CEO Summit

Day 3: Powerful messages, simply delivered

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Our final day of the West Coast CEO Summit was one of diversity and consistency. The stratospheric calibre of speakers continued, yet the messages stayed down-to-earth and accessible.

Company first

Both Melissa Taunton of NEA (a giant of the VC world with $20bn under management) and Barry Eggers (Lightspeed founding partner) independently used the phrase “company first,” addressing the emotional challenge faced by most founder CEOs considering if they continue to be the best person for the role. Likewise with colleagues, said Melissa and Barry, the needs of the company have to come before friendship loyalties. Always asking “what’s best for this company” can lead to difficult situations. But as John Hamm(Octopus venture partner) said, “don’t confuse difficult decisions with unpleasant decisions. The former are foggy; the latter are clear, but emotionally difficult to execute.” (See Day 2’s post for John’s famous banana quote.)

The secret of narratives

Steve Lucas of Marketo picked up on one of this summit’s underlying themes: communication. It’s all about narrative, Steve said. The story you’re telling. Marketo’s is compelling, starting with the words, “I have a secret.” A secret which will have a profound impact on the cash collection and cash flow of Marketo’s potential customers. When presented like this, how can the customer resist engaging?

Right now Adobe is in the process of acquiring Marketo for around $5bn after just 23 months of Steve’s leadership, which suggests his philosophy of “compelling narratives” is winning.

“You read about it in the books. But it comes to life when you hear it from the people who did it — and it worked.”

Noor Shaker — GTN

Focus

A ‘fireside chat’ between Joanna Rees (West Ventures) and Lily Kanter (of Serena & Lily and Boon Supply) zoomed in on focus. Lily conceded that entrepreneurs often need help with focus, given their idea-generating natures. Vision, alignment and bold hiring are the powerfully corrective forces required.

Ending a rich and varied discussion, Joanna offered the thought that not one, but two “CEO”s are needed: the second being a Customer Experience Officer, who just looks at every interaction your customer has with your company.

Our Summit ended, but over the next few weeks we’ll begin to mine the incredibly rich seams of wisdom laid down over the last 3 days in a series of regular themed posts.

Our enormous thanks to all guest speakers — every single one of whom turned up exactly on time!

“These speakers, they’re doing it because they want to help, they want to give back.”

Pete Daffern — Octopus venture partner

 

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