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VC Noah Doyle's advice: Create a culture, remember the KISS principle and keep costs down
In this segment, Bambi Francisco interviewed Noah Doyle, managing partner at Javelin Venture Partners. Doyle has had a lot of experience on the operations side as well as the investing side. Prior to Javelin, Noah was an early investor in Keyhole, which was sold to Google. Noah also co-founded MyPoints in 1996, which went public in 1998.
BF: Noah, thanks for joining me. For the entrepreneurs out there, what are your three pieces of advice?
ND: When we started Javelin, my partner and I wanted to create a firm that had a culture of operators and managers kind of environment. We wanted to view venture capital like a startup. Some of the things that helped develop our firm are great principles we also use to advise our startups to follow. The first is to create a culture and pay attention to culture. Think about what your culture should be like and really work to make that culture. Talented people want to be challenged but they also want to have fun. Mixing the fun and the challenge together in a work environment will not only satisfy them, but will get them talking about what a great place to work at and that will attract other talented people to the company. It will raise the overall quality of the team and will improve the work environment.
The "KISS" principal is something that you have to follow everywhere. It stands for, "Keep it simple, stupid." It's a good thing to recite to yourself every morning. From your products to your business plan to your presentation and to everything you do... if your product is easy to use and easy to understand, and your value proposition is simple, you're going to find that everything you do will become faster and easier. Everyone knows that as an entrepreneur, you have to keep the balls in the air. You're never going to have enough time to do everything you want and every little complexity that seems minor becomes major. A great example would be the company Twitter. Twitter is a hyper-focused and straightforward product and they have had many opportunities to build bells and whistles and they have resisted that. You see this in the easy use of building since many people have built products on top of Twitter.
The last principle, especially in today's environment where it's hard to raise money and the exits seem to get farther and farther off, remember cost control. You need to build a culture around cost control. As a CEO, bring a brown bag for lunch. We have an investment company called AdRocket and in the first board meeting, the CEO told everyone to bring their own food. It is so important in today's environment, that dollar you spent on something frivolous could be used to build a business. It's so hard and it takes so long but you need to keep track of every dollar you spend.
BF: So your advice would be 1) Remember the KISS principle, which is "keep it simple, stupid," 2) Create a culture early on 3) Create a culture on cost control. Lastly what about mistakes you've made?
ND: When you start a business as an entrepreneur, you're always enthusiastic and excited and you may think you have the answer. The challenge for CEOs is to really be open to any criticism. In many ways, your worst critic could be your greatest ally in terms of poking the holes of a business plan, and helping you understand what you did wrong. You basically should be in constant self-reflecting mode and really listen. Be open to everyone's input and try to learn from it everyday. I think that's one of the great things about being involved in startups and that everyday is new and you need to embrace that and use it as an opportunity to discover.
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