Every Entrepreneur Is An Artist

Whether you’re an artist or an entrepreneur, passion is what drives the creative process and sustains you through the hard times that all start ups encounter according to Sanjiv Sidhu, founder of i2 Technologies who I interviewed at the inaugural StartUp Grind Dallas event at the AT&T Foundry.  Many thanks to all who attended and to Alcatel Lucent and Andrews Kurth for making it happen.

Sanjv is deeply passionate about how people make decisions.  i2 was about supply chain and o9, his latest company is about business planning.  He’s all about helping people make smart decisions faster.  He’s also highly interested in how humans make personal decisions like eating chocolate cake when the rational mind says you should eat the apple.  This passion and insight has driven his amazing career that has transformed the supply chain industry.   As he says, “the journey is the reward” and he’ll always be driven by that passion. 

Going all the way back to his days in Texas Instrument’s Artificial Intelligence Labs, Sanjiv learned some of his management techniques centered around a meritocracy of ideas.  Recognizing that this is sometimes idealistic, he strives to create an environment where all views are heard and the best ideas bubble to the top no matter where they come from.

Stating that the 2nd time around is much easier, Sanjiv has evolved his views of hiring.  People choices are always really important, especially so in the early days before your company is established.  He’s an admitted sucker for IQ and wants you on his team if you both walk on water and are brilliant.  But now, at o9, he spends a lot more time figuring out how you fit into the team.  If you’re the kind of person who always needs to be right, then wants to get excited and point the finger when the team was wrong and you were right, then there’s no need to apply to work for Sanjiv.

One thing I thought all hiring managers could learn from is he now has the hiring manager write a letter to themselves about this new candidate projecting what they think this new hire will achieve in 1 year.  Then they open up that letter on the 12 month anniversary to see how accurate the hiring manager was and to see how good of a hiring manager they really are.  They’re also very quantitative in their references.  Asking if this candidate is in the top x% of candidates in a particular field because this makes the person giving the reference think a little bit more.

Product/Market fit is straightforward for Sanjiv.  It is about velocity of revenue.  i2 was the fastest software company at the time to get to $200mm in revenue so they hit the Product/Market fit bullseye.  At i2, he also looked at macro market signals like DSO, day sales of inventory, that were rising + a trend towards mass customization of products that needed to be addressed from a supply chain perspective and then talked to his customers.  Yes, there were hard times to.  Coding at night and making cold calls selling during the day was hard.  At one point, he literally had only one company in the pipeline, General Dynamics.  He was 1 of 15 vendors brought it and he was the only employee at the time.  Having written a white paper on supply chain and the passion behind it, he was able to get into a dialog with the customer rather than pitch them.  He won that customer over the 14 other competitors, leveraged that win to change an entire industry.  Without that passion, none of his amazing career would have ever happened.