The End of the Search

August 23, 2006

I’ve had a number of people ask me how my search has gone.  I looked at about a dozen startups and talked with most of the major VCs in Seattle.  I’ve seen come incredible businesses.  I’ve felt the passion and fire that it takes to be an entrepreneur and run a business.  It was a great time, and I learned a lot.

In the end what crystalized for me was what I want out of a company.  I want to win.  I want to be in a business with tremendous upside, and I want to play a key role growing that business.  I want to work with A level leadership.  I want to love coming to work every day.

While a couple of the startups I was looking at had these attributes, I found the best fit in a place I wasn’t initially looking.  Last month I started at VP of Marketing at Expedia Corporate Travel.  I won’t go into what Expedia Corporate Travel does.  I’ll just say that this company and this position have everything I was looking for.  I love getting up and coming to work.

I know I haven’t been much of a blogger in this blog.  And I’m not sure that’ll change.  I’m not planning to blog about my current work experiences.  I may pop in now and then and comment on something I’m seeing on the Seattle startup scene.  But as the purpose of this blog was to talk about my job search, and that search has now ended I will, in all likelihood, just stay quiet and focus on building the business.

Stages and Risk Aversion

May 1, 2006

Been 2 weeks since I last blogged.  I'm purposely slowing down to keep my focus on the job search.  Still, sometimes things happen that I want to be sure to capture.

I'm looking at companies at all stages – some have A funding, some B, and some none.  I find myself particularly attracted to a pre-funding company with 3 full time employees.  I like their product, I like the team, and I think the business will have legs.  They aren't ready to hire someone like me yet, but I'm going to do some informal advising as a way to stay fresh and show them that I'm a good guy.  

I met with the CEO of one of the larger companies last week.  He said that having spent 14+ years at Microsoft tells him that I'm a little risk averse.  I said a year ago, when I left the safe confines of Redmond, that would have been a true statement.  But now it's not so much the case.  Witness that I am looking at 3 pre-funded companies.  Yes it would be hard to work for a very low salary (but lots of equity).  But if it were the right thing to do I would make it work.  One cannot be risk averse and consider that type of arrangement, particularly not as a family man.  

My gut tells me something very early might be the ticket.  We'll see what happens. 

Misc. Thoughts

April 15, 2006

I haven't been as active on the blog as I thought I'd be during my search.  Maybe that's good news since most of my cycles have been spent on actual job search things.  But I've had two experiences the past week that I thought I should capture.

First, while a startup is first priority I am not ruling out a larger, more established company.  One of my former Melodeo colleagues is going to Real, for example.  He convinced me not to rule out something like this.  So I'm looking at a couple.  Why not fill the funnel.  It's easier to decide what to do when you have choices.

A couple weeks ago my pal Frank introduced me to a startup his law firm worked with on a turnaround basis a while back.  Nice mail to the CEO, which I replied to asking for a time to meet to get acquiainted.  CEO replied and cc'd the VP of marketing, and I mailed him with the same offer.  No response.  Then Thursday a recruiting firm calls me, does a phone screen, and says the only way I'm going to get to talk with the VP of marketing is to fill out some online application.  Again, this is a startup, granted funded at B but still…feels way too big company to me.  I get that you have to manage your time, but this seems like overkill.  I said thanks but no thanks. 

Next week interviews begin in earnest for one job, and I expect them to come pretty fast for a couple more.  Pretty exciting. 

Timing is Everything

April 7, 2006

Busy day today.  Started at Ignition Partners, talking with one of the guys about opportunities in the business application space.  Looks like there are a couple things brewing of interest there.

Then on to meet with one of their portfolio companies.  I've known the CEO there for about a year socially.  I wanted to meet to catch up and extend my network.  Turns out he's now in the market for a new marketing chief…they are currently revising their product and strategy and it's something I can get behind.  So I'm now a real candidate for that job.

Later I check email.  In early March I met with the CEO of another company, who told me that he had no openings but would help me network.  I sent him mail last week asking for a couple intros.  Today he replied saying he'd be happy to make the intros..and inviting me to interview for the marketing chief job there.  

One day, two real opportunities.  

Monday I woke up feeling a little down because I didn't have anything firm in the hopper.  How quickly that has changed. 

Can’t Have Too Much Coffee

April 5, 2006

The one thing I've come to realize about searching for a job is that you can't have enough coffee.  Half of the meetings I go to take place in coffee shops.  When I have back to back meetings, like I did today, in coffee shops it adds up to lots of caffiene. 

The upside is that rarely do people want to meet at Starbucks, so I'm finding out about a number of cool, smaller coffee stores in the area.  I just wrote a bunch of reviews on Judy's Book.

Leverage or “Re-pot”

March 31, 2006

I met with Anil Pereira, who is currently an entrepreneur in residence at Ignition.  The leading question for Anil was whether I leverage my background to find a new job, or try to "re-pot" myself.  We then discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each.  Thought I'd capture that conversation.

