Last time on interview to venture, I sat down with Boris Revsin, co-founder & CEO of CampusLIVE. Boris is a first-time CEO in his 20’s and is building a consumer internet company that is transforming the way college kids interact with brands. This week, I decided to give you some exposure to the other end of the startup spectrum and sat down with Patrick Morley, CEO of Bit9 (a Highland portfolio company).
Based in Waltham, MA, Bit9 is an enterprise software company battling on the front lines of a multinational cyberwar. When you hear about Fortune 500 companies or U.S. government agencies getting “hacked” by foreign terrorists, you are hearing about a problem that Bit9 solves. While cyberwarfare may not be a top of mind issue for most Americans, Patrick is emphatic about one thing: what we are seeing today is “the biggest transfer of intellectual property that the world has ever seen…and it’s all occurring illegally.”
Patrick is also an experienced startup executive (Bit9 is his sixth VC-backed startup) with some wise words for younger entrepreneurs. Here are a few choice nuggets I’ve strung together from the embedded interview video above. Enjoy!
On the future of cybersecurity:
“I am continually stunned at how naive not only the public is, but also how naive executives and boards are of publicly-held organizations on how big a threat we have. We are seeing right now, today, the biggest transfer of intellectual property that the world has ever seen…and it’s all occurring illegally.
Every major organization in the United States, and the Western World, has been penetrated (and that includes the whole U.S. government). The only difference is those organizations who know they have, and those who don’t.”
On CEO skills learned at his first sales job at IBM:
“We had a year of training before we were allowed to see a customer. One of the big lessons we learned was about listening, which plays a critical role in running a company. The other element is having to quickly figure out where to spend your time.”
On running effective board meetings:
“Make ’em fast! 2 hours is our average. Also, I don’t get my board very often, so when I do I have a few rules. I ask that no one be on their phones or iPads, and my reasoning is very simple: if I have you for 2 hours, focus on the business for those 2 hours, and then you can go off and be on your phone.
Also, if I can’t convey what I need to the board in 15-20 slides (my whole deck) and talk about where I need thoughts and advice from them, then I’m doing something wrong. The objective of my board meetings is not to give a complete operational update. When you limit yourself to only a few slides, it tends to make you focus on what’s really important.”
On managing the tension between engineering & sales:
“That tension is good, and having the debate around that tension is good. The way we handle it is straightforward: I make sure the executive team agrees on what our goals are for the coming year. So, then when you get into debates around what needs to get built vs. what needs to get sold, it’s relatively easy to line back up against the objectives.”
On best & worst moments as a CEO:
“The best moments are getting the team to do things that, when you first discussed it, seem impossible. That is very, very rewarding, when you see people grow and stretch themselves.
In the same way, that’s also probably the most stressful: when your team members haven’t gotten it done, maybe because you didn’t put them in the right place, or provided them with the right level of support or resources. Or, maybe you didn’t make the right hire. Those are the hardest.”