solutions Unit, Agilent
• Panelist Glen Sato, Partner, Cooley Godward Kronish, LLP
• Panelist Charles Versaggi, CEO, OsteoCorp

Below are notes from the conversation.
The panel agreed that an organization’s strategy must focus on the needs of the customer and be more market driven than technology driven. In other words, from its inception, and throughout a company’s life span, the focus should be on understanding and delivering the clinical value of the solution on the specific target market that they are serving, thereby focusing on delivering the company’s unfair advantage. This necessitates an alignment between the goals of the management team, the organization, and all its staff and partners to plan for, communicate and execute on delivering that value, and remaining fluid on HOW the organization will continue to serve its customers. Therefore, there must be utter clarity on who the target customers are, what value is provided through which project, and how the experienced team will execute to milestones based on this clarity of vision, communicated well.

The current economic conditions amplify the importance of both thinking and acting strategically. With resources so tight, it is even more important to ensure that the strategy is customer focused, targeting a specific unmet need and that execution is measurable and milestone driven, with the necessary adjustments in both strategy and execution along the way. There is an overwhelming emphasis on doing more with less, stretching precious dollars to meet milestones, and focusing on providing the core value to customers, making every decision, every action, count.

During these challenging times, when considering a company’s strategy, think about which elements of strategy you’re considering – from business to financial to clinical to positioning – as well as the timing for the strategy and how it is integrated with other strategies. Successful entrepreneurs ensure an alignment between overall company goals and implementing strategies to achieve those goals, even if it means changing the overall corporate objectives along the way. The most experienced entrepreneurs see strategy as a process, not a destination, and are adept at proactively managing the direction of the company, erring on the side of action/decisiveness, and hiring a management team with a similar mindset.

Based on questions from the audience on how to best focus on select projects when resources on tight, the panel recommended that entrepreneurs periodically evaluate individual projects to ensure that they are delivering anticipated value, both in terms of meeting the needs of customers and in financial returns, using the anticipated amount of financial and staff resources. The panel even went so far as to encourage a culture where everyone is rewarded both for originating projects, AND for disproving projects, so that resources may be allocated to other more promising projects. Making these types of business decisions objectively based on fact, rather than on popularity, emotions and opinions, will help organizations develop a more resilient, practical strategy that meets the needs of its customers.

In conclusion, the panel noted that start-ups are prized for their innovation and their nimbleness, and in these economic conditions, the stakes are higher, and so are the opportunities for those proven entrepreneurs who can survive the storm, executing on milestones for a vibrant, flexible strategy that serves customers well and brings rich financial returns.

Clean Green Transportation Machines

July 31, 2009

FountainBlue’s July 2 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Clean Green Transportation Machines and featured:

• Facilitator Lafe Vittitoe, Relationship Manager, Silicon Valley Bank
• Panelist Ann Chan, Director, California Programs, Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
• Panelist Brad Mattson, Partner, Vantage Point Venture Partners
• Panelist John Suh, General Motors
• Panelist Elise Zoli, Partner and Clean Tech Chair, Goodwin Procter LLP

Our presenting entrepreneurs were:
• Panelist Neil Maguire, VP of Business Development, Imara
• Panelist Fraser Smith, CEO, ElectraDrive
• Panelist John Zajac, CEO, Zajac Motors
• Forrest North, Mission Motors
• Lee Colin, Green Vehicles

Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists agreed that the transportation industry is at a crossroads, and policy, technology, business and other innovations are necessary to revitalize the industry. Success is dependent on focusing on the needs of the customer – from the economic need for cost-effective products and services, to the social need for eco-friendly products and services, to the individual needs for comfort, safety, convenience and speed. But success is also focused on a successful collaboration between various stakeholders, (including policy-makers, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors, providers, and others) who can work together to ensure the efficient delivery of products and services which would best suit the needs of the customers.

Transportation is such a broad category, with many opportunities for innovation – from software to fuels to hardware to infrastructure. Although there are many opportunities with such a broad category, entrepreneurs should consider barriers to innovation in any of these categories including:
• The large auto dealers are embracing new technologies and solutions, but manufacturing, distribution, sales and marketing channels pose challenges to adoption of these technologies.
• Infrastructure challenges from roads to mass-transit to fuel storage and distribution, to compatibility of fuels, parts, etc., make it more difficult to forge changes in the industry.
• Policy-makers may not be informed about the technology adoption challenges, or why it’s so important to help the large players in the transportation industry to adopt new technologies. This and other factors make it difficult for policy-makers to adopt policies that help the industry adopt changes which are an integral part of revamping the industry.
• Decision-makers in the automobile industry are trained and rewarded to be risk-adverse. Transformative cultural change needs to happen in these organizations in order to embrace the opportunities that change can provide.
• International companies are proving more nimble at adopting and leveraging new technologies, and competing with existing American products and services. There are even examples of how American innovation has been adopted by international organizations.
• The lack of a gas tax deters consumers from proactively electing more gas-efficient options.
• Development, testing, manufacturing, distribution, and other challenges are making it difficult for entrepreneurs to provide cost-effective products and services that compete well with existing offerings.
• Many transportation solutions require a huge financial investment, and investors who are leaning toward capital-efficient solutions are reticent to invest. However, with the federal stimulus package, dollars are still available, but entrepreneurs who are seeking those dollars need a new strategy to secure the funding, and policy-makers need to better explain the process for securing funding.

