CEO Summit

Day 1: Tapping into decades of Silicon Valley history and experience

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The first day of our West Coast CEO Summit witnessed “history in the room.” Larry Sonsini, an acknowledged “Founding Father” of Silicon Valley, shared his views on the state of the Valley. Bob Wright of Firebrick and Octopus Venture Partners John Hamm, Pete Daffern and Philip Lay modelled the relative importance of purpose, power and performance. Finally we heard from Dave DeWalt, former CEO of FireEye and McAfee: Dave, now “retired”, today sits on no less than 21 boards.

It’s a humbling fact to realize that the combined value created by our line-up of guest speakers over the next few days is in the region of $200bn. Here’s a condensed look at the truths, learnings and anecdotes our team of 16 CEOs were exposed to today:

Larry Sonsini

When Larry mentions “Steve” (Jobs), “Sergey” (Brin) and “Elon” (Musk) he’s speaking from first hand experience. His credentials span far back into Silicon Valley’s past as well as US legal and governance history. With poise and natural authority, he described his personal overview of the state of the Valley and its place in the world:

On governance

The main issue here, Larry suggested, is whether a corporation should voice something beyond its commercial purpose, specifically in the areas of environment, social impact and governance (ESG).

Private as well as public companies are now responding to these ESG, particularly in areas in areas of diversity and transparency — and that makes good business sense. Thanks in part to social media, there’s no longer any hiding place for companies who ignore their broader responsibilities.

On Silicon Valley

The Valley is not slowing down, Larry assured us. But is it replicable? From Southern California to Europe and beyond, Larry is being asked what’s needed to re-create the Valley’s historic success elsewhere. He cited a list of vital supportive ingredients, including financial and legal infrastructure, tech-centric universities and access to capital, that must be in place first. The Valley still holds the sweet spot in all these areas, but other regions may catch up in the future.

On Entrepreneurs

It’s a great time to be building a tech company, with a lot of patient capital ready to go to work in the sector. Larry described today’s successful entrepreneur as being of a broader base with a broader vision.

Later in the day Philip Lay outlined the importance of playing for power over performance, outlining the role of thought leadership in creating disproportionate impact and the magic of the “missing metric”.

Bob Wright of Firebrick firmly moved the CEOs’ focus from product-centric (how your product works) to buyer-centric (why you matter) and John Hamm wove the vital theme of hiring through the day’s content.

Hiring the right “A players” was a strong theme of David DeWalt’s barn-storming appearance. Under one tenure (Fire Eye) he hired 4,000 people in two years. He also passed on his own personal view of candidates’ “hierarchy of needs” — fun, learning and money — as well as his simple way to gather the motivation profile of a candidate, by reading their resume in reverse order.

“I got straight on to my Head of Sales with Dave DeWalt’s message about the power of the right go-to-market strategy. As Dave said, it’s a game of miles not inches.”

Lucy Stonehill — CEO BridgeU

 

This just scratches the surface of the insight, wisdom and anecdotal evidence from today’s cohort of guest speakers. Fuller descriptions will be released here over the coming weeks. What leadership questions would you want to hear about?

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