Highlights from Tonight’s GGV CEO Dinner on “Going Long”

Kokkari in SF played host tonight to GGV Capital’s Spring CEO Dinner.  Tonight’s event focused on “Going Long.”  We had an incredible set of entrepreneurs join us to hear advice from Ted Wang, the Fenwick partner who advises Facebook, Dropbox and Square, among others, Barry McCarthy, former CFO of Netflix and current Pandora board member, and Ned Segal, 17 year Goldman Sachs banker veteran recently turned public company CFO (RPX).  The conversation was lively and fruitful.  Below are some of the highlights:

  • As a founder/first-time CEO, in hindsight you’ll always feel that you waited too long to hire and fire.  Surround yourself with folks who can take stuff off your plate, and make sure to “build the system that can build your system”
  • As a founder, its hard to be a master of all functional areas.  You need to hire great folks in areas where you need help, but its hard to gauge who is great in disciplines about which you know very little.  Find experienced folks to advise you and help you vet candidates in their areas of functional expertise.  (eg, have a formerly successful CFO help you interview CFO candidates, etc)
  • The best companies lean into risk as they grow and aren’t afraid to continually make “bet the company” decisions, otherwise they get out-innovated by more nimble competitors.  The capacity to learn really quickly when you make mistakes is key.  Leaders must model risk taking and build an organization that embraces and accepts taking risks, even when failure is the result.
  • Its hard to distinguish between a “right place/right time/right idea” success and a “great execution” success.  Don’t assume someone is great just because they were part of a success.
  • When building your board, look for people with relevant experience that others on your board don’t have in areas in which you’ll need to be successful.  These people will help advise you and also help educate your other board members on why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Boards waste a lot of time.  Board meetings should be shorter and focus on a few key things including comparing actual results to plan and discussing 1-2 strategic issues, where you can get the multiple perspectives from your board.  See Ted’s great post on this.
  • If you plan to go long and are derailed by a potential acquisition offer, the decision is intensely personal.  Be realistic, both personally and professionally, about what you want to do.  Remember, an IPO is like getting called up to the major leagues from triple A – you’re going to face an amazing pitcher every night and you need to be ready for many years of challenges.

Thanks again to all who attended.  We look forward to more fruitful dialog going forward!
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