My background is varied.  Lots of time as an enterprise server guy, then a year as a mobile guy.  I've been a product manager and business leader, spent some time in operational roles, and at one point was a recruiter.  I've worked with enterprise and medium sized businesses, and have had lots of exposure to small businesses.  Leveraging my background, then, couple mean a number of things.  But the consistent thing is b2b.  And that's what Anil and I were discussing – whether to focus on b2b companies.

Re-potting means trying to become a hardcore online consumer guy.  I tried to turn myself into that guy immediately upon leaving Microsoft, but didn't land the job I was hoping to get.  Melodeo got me closer to the consumer side, but in mobile.  Anil and I kicked around a few positioning statements and proof points to demonstrate my consumer online capabilities.  I need to work harder and get smarter still on this stuff.

In many respects the smartest thing for me to do is leverage my experience.  I'm looking at mobile companies.  Haven't found any compelling b2b things out there – I prefer small or medium business focused – but haven't looked as hard there.  But the cool stuff is happening on the Web.  That looks like the fun world to be part of.

I suspect (expect?) that for me to get the executive position I am looking for leverage is the best approach.  But I will continue to look for ways to re-pot myself at the same time.  You never know what will come up. 

Questions to Ask at Startup

March 27, 2006

Guy Kawasaki posts 9 Questions to Ask a Startup. Good questions all. I remember asking a bunch of these when I interviewed with Melodeo. Glad to know that as a clueless startup newbie I had at least some common sense.

Along these lines I was connected with a fellow who has been CFO at a number of startups (still is, actually). We had an interesting talk about what to look for and what questions to ask. Some of the questions he suggested were some that Guy suggests. He also suggested really drilling on the market opportunity. Lots of startups focus on a narrow market, which is good for defining initial product and business strategy. But you don't want to be in a market that's capped because, long term, there's no upside.

He also said to really drill on exit opportunity, and WHY the company thinks that opportunity exists. For example, if the company is an application provider who thinks their exit will be acquisition either the application or the market share must be super compelling. Again, common sense.

The more I dig the more I realize that giving myself 60-90 days to find a new gig is the right move. It'll take that long to do my diligence.

How the Network Works

March 22, 2006

One of my networking goals is to meet with as many Ignition portfolio company CEOs as possible.  I want to do this for a couple reasons.  First, I know the Ignition guys really well and know they (mostly) invest in solid companies.  Second, I want to present myself and see if there is a fit.  Third, I want to get my name and availability out there because this group is well connected.  So far it’s worked well.

By way of example, I met one CEO this morning who did not have a good fit.  At the end of the conversation he said I should look at a company where he is a board member.  A local headhunter was going to present me to that company but called later to say they already had a number of good candidates.  Because I met with this CEO and closed door is now ajar.  That’s how the network works.

I had another interesting thing happen yesterday that speaks to the power of blogging.  For the past 8 months I’ve been the primary blogger on the Mobilcast blog.  Earlier this week I wrote my final posting and announced I was leaving Melodeo.  I got a mail yesterday from someone who has been reading the blog and now wants to meet to tell me about his company.  Maybe a fit, and at least another connection.

That’s how the network works.

Small, Medium or Large?

March 15, 2006

I’ve had close to a dozen discussions and/or meetings with various companies during the past 2 weeks.  Most are small, with one medium possibility.  Got me to thinking a lot about the right size company for me.  Net is I’m undecided and it will depend a lot on the job itself.  But the time to start focusing on company size is here.

In general I am attracted to smaller companies.  They tend to be more nimble, have higher energy, and create more opportunity.  At the same time a medium company with solid funding and a great opportunity doesn’t turn me off.  I do have some concerns about ability to turn on a dime, layers of management, opportunity – some of the things that pushed me out of Microsoft.  The one medium company opportunity that has come up is very appealing, and on the surface the company itself is a good one.  More to investigate, though.

Yesterday I met with an Ignition company that’s still in stealth mode.  All I can say is they are doing b2b wireless.  12-13 people.  Smart idea, focused business model.  It really grabbed me, in part because the COO with whom I met was deeply committed and passionate about what they were doing.  In part because it addresses a real business issue, one that I could relate to.  And in part because the notion of there being a dozen people was intriguing.  That makes me think small will be the ticket in the end.

On a related point, level of maturity is also coming into play.  Most of the companies I’m talking with are A round, with some B round.  Here again I’m not sure which way to go.  I’ve gotten advice that says if you can’t get in pre-A, go B or C because there’s less dillution.  I’m not sure here.  Again, more to investigate.

Surprises

March 13, 2006

Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am always a little surprised how easy it is to get in touch with people.  People answer the phone, return emails, and generally seem willing to talk at least briefly.

Sometimes I am surprised the other way.  I have sent mail to one startup, with referral from one of their VCs, and it is going into a black hole.  It makes me wonder how committed they are to staying in touch with the community and customers.  If I ever get to talk with them maybe I’ll ask.


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