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Venture capitalist habits; Managing the young workforce October 27, 2006

Posted by Tom in Economic Development, Technology, Workforce.

You ask, what is the common denominator for these two topics?  The Creativity Exchange weblog.

First, the habits of venture capitalists.  I picked up this concept from Burgh Diaspora and jumped on it through the Creativity Exchange – the New York Times “Digital Domain” section shares a concept coming out of Silicon Valley called the “20-minute rule.”  Long story short: If you want venture capital, you are much better served by being within a 20 minute radius of your funder.

Meet the “20-minute rule” that guides fateful decisions in Silicon Valley. Craig Johnson, managing director of Concept2Company Ventures, a venture capital firm in Palo Alto, Calif., who has 30 years of experience in early-stage financings, said he knew many venture capitalists who adhered to this doctrine: if a start-up company seeking venture capital is not within a 20-minute drive of the venture firm’s offices, it will not be funded.

Mr. Johnson explained that close proximity permits the investor to provide in-person guidance; initially, that may entail many meetings each week before investor and entrepreneur come to know each other well enough to rely mostly on the phone for updates. Those initial interactions are fateful. “Starting a company is like launching a rocket,” Mr. Johnson said. “If you’re a tenth of a degree off at launch, you may be 1,000 miles off downrange.”

In a Convergence-related twist, the workforce and community environment in the region give the VC’s greater comfort in making investments:

Entrepreneurs who live in Silicon Valley also find the technical talent they need faster than they can in any other place; they pay more for that talent, but speed is the sine qua non for success. Seth J. Sternberg, the chief executive of Meebo, an instant-messaging company in Palo Alto that is backed by Sequoia, described Silicon Valley with the fervent appreciation of a recent transplant from New York, where he had suffered three separate bad experiences with start-ups, none of which had attracted venture funding.

The ecosystem in Silicon Valley, Mr. Sternberg said, includes “incredible techies, who live here because this is the epicenter, where they can find the most interesting projects to work on.” The ecosystem also includes real estate agents, accountants, head hunters and lawyers who understand an entrepreneur’s situation — that is, emptied bank accounts and maxed-out credit cards.

On the other front, Richard Leyland at Silicon.com shares what he knows about “Generation Y” and how to manage them in the workplace:

What skills will they bring to the workplace?

Today’s connected teens are highly skilled at multitasking and making complex, immediate connections. They can quickly access, create, swap and manipulate information on many levels.

At the one-to-one level, they use email, IM and phones. At the one-to-many level, they use blogs and web pages. At the collaborative level, they use message boards and wikis.

They also make smart, a la carte use of technology. Neither afraid of nor infatuated by the tools, they simply select those which are useful to the task in hand. It’s clear that today’s teens will be highly suited to work in the knowledge economy, where applying knowledge, learning and access to information are key to success.

What won’t work?

First, traditional notions of hierarchy and senior/subordinate relationships. This is a generation that won’t know its place. Instead of being managed, they expect to contribute and influence. Digital communications have removed information barriers and our youngsters either know everything, or know how to find out everything. This view will need to be channelled more than challenged.

Second, formal communications styles. The hierarchy that underpins formal communications is eroding, and the next generation is immersed in immediate informal communications such as IM, email and blogs. Effective organisations will need to deploy status and presence indicators to regulate these immediate connections (such as those ‘available’, ‘in a meeting’ and ‘do not disturb’ signs already found on most IM apps). A balance must be struck.

Third, requiring them to report to the office every day. Technology increasingly allows workers to be nomadic, particularly for knowledge work. A group used to connecting ‘on the pause’ wherever they happen to be is unlikely to endure a daily log-jam commute and 10 hours chained to a desk. As the hazy notion of ‘work/life balance’ creeps further into our thoughts, the far-sighted business will provide the flexibility demanded by the next generation of workers.

Dull, repetitive, linear jobs won’t go over well with today’s young people. They will expect technology to take the strain, while they concentrate on applying their knowledge and access to information. This trend is well established – a modern sales person sells, while a CRM package shoulders much of the admin burden; most research today is powered by Google, rather than hours in a library; scientists and mathematicians use PC computing power for their calculations.

These trends are the very essence of the emerging knowledge economy and the next generation are already well on board.

And, of course, there’s a lot more if you check out the link provided above.  I find it interesting that articles like this still need to be offered up.  I’m fortunate to work in a fairly progressive work environment, one that embraces technology as a means to enhance communication and personal productivity.  Apparently, that’s not the case universally.



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