Lessons to learn from Obama

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Silicon Valley is not dissimilar from the politics in Washington DC in the sense that its existence today is regulated by aristocratic people (investors) who are not up for re-election for another 7-10 years and have created an ecosystem that spawns more false positives and false negatives than any politician could ever get away with.

So, it is not without a smile on my face (as I have been preaching and practicing for years) that I quote Barack Obama’s innovative approach to politics that we in Silicon Valley could learn from:

Strong personalities and strong opinions
Obama looks for strong personalities and strong opinions, while the venture business is often afraid to hire people who challenge its popular opinion. Many technology companies over the years have been invaded by managers who akin to the gold-rush are looking for the gold that is no longer easy to find. We need to change too and cultivate managers that have real experience, strong vision and strong abilities to rally a team around achievable results. Let’s get rid of managers that just like politicians prefer to feed their sex drive (my first boss in the US spent his days watching porn-videos as we prepared feverishly for a major launch) and their 401K with the least resistance possible.

Think anew and act anew
Obama is shaking things up. We should too. The really new ideas in technology are few and far between. We need to build and feel responsible for an ecosystem of new financiers that fund technology ideas that do not fit the mold, rather than continue to create clubs that mindlessly perpetuate businesses that copy few successes or popular acronyms.

Extreme transparency
Obama teaches us how the disclosure of governmental documents is the floor and not the ceiling. Compared to that metric, early-stage performance disclosure is probably more than 6 feet under, or in the cellar. We have no transparency in the venture business to discover who has integrity, and who is poisoning the technology ecosystem. We need to deliver transparency in order to improve the trust in technology companies that keeps private and public investor interested.

High integrity and moral
Obama, when moving back to Chicago, took a job doing what he believed in, not what made him the most money. We need to stimulate people in Silicon Valley with a passionate desire to fundamentally improve technology adoption, rather than continue to feed people who hone their skills just to get rich.

Use it or lose it
Obama evaluates and then commits quickly. And then, when the money is forked over, you are expected to make things happen. That’s how real savvy businessmen run their companies, quite different from the puppet role many startup CEOs play to appease their boards, the source of perpetual mediocrity. We need to grow a culture of buy-in and commit, risk and reward that holds people accountable for the results.

Either we regulate the early-stage technology ecosystem ourselves or the market will do it for us – with much less grace. Already, it is predicted that 25% of the VCs will go out of business soon, freeing up LP overhang for a new crop or reallocation to a new segment. Other countries (such as China) are not sitting still, the performance of our technology ecosystem will now be challenged on a global basis.

The only way not to lose grip globally is to hold the values, that made our country vote for Obama high, and aggressively reward integrity, passion and sincerity over greed. Real capitalism rewards the good and punishes the bad. And the American dream flourishes again.


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About Georges van Hoegaerden

Georges is a serial entrepreneur, venture catalyst, 4x CEO, board director turned innovation economist (by fate). His ideas have raised $14M in venture capital and produced over $100M in returns. More.