Archive for October, 2014


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Mentors and Vintage Oar

Wednesday Oct 22, 2014 by Jim McHugh – Experienced Executive & CEO Coach and member of Gerbsman Partners Board of Intellectual Capital


This is a picture of my 55+ year-old wooden oars after I opened up our boat this past spring. They looked pretty beat up: chipped and peeled paint…cracks in the wood…and they were graying at the edges.

Were they past their useful life? Would I need to replace them with a brand new pair?

Before trashing them, consider this –> these oars have a rich history that you could never imagine by catching a glimpse of them lying on a dock or in the bottom of a boat.

These oars have done their job quietly and well in rowboats, dinghies, motorboats and sailboats. The type of boat didn’t matter to my oars.

They were always there when I really needed them.

Doesn’t that sum up a good mentor, senior advisor, or board member? Versatile and at the ready when you need their capabilities.

I’ve been mingling with a large number of established company directors and startup mentors over the last few months. The director crowd was at the 2014 Private Company Governance Summit and the mentor crowd was at the MassChallenge Accelerator Program. MassChallenge runs a ‘mentor matching’ series of events to connect mentors and entrepreneurs who have been selected to be in the startup program.

Hello Founder, Hello Mr. Oar!

The MassChallenge matching events are quick. Founders pitch their company and describe their needs and the mentors rattle off their curriculum vitae in about 5 minutes. Imagine the scene…the founders are staring at the oars pictured above (aka ‘yours truly’). I can quickly tell the ones who look at the oars with disinterest or indifference. Translation: “I want oars that are slick and shiny.” Others, who may be a bit more intuitive, can sense what is underneath the oars’ rich patina, and their reaction might be: “I wonder if the experiences or history that created the chipping or wear and tear could be helpful to me.”

My oars have had 5 major roles over their 55 year life:

  1. Providing Propulsion
  2. Enabling Exploration
  3. Creating Fun
  4. Fixing Mistakes
  5. Being At The Ready

Providing Propulsion: My parents started boating with a wooden homemade rowboat and these oars when I was a young boy. The oars were new and had a fresh coat of marine varnish. Want to go from point A to Point B? It was either get out and swim or use the oars! Rowing took practice, but I learned to get it right.

Enabling Exploration: I loved to poke around the inlet on Cape Cod where our cottage was located. It was a fairly expansive body of water so I had many places to scout out and investigate. After a while, my parents invested in a small outboard engine so boating became much easier; however, the oars allowed me to reach down and check the water depth, navigate the shallows, get around sandbars and push through eelgrass when the tide was uncooperative. The oars extended my reach.

Creating Fun: Ever used oars to whack at crabs (I was just a kid…don’t call PETA) or do some serious splashing? I used to splash my girlfriend (“…don’t do that again!” “OK… splash!”) Note: she still married me…and I splashed her again this summer.

Fixing Mistakes: The oars have helped me recover from boating mistakes (also known as ‘running aground’) and set off on a new, better course. Luckily for me, the Cape Cod waters I frequented were forgiving…sandbars and muck, no piles of rocks like Coastal Maine or Lake Winnipesaukee.

Being At The Ready: Our boat now has a 150HP Evinrude ETEC engine and the oars quietly and patiently wait in the boat to ‘be at the ready’. They are there as backup power, a safety net, to fend off another boat or to help to a water skier who needs a steady object to grab.

Advice to founders and CEOs: Quality, reliable mentors provide startup propulsion, help management teams explore new directions and uncharted waters, inject fun into occasional tough days, offer turnaround advice to fix navigational mistakes, and are there when the founding team needs a steady hand to grab. As a bonus, they are chock full of stories!

P.S. I thought the oars needed a bit of TLC this summer. Here is the new look!

Jim McHugh is an experienced executive and a CEO coach.  You can find this post, as well as additional content on his blog called 9Stucks.  You can also follow Jim on Twitter (@9Stucks) by clicking here.

