Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Little Advice From Monty Python

Like the Bible, Alice in Wonderland and your mother, Monty Python can be an endless source of inspiration and good advice throughout your career.

Over on Ascent Venture Partners' "Investing Edge" blog, Matt Fates and I have posted "Everything I Know About Pitching VCs I Learned From Monty Python."  Enjoy.

Know what I mean?  Nudge nudge.

Say no more.

Monday, January 7, 2013

In Praise of the Introverted Entrepreneur

Arguably the single most successful entrepreneur of the twentieth century was Alfred Pritchard Sloan (1875-1966). In 1920 he joined an unwieldy and nearly bankrupt collection of business entities called General Motors, scratching out just 12 percent market share against the 55 percent of Henry Ford’s indomitable Model T. 

In 1956 when Sloan retired as chairman of GM, the company boasted a 52 percent market share, a matchless reputation for innovation, quality and reliability, and some of the strongest consumer brands in the world.  Over a 36-year career, Alfred Sloan orchestrated the creation of the largest, best run, and most valuable company on the planet. 

Those readers who know the American auto industry only through the lens of poor quality, hidebound management, bankruptcies and bailouts might be interested to learn that it began as one of the most fluid and hypercompetitive markets in history.  In 1903 alone, 57 automobile companies were founded in the United States (and another 27 went bankrupt). Consumers could choose from 1,500 distinct models produced by seemingly as many companies.  Sloan described Detroit’s entrepreneurial community like we might today’s Silicon Valley: “The field was open to all; technical knowledge flows from a common storehouse of scientific progress. . .The market is world-wide, and there are no favorites except those chosen by the customers.”  And, not unlike today’s smartphone, Sloan wrote of the automobile, “Humanity never had wanted any machine as much as it desired this one.”

Alfred Sloan was blessed with extraordinary focus, great energy, an ability to attract and foster amazing talent, and an intellect that grasped modern consumerism better than most anyone in the world.  His innovations ranged from four-wheel brakes and ethyl gasoline to safety glass and the concept of “annual models.” He has been hailed as the father of the modern corporation, a master of consumer mass marketing, and the most effective CEO ever.

He was also an introvert--a flat-out, socially uncomfortable, avoid-the-party, go-home-to-his-wife-at-night introvert.