Focus, focus, focus.

Focus you must on taking over teh interwebz.Last week, my friends at OpenView Labs published an interview of me and a few other VCs (Phin Barnes, Brad Feld, and Rob Go). Each of us was asked the same two questions.

You can read the full article here, but I have also reposted my answer below.

Keep checking out OpenView over the next few weeks for other questions they asked me!

What advice do you most frequently give your portfolio CEOs & founders?

First off, CEOs and founders are like snowflakes: no two are identical, and, as such, advice for one isn’t necessarily applicable to another. Some are starting their first company and aren’t old enough to drink alcohol, while others have exited three or four times and are building their magnum opus.

That said, one simple recommendation we find ourselves giving time and time again is to focus. In good times, CEOs see opportunities everywhere – product extensions, acquisition targets, and unplanned hires. In bad times, CEOs may want to change course – slow the ramp, delay new product releases, and respond reactively to competitive threats. While we will occasionally advocate for dramatic changes in the business, the majority of the time our advice is to stick to the plan and focus on the true value drivers in the business.

Focus isn’t easy when you’re in the trenches, constantly responding to opportunities and threats. That’s why it’s the most frequent piece of advice we give.

What mistakes do you see most often?

As for mistakes, first-time founders can make the mistake of hiring for short-term needs, not long-term fit. With a small business network and no caché of multiple exits, it can be hard to attract top talent. It is tempting to fill in holes on a team with whoever is around just to get on with things. These suboptimal hires are a problem for two reasons: first, you never get rid of them fast enough, and second, they themselves will hire even less optimal people. It can take time to find the right early employees, but I generally believe it’s worth it.

At the other extreme, experienced founders can make the mistake of assuming their past experience is indicative of the future. Sometimes they are right, but an over-reliance on out-of-date information can guide even an experienced executive down the wrong path. That said, experienced founders are pretty good at discovering they have made the wrong choice and have the conviction to fix things quickly and decisively.

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