Silicon Valley – Week 7

The Price for Fast and Fluid Panel

I was lucky to get a free ticket to attend Gigaom’s Net:Work Conference, which had some interesting panel discussions including one on the rise of co-working, as well as keynotes by Aaron Levie of Box (how to build enterprise software companies that don’t suck) and Tommy Ahlers of Podio (who answered the previous question by saying that you let the users design the software themselves). Aaron was on great form and Tommy delivered a great talk, along with a cool scandinavian-style powerpoint deck.

I was also delighted to meet the founder of one of my favourite networking tools, Letslunch, for lunch, of course. Syed Shuttari launched the service in February this year which allows people to set their availability for business lunches, and then receive matches. It’s a great way to meet people you ordinarily wouldn’t run into, and expand your network. I’ve met some fantastic people through LetsLunch and count at least two as good friends.  One of the things I like about it is that lunch is a great way to really get to know someone. The problem with regular networking events is you typically only talk to people for a few minutes before moving on and so you only meet people superficially.

Finally, I attended an evening event hosted by SecondMarket at Founders’ Den on the topic of equity for employees. It seems that everyone finds this issue rather confusing and employees rarely seem to know where they stand. All the panel agreed though that the well publicised controversies around Skype and Zynga are very rare.  The advice to management was: be completely open and transparent, and educate your employees so they know where they stand.

One of the panelists was Philip of Linden Lab (makers of Second Life), and on the subject of transparency and openness I was seriously impressed at what he did when he was CEO to get feedback on his own performance:

Every quarter he sent out a survey to all his employees:

1. Should I still be the CEO?
2. Am I getting better or worse at the job?
3. Why?

The results of 1 and 2 would be published, and he’d read all the answers to number 3. I think that’s a great way to keep the CEO grounded, and whether you’re running a company with employees, or a non-profit with members, the CEO should be listening to all constituents. Boards of directors can be very cosy and it’s sometimes difficult for people to be honest in that situation, but unedited anonymous feedback from rank and file will tell it like it is!

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