Ryan Nece is a former NFL player, Super Bowl winner, and now a venture capitalist at Next Play Capital. He joins Venrock partner Brian Ascher to chat about the transition from the field to the boardroom, including why so many professional athletes take an interest in venture capital and what elite athletes and successful entrepreneurs have in common. Nece shares the highs and lows of having a famous parent, football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, and his gratitude for the opportunities made possible by his upbringing. No stranger to adversity, he also discusses a challenging time battling injuries that almost ruined his career before it started.
Latane Conant, CMO of 6sense, joins Venrock partner Brian Ascher to chat about marketing strategy for B2B companies and the role of marketing in corporate culture. They discuss the “First Sip Club” which Conant started during the pandemic to stay connected to fellow SaaS marketers, and she shares how it has evolved to stay relevant in a rapidly changing environment. Conant also discusses her new book No Forms, No Spam, No Cold Calls: The Next Generation of Account-Based Sales and Marketing, which covers her distinct B2B marketing and sales philosophy, and gives advice for junior marketers looking to excel in their careers.
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Allison Pickens, former COO at Gainsight and co-author of “The Customer Success Economy: Why Every Aspect of Your Business Model Needs A Paradigm Shift” joins Venrock Partner Brian Ascher to discuss the new and increasingly important function of customer success for SaaS companies. They discuss how customer success differs from customer support, how working with customers has evolved, what startups should consider when making their first customer success hires, and common mistakes companies make when rolling out new programs. Recorded pre-pandemic, Pickens also shares how startups can make sure all functions are working together to support customer success with several examples that are relevant in today’s remote working environment.
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Paul Koenig founded SRS Acquiom to make M&A deals more manageable for entrepreneurs. Venrock partner Brian Ascher speaks with Koenig about what he’s learned from seeing thousands of deals, including best practices for shareholder reps, common misconceptions about due diligence, and trends in all-cash vs. stock offers. They also discuss how entrepreneurs can set the stage for a smoother M&A process when they first start the company and why having the right advisors is crucial.
Venrock partner Brian Ascher speaks with Randy Womack, a seasoned executive who has served as both COO and CEO in several companies, including his current role as co-founder and CEO at Socrates.ai. They discuss the “Sheryl” effect, what to look for when hiring a COO, and when is the best time to introduce the COO role into a company. As CEO at Socrates.ai, he shares the difference between the two roles and discusses common misconceptions about what a COO really does.
Chris Lochhead, a three-time Silicon Valley CMO, co-author of Play Bigger, and former entrepreneur, joins Brian Ascher of Venrock to discuss the importance of category design and marketing on this week’s episode of Running Through Walls. From having a provocative point of view to not accepting the status quo, Chris outlines what every business needs to do to become a category king. He discusses the right time to think about category design, whose job it is, and why concentrated campaigns called “Lightning Strikes” will grab the attention of consumers more effectively than traditional marketing.
Steve Walske founded Parametric Technology Corporation in 1985 and is now on the board of several prominent Silicon Valley companies including Synopsys and 6sense. Venrock partner Brian Ascher talks to Walske about his unique formula for building a strong sales team and striking a balance between managing and empowering salespeople. Walske believes in efficiency above all else, and that means turning down opportunities until the company establishes a real sales presence in the area. They also discuss the truth about “bowling league syndrome” and why employee turnover doesn’t faze him.
Steven Aldrich, Chief Product Officer at GoDaddy, has thrived professionally at both large companies and startups, something Brian Ascher of Venrock notes is unusual during this interview. Aldrich shares lessons startups can learn from more established companies and vice versa, noting that startups often try to be scrappy and do things internally regardless of expertise, while hiring someone with expertise would save them time and money. Conversely, big companies need to encourage experimentation and find ways to maintain the sense of urgency that energizes a team around problem solving. Aldrich says having a growth mindset (Carol Dweck, Mindset) is at the bedrock of how he hires and manages, while fixed mindset folks have no place in Aldrich’s organization. Aldrich also talks about GoDaddy’s famous Super Bowl commercials and what impact they had on the company then and today. Spoiler alert: you will see a new GoDaddy commercial during the upcoming Super Bowl.
Ryan Gilbert, co-founder of SmartBiz Loans, speaks with Brian Ascher of Venrock about building a fintech company and what went wrong along the way. The company mastered the art of pivoting and ultimately found its niche in small business loans. Gilbert advises new fintech entrepreneurs to partner with large banks rather than focusing on disruption, as banks have started to embrace new technology. A catch-phrase master, Gilbert wonders where truly novel technology can be found in the finance industry – where is the tech, in fintech? They also discuss the war for talent, giving non-obvious candidates a shot and promoting loyalty. Gilbert also talks about becoming a VC and what has surprised him most about his new role.
Brent Lang, an Olympic Gold Medalist and CEO/President of Vocera, speaks with Venrock partner Brian Ascher about his journey from winning an Olympic gold in swimming during the 1988 Seoul Games to leading a public company. Brent shares lessons learned from competing in the Olympics and discusses his insights on becoming an effective leader and managing a board. He also reflects on maintaining Vocera’s strong company culture during times of transition, and what he’s learned about establishing a healthy work/life “harmony.”