September, 2011

Sep 11

Announcing Greylock’s Investment in ClearSlide

We’re very happy to be new investors in ClearSlide, a company that builds tools for sales & marketing professionals to communicate — it’s radically simpler than the cumbersome conference tools we use today, and blends synchronous and asynchronous tools to make it easier than ever for sales people to close business. They’ve been flying under the radar since starting a couple of years ago — except with their amazing & rapidly growing customer list, full of raving fans who say they can’t live without it now. This morning they’ve launched more publicly with a new site and an announcement of new funding led by us and Aydin Senkut from Felicis, who led their initial funding.

What’s special about their products today is how simple they are to operate: you can get on the phone and do a product demo or share slides in under a minute. It’s trivially easy to send information around to customers and be able to understand what they viewed themselves or forwarded along. And it closes the loop by allowing easy sharing of all materials and insight with your coworkers.

And it all works in a web browser, with just a URL. No special installs, no plug-ins needed. I’m not talking about just modern browsers, either: any browser, even including IE6. (I’ll wait for your gasps of amazement to die down on that one. Also, it’s the last time I’ll ever mention IE6 on my blog. :-))

They’ve really thought hard about how to build great tools for sales and marketing people, and it shows.

It was a very quick decision for us — at Greylock, we talk a lot about “our kind of founders” — and Al and Jim are definitely that. Here’s what I mean.

We’ve known Al for some time — he was the founding CTO of Evite — it’s a little hard to remember, at this distance, what a revelation that product was, but it changed everything — it let us interact with each other and collaborate in ways that had just been way too painful previously. And it’s influenced too many startups to count since then.

Well, he and Jim came in to give a presentation to us about they’d done, they jumped right into how their customers love it, how sales are rocketing up, what’s next — and slowly it dawned on me that they were using their own service to present! So I opened up my laptop to type in the URL & access code and bam!, I could see their slides — took maybe 3 seconds. I got sort of excited so pulled out my iPhone, then my iPad — everything just worked. And to Al & Jim’s credit, none of my futzing around with various electronics fazed them one bit. They just kept moving, unsurprised that there were no glitches in what they’d built.

And that’s part of what we mean when we say “our kind of founders” — they’re strong product and operating founders, who after changing the world once with Evite, just put their heads down and did the hard work of building something from scratch these past two years. No hype, no fanfare, just customers that love their products and working with them.

So we’re very excited to get involved in the next phase of their growth, and couldn’t be happier to be leading their funding round. Take a look.

Sep 11

Announcing our Investment in Tumblr

I’m super excited to announce Greylock’s investment in Tumblr.

We knew Tumblr was big when we started talking with David and John over the summer — over the last year or so, it’s practically exploded onto the scene — it seems like every piece of interesting content and expression you see today has been posted on someone’s Tumblr. The numbers back that up — last month the 30 million blogs on Tumblr generated 13 billion page views.

As we got to know the team there more, it became a more and more obvious decision for us to get involved. We love entrepreneurs who are product visionaries, who have a strong point of view and who want to build great products that affect hundreds of millions of users. David is clearly one of those — a founder with deep character and a desire to build a meaningful, enduring set of products and a company that users love.

What we didn’t know when we started, but learned as we went is that in addition to the ubiquity of Tumblr today, the engagement of users and posters and rebloggers is absolutely off the charts. Good content gets surfaced and spread incredibly rapidly — more quickly than any other network I’ve ever encountered. Lots of reasons for this incredible engagement — the team at Tumblr has done a wonderful job of figuring out some fundamental and novel avenues for self-expression. I’ve found so many interesting posts and perspectives on Tumblr that I never would have found without it — and it’s clear that that’s been the experience for millions of other users.

At Greylock, we’re always looking for the breakout companies — because we’ve each been involved in building and growing some of the companies with the broadest reach in history (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pandora, Mozilla, and more), we have a huge respect for founders and teams that have gotten to real scale like Tumblr has.

So Greylock and I are thrilled to be involved with Tumblr now, and we’re excited to help the company take the next steps forward into becoming an even more powerful platform for self-expression and discovery.

And you can find my own Tumblr at 🙂

Sep 11

Managing & Motivating

Earlier this week I got to spend some time with one of my favorite professors and thinkers, Bob Sutton, in one of his classes at Stanford. I’ve given talks over the years for his classes, but for this one we decided to mix things up, and so he & I just had a conversation. He had a few questions prepared, but, honestly, we have so many shared interests in how to manage people and organizations that it took a first starter question for us to riff on a bit — and that generated plenty of questions from the class for the rest of the hour.

2 questions stood out to me that I thought were worth writing about some.

The first was this: how do you motivate people? I had to think about this for a bit, because my answer is sort of a cheat: it seems to me that it’s too hard to motivate people who aren’t. So what you need to do is to hire incredibly motivated people, take them off the leash, and help them be great. Now, I think hiring great people is definitely hard — but finding motivated people isn’t really as hard as it sounds. My strong, strong belief is that most people really, really want to be good at what they want to do. In life, in work, in sport, whatever. People want to be good. Mostly people are willing to put in work to become good. So in my experience the art of getting motivated output is just helping people understand what good is and how to get from here to there. If you show them and help them get there, the motivation usually takes care of itself.

The other interesting question is something like: why do people think you’re a good leader? This one I had to think through some — because I think there are a lot of details that maybe aren’t the core reason. But I think the core, long lasting reason is that most people I’ve worked with over the last 20 years or so know that I really want to help them win, to help them be good themselves. And that’s helped develop some amazing relationships with coworkers.

I think that’s one of the secrets. I always want to follow people who can help me become amazing and who want to help me win, and I think that’s what people have seen in my own management over the years. It’s the decisive factor in my choices I’ve made over the years, including coming to Greylock.

So I guess that’s the core of my management philosophy: we’re lucky to work in an industry where people are generally very talented, and want to be good — they want to make a difference and change the world — so mostly good management is about helping them see how, and helping them get there.

Fun class with Bob as always. (And he’s working on some new research with Huggy Rao now that I think is going to be awesomely valuable to read and digest.)

Sep 11

Just My Type, by Simon Garfield


As I’ve written about a ton of times before, I’m a font nerd. Love them. Could talk about them forever. Could spend 2 days screwing around with my blog looking for just the right look. So I tend to read histories and essays about them whenever I can.

I liked this book, but didn’t love it, honestly. Told lots of stories about how fonts have evolved, the various points where things shifted, etc. As much as anything, I liked reading about some of the subtle letterform differences and breakthroughs that various designers made.

So I recommend this for fellow type nerds, but hard to recommend more generally than that, I think.

Sep 11

In the Plex, by Steven Levy

I really liked this look at Google by Steven Levy — I’ve always liked his insights about the company — he’s had extraordinary access, and I loved the stories about when Google was less gigantic & earth-encompassing. Was fun to read about the exploits of an awesome group of people just out and about and trying things.

Google’s obviously going through periods of intense change now, and I think that a few years from now this book will feel like it describes a completely different company — and, really, it maybe already does.

But it was fun to read about so many of my friends and colleagues and what they went through, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone in the industry.