Venture Capital and Parenting

Matt McCall writes:

One day, I was going through a bipolar moment. One of our companies was about to sell for a nice multiple on invested capital. However, later that day, another company informed us that it had lost two major customers and was in a severe liquidity squeeze. Since your attention always goes to the fire drill of the day, I jumped into crisis mode on company B while much of the euphoria from company A receded. Ironically, later that day, I was talking with a friend about children. He mentioned the quote above. You’ll often find yourself, as a parent, happy that one of your children finally mastered a hard task but find yourself stressed because another is struggling due to health, friends, academics or the like.

I began to think about the children/portfolio analogy and realized that there were a lot of other common lessons. Most of these relate to how you interact or manage the deal. One of the most difficult tendencies to avoid as a venture capital is to jump to deeply into the day to day operations of an entrepreneur’s business. VC’s have to walk the fine line between being helpful and being meddlesome. Many of these lessons also apply to CEO’s and how they manage their lieutenants.

Fostering Talent Networks

John Hagel was in India in February and wrote this in the context of the Indian IT industry:

The biggest opportunity of all requires a different form of innovation. It also requires a very different mindset for the leadership of the Indian IT service companies.

Rather than continuing to focus on attracting and retaining talent within their own companies, these firms could create enormous value by developing the management techniques required to mobilize and leverage specialized talent wherever it resides. This would require building scalable talent networks encompassing a broad range of smaller, more specialized companies.

The Indian IT services companies have been very effective in building relationships with technology product companies on a global scale. But when it comes to expanding their own IT services, they immediately focus inward. If they dont have the capability already in place, they may go out and acquire a smaller, more specialized company, but their instinct is to bring the capability in house.


Sramana Mitra points to a paper by Kirk Magelby and writes: “MicroFranchising is a development tool that seeks to apply the proven marketing and operational concepts of traditional franchising to small businesses in the developing world. The primary feature of a MicroFranchise is its ability to be streamlined and replicated. The businesses are designed for microentreprenuers and usually target development issues such as health, sanitation, and energy.”