Don Valentine

This guy is legend and this talk is great:

Jeff Morris Jr. had a tweetstorm the other day highlighting a few thoughts from his talk that were heavy-hitters:

If you don’t attack a big market, it’s highly unlikely you’re ever going to build a big company.

And, if you have the opportunity, building an entirely net-new category is where you get the biggest results and if you’re able to educate your customers on the obvious reasons as to why you’ll find great success.

One of the reasons I’m so excited about our new focus @ YEN is that it’s absolutely clear that we can not only win a market but also create a new and exciting one that’s going to help a lot of people.

We don’t choose people. We choose markets. And once we choose a market, there is a primary product. We rarely invest in an area where there is only one product. If you think of the Apple computer as a system — we knew we’d need to finance one or more memory companies.

This was something that I intellectually knew but he put it into words that were much more succinct than mine. Actually, maybe I never really gave this much thought (I can be super-dense) but I love this and it’s definitely one of the reasons why they have done so well.

But, he clearly does choose people too because his investments were so early that there were no obvious “markets” to even consider! I know this also makes sense even more so now because they are “market leaders” themselves and have access to big deals that already are doing this or have shown a pathway forward.

You always choose the entrepreneur but I get his hyperbole.

First, you had to be very good at technology and engineering. And that normally took us about 6 people to start the company. The 2nd skill we were interested in establishing was marketing so that we could tell what the dynamics of the market were.

My current team started with 6 folks and we were really good at marketing and top-of-funnel creation. We knew how to interact, gather, and then understand the people and data that were coming into our pipes.

The right people to invest in are technologists. People who have a dream to solve a problem. Most were not interested in becoming wealthy. That was an accident. They were interested in solving technology problems and creating new products.

I just think this is the right way to go about things. This is also why I won’t tolerate people who are fundamentally driven by money — at least in my leadership ranks. That mis-alignment will kill you or it’ll kill your company or it’ll do both. Trust me, I know.

The art of storytelling is critically important. And most of the entrepreneurs who come talk to us can’t tell a story. Learning to tell a story is incredibly important because that’s how the money works. The money flows as a function of the stories.

Hearing this years ago I would have shrugged a bit and conceded, at least mentally, that he’s not wrong. Now, after having done this for a bit of time, I know that what he says is fundamentally true. Storytelling is the thing that drives money and all its instrumentations. If you build anything then you’ll need to dedicate time to becoming a master storyteller.

Personally, this has always been troubling because I’ve never wanted to give that “thing” (whatever it is) much credence, especially in comparison to the power of raw execution and production.

But, I was living in the lie that if you build it, they will come — that’s not how it works. You have to craft a compelling story and then learn how to sell it programatically. You don’t even need a technology to sell something in a repeatable, scalable way. Marinate on that for a bit.

There is only one metric that matters in finance in our world. It’s cashflow. We hire people that are wizards at cashflow. We don’t have balance sheets. We love recessions. Best time to invest in our experience. Recessions don’t hurt us. We look forward to recessions.