We started out the morning in a meeting with Matt McLaughlin, a representative and employee of VMWare, a company that provides cloud and virtualization software and services. I will start by showing you the absolutely breathtaking view from our conference room:
Matt has had many start-up experiences himself, and his knowledge from being part of beginning companies has helped him to really understand and be able to explain the differences between large corporations and small start-ups… and to infer what a successful start-up should look like. The first difference he pointed out was financial; in a start-up, you never have money, and you have to be frugally creative. In a larger corporation, however, you are no longer resource starved and can be creative in other ways. There is a lot more trust from its customers and amazing testing possibilities with new products and technologies. A start-up, however, can work fast and efficiently without having to communicate and gain acceptance from the entire hierarchy of employees.
The main contributors to success for any company, according to Matt, are innovation, thought leadership, and a means of revenue. Innovation causes a company to really focus on improving market needs in new and original ways, and the conclusion of an innovative (and necessary) idea can result in success. A thought leader is an extremely influential person whose help and expertise is sought after; thought leaders are incredibly important in a company because their connections and past experience can translate to customers and help lead the company in a positive direction. At one point in the meeting, Matt stated, “if you have revenue, you have options.” Keeping focus on financial means, although it is not the heart of any successful company, will help to maintain a stable income for a company.
After finishing our visit with VMWare, we had a bit of time to walk around downtown before our afternoon meeting. And, lucky for me, we found a World Market almost directly next door!
Our afternoon meeting was with a smaller start-up company by the name of Percognate. This company makes “large scale document categorization and decisions” to help litigation companies cut costs. This company put a huge emphasis on customer satisfaction. Percognate knows its exact audience and the best ways to go about pleasing them in order to maximize success.Bill Knight, CEO of the company, explained his reasoning that “as a start-up, you don’t have the flexibility to just focus on the engineering… you have to care about the customer.”
Even more than the customer, however, Percognate has created a model of “success”, which they call ‘Four Hats’. In any given company, the absence of any of the four hats decreases the success rate exponentially. These hats consist of: the visionary, the builder/hacker, the designer, and the closer. The ‘visionary’ of a company is a forward-thinker; they plan for the long-term, communicate with others, and have a very strong sense of leadership. The ‘builder’ (or ‘hacker’) builds the product that you are selling. The ‘designer’ focuses on the user experience and tells the builder what to fix based on this. The ‘closer’ is the sales person, and they find customers, close deals, and basically bring in the revenue. In any given company, Bill explained that the focus must be on what exactly your business does best; and, for absolutely anything that your business is not good at, outsource to others in order to save money and be more effective. If everything that is not a focus is outsourced to other companies that excel at the given tasks, focus can remain on what the business does best and can move more quickly and efficiently.
After our meeting with Percognate, we explored the Seattle Public Library…
This library has an atrium outlook on the 10th floor, which is completely open and free to the public. They also have a “book spiral”, which leads down hallways from the 10th to the 6th floor of the library and is labeled on pillars and along the floor based upon the Dewey Decimal System!
After ordering a couple of pizzas and catching up on a few TV shows, the group has decided to take time to pack up as we prepare for a 24-hour train ride to San Francisco tomorrow! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more epiphanies, explorations, insights, and discoveries by the HTMelle on her West Coast Adventure