The panelists advised entrepreneurs to be nimble and innovative, while also focusing on strategic partnerships and investments, and finding a way to partner with corporate entities who may be resistant to the newest innovations. They also advised entrepreneurs to focus on modular solutions which would be compatible with the existing infrastructure, yet flexible enough to evolve with the infrastructure, while also ensuring that solutions address the larger objectives of climate change challenges and foreign oil dependency.

The panelists agreed that it will also take innovative approaches for the development, testing, manufacturing, and distribution of products and services, and entrepreneurs must partner with other stakeholders to realize real change in these areas. The odds and the challenges ARE overwhelming, with everyone having only ONE piece of the puzzle. But a positive attitude and a resilient disposition from all stakeholders are essential components for success.

Each panelist provided a different perspective about why all stakeholders should be heard during this crossroads in the industry. Working together, we can help policy-makers provide limits and constraints, and reconsider the allocation of subsidies, while also jumpstarting R&D efforts that would forge technological innovations benefiting customers worldwide. And working together, making small, incremental clean/green purchasing decisions every day (rather than focusing on one sexy killer app/solution, a panacea), and helping others make similar choices, entrepreneurs can lead the transportation industry out of this economic funk and into a new era of innovation for clean green transportation machines.

Entrepreneurs and other clean energy stakeholders should consider leveraging the nonprofit think-tank Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) as a resource for providing policy recommendations to California climate policy decision makers. While CCAP is not an advocacy or lobbying organization, it does provide independent policy research and analysis (including economic and technical analyses) as well as stakeholder dialogue facilitation (to develop consensus type policy platforms with broad-based political support) in support of early stage clean tech companies and other stakeholders.

California’s progressive stance in the policy arena provides leadership for the rest of country – particularly with respect to fostering technological innovation, but there is always room for more innovative and better policies, and CCAP may be able to explore conduits for ensuring that the viewpoints and concerns of emerging companies are adequately communicated to state policy makers. For more information, visit

Women’s Leadership Styles: What’s Right for YOU?

July 31, 2009


FountainBlue’s July 10 When She Speaks, Women in Leadership event was on the topic of Women’s Leadership Styles: What’s Right for You? and featured:

• Facilitator Rosemarie Carbone, Serial VP of HR
• Panelist Nora Calvillo, Senior Product Manager, Adobe
• Panelist Michaela Guiney, Product Engineering Director, Cadence
• Panelist Nancy Long, Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, Hitachi Data Systems
• Panelist Marleen McDaniel, Serial Entrepreneur and Business Adviser

Below are notes from the conversation.
The panelists concurred that men and women are definitely different in their outlook, and the way they lead and manage and communicate. Accepting that there ARE these differences, and working with these differences will help women to better lead and succeed, particularly in workplaces dominated by men. Understanding the cultural tolerance for factors such as use of profanity (whether it is religious, sexual or excremental) and being constantly aware of both the audience (gender, age, geography, etc.) and the objectives will help leaders of either gender better communicate clearly and lead effectively, driving results. In addition, embracing more typically female communication and collaboration skills will benefit leaders of either gender.

Our panelists advised women to focus on the business objectives, backed up by information and facts, while also considering each audience and their individual perspectives. They also encouraged women to do more of the things that men do to make them successful: from leveraging contacts more proactively to asking for what they want, to promoting themselves more objectively and strategically and ensuring that there is a support base of advocates with influence who can help them succeed.

With that said, the panelists encouraged us to identify and leverage our own strengths. Interestingly, they agreed that making mistakes and trying things that don’t feel right are both very important lessons needed to help people reach their gender-independent ‘true north’ position leadership styles that are in alignment with values, beliefs and abilities. With this type of confidence and leadership, one can serve as a role model for teams and organizations, while also helping determine whether the current environment is in alignment with one’s personal style.

In conclusion, the panelists are advocating for a balance of being tough, especially when necessary, but also being supportive, collaborative and compassionate, while focusing on business objectives. Taking responsibility for actions, parking your ego while focusing on facts, and transparently and clearly communicating progress are all factors that build trust within teams and organizations, and help drive results for the organization. Getting feedback and support from mentors, team and others will help leaders focus on self-improvement qualities which would benefit all. Lastly, as you climb up that corporate ladder, take the time to connect with and support others along the way.

• She Wins, You Win: The Most Important Rule Every Businesswoman Needs to Know by Gail Evans. Gail Evans is a journalist and was the first female executive vice-president of CNN. She became a best-selling author with her first book, “Play Like a Man Win Like a Woman: What Men Know About Success That Women Need to Learn”
• Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Career by Dr. Lois P. Frankel. She is the president of Corporate Coaching International as well as the author of numerous articles and several books. With over twenty years of experience in human resources development, she is a frequently invited guest on talk radio, television, conferences, corporate workshops, and retreats.
• Coaching Yourself to Leadership: Five Key Strategies for Becoming an Integrated Leader by Ginny O’Brien. Ginny is an executive and corporate coach, specializing in leadership development and women’s advancement.