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Silicon Valley VC confidence drops for first time in 2 years


A third quarter survey shows the first drop in Silicon Valley VC confidence in two years.

Senior Technology Reporter- Silicon Valley Business Journal

Confidence among Silicon Valley venture capital investors dropped for the first time in two year in the third quarter, according to a new survey.

The report from the University of San Francisco is the latest sign of nervousness among VCs as startup valuations hit the roof and a growing number of IPOs are underperforming or being delayed.

Among the VC-backed companies that have decided to delay offerings are Los Altos-based Box and Sunnyvale-based Good Technology. Bloomberg reports that Zoosk, GoDaddy and Yodle also may wait until next year.

The survey also comes after various reports indicated strong but slowing venture funding in the third quarter.

The survey managed by Prof. Mark Cannice asked 33 VCs in the region to rank their confidence on a five-point scale, with one being low and five being high.

The third quarter index came in at 3.89, which is still relatively high, but is down from the 4.02 registered in the second quarter. It is the first drop recorded since early 2012.

“The break in the upward trend could indicate slowing momentum going forward as the VC confidence reading is future oriented,” Cannice wrote in his report.

Some prominent VCs, including Bill Gurley of Benchmark and Marc Andreessen of Andreessen Horowitz, have publicly warned startups to be careful not to burn through too much of their cash at this time.

One of the VCs in the survey who is growing more cautious is Robert Ackerman of Allegis Capital.

“While the engine of innovation is running at full speed, there is considerable risk of overheating, particularly in consumer sectors,” he said. “The excess of capital available to these companies is inflating both valuations and their wage costs. The laws of gravity remain universal and, at some point, we can expect to see a reconciliation between hype and hope.”

Jon Soberg of Expansive Ventures said, “The ‘bubble’ talk has grown louder, especially discussion about high valuations and burn rates. I expect VCs will be more conservative in the coming months and will fulfill the predictions of things slowing down. I still see great innovation and opportunities, and I expect that we will continue to see great companies being built and scaled, but possibly with a little lower valuations.”

An interesting twist may be that as venture-backed companies wait longer to exit through an IPO or acquisition, they become more vulnerable to shifting global macro-economic factors.

“With market demand lagging in China and in most of Europe, many companies are finding it difficult to forecast 2015 international sales,” Kurt Keilhacker of Techfund Capital said. “As a result, many U.S. companies are forecasting modest growth with the headwinds of softening demand internationally and an appreciating U.S. dollar.”

Despite signs of weakening exits, a number of the VCs in the survey remain confident.

Venky Ganesan of Menlo Ventures said, “The major trends driving entrepreneurial growth remain intact — mobile and social for consumers; cloud and Big Data for enterprises. The world we live in is being refashioned by these trends and we are in the second inning of the game. There will be some short term perturbations and some of the excesses we see in certain sectors will get curtailed, but the long term secular trend remains intact.”

Click here to subscribe to TechFlash Silicon Valley, the free daily email newsletter about the region’s founders and funders.

Cromwell Schubarth is the Senior Technology Reporter at the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

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Details for Bay Area Ventures, SiriusXM Satellite Radio Interview

NETWORK: SiriusXM Satellite Radio
CHANNEL: Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, channel 111
SHOW: Bay Area Ventures
HOST(S): Don Landwirth & Sam Brasch
DATE: Monday, October 27th, 2014
TIME: 4:00 PM Pacific Standard Time/ 7:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
LENGTH: Approximately 45 – 60 minutes
ADDRESS: Wharton | San Francisco at Hills Bros. Plaza
San Francisco, CA 94105

CONTACT: Lisa M. Mantineo, Producer

Also, please note:

If your friends, family, blog readers, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or others want to listen, they can also use our FREE trial here.


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Please see video -“When to pull the plug on a dying startup company”.  This was on PBS News Hour on 10/21, reporter – Steve Goldbloom

Steve Gerbsman is 5 minutes and 39 seconds into the video.



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