Lessons Learned: Hawkins on laying off friends

Bambi Francisco Roizen · May 15, 2008 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/230

Being an entrepreneur requires so much discipline that "sometimes it includes laying off your best friend," said Trip Hawkins, who founded Electronic Arts in 1982 and is a pioneer in video game publishing. EA become a leading game developer for computers, eventually went public and now has a market cap of $16.8 billion. In 2003, Trip founded Digital Chocolate - another video game publisher, but this time for mobile devices. He also founded The 3DO Company. Trip was commenting on the factors that investors consider when betting on a team. They like people who can make the hard decisions, like letting go of people close to them if the fit isn't there. After all, investors look for a "team disciplined to make money."

Trip also says entrepreneurs need to "stick with it."

We've heard that many times from entrepreneurs on Vator. But at times, entrepreneurs need to learn when "sticking with it" goes too far. To wit: Trip started 3DO in 1993, only to bump up against major competition from Sony PlayStation and poor sales. The company went bankrupt in 2003. The biggest lesson he learned from that experience he said is that when you're constantly facing an uphill battle, you need to know when it's time to give up by observing the signals. "I couldn't raise the money," he said. "I should have realized this earlier." Venture capitalists, said Trip, are pretty clear when they want to give you money and when they don't. "Here's what 'yes' actually feels like from a VC - can we sign a term sheet tomorrow?" he said. If they don't say that, they may sound like they're saying "maybe," but that word typically signals "no."

Additionally, Trip says that creative people, including entrepreneurs all think their ideas are great. But it's one thing to have an idea or ideas, it's another to make it a commercial entity. The skillsets for that are knowing how to recruit believers.

"Your ideas are only as good as you can get others to believe in you," he said. A good leader will know how to convince people to give them money, and convince channel partners to work with them.

Finally, Trip talked about his entrepreneur heroes, such as Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. Trip looks up to the co-founder of The Walt Disney Company because of his "wholesome vision" and how he was able to produce content and characters and leverage them across all mediums. "I think there are opportunities to be the digital equivalent of Disney," he said.

Steve Jobs was Trip's former employer at Apple. Trip was the 68th employee. During Apple's early years,  Trip had little faith in Steve's leadership abilities.

He was "too opinionated, harsh and mercurial," Trip recalls. Hmm. Sounds like a lot of CEOs and leaders I know. That's all changed. Trip added: "I think he's taken the art of CEO to an entirely new level."

You haven't done a bad job yourself, Trip.  



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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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