Have a compelling vision of why your business is going to make a real difference in the world and get your team to share in that vision.
Sheldon has been the co-founder of four startups—the first a software consulting firm (CCT) in his college dorm room (with Glenn Ricart). Since then he was the first Chief Information officer of PriceWaterhouse, the Chief Technology Officer of Novell, the co-founder of USWeb, the co-founder of CenterBeam, and the Chief Innovation Officer of PricewaterhouseCoopers. He lives with his wife and a pair of loving beagles in Silicon Valley, California. His favorite Artkick viewlist is the work of Albert Bierstadt.
Where did the idea for Artkick come from?
I was attending a talk at a downtown museum on collecting photography. My wife is a fine art photographer who sells her work at local art fairs and she wanted to go to this talk to get ideas on how to get her work into galleries. While the talk was going on, I started thinking about my 30 something niece and nephew who work in high tech. I thought that neither of them ever purchase a CD anymore (or barely remember what one was). If they wanted to get some new music, they download an mp3 from iTunes or streamed it from Spotify or Pandora. At that moment it hit me that it was inevitable that they would expect art to be delivered in the same way. Why purchase old fashioned pieces of paper, when you could deliver art digitally to the flat panel TV that already exist in most homes in the US? I started working on Artkick the next day.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I spend about a hour or so answering emails which come in and probably another hour looking around the web at breaking tech news, I follow about 40 or 50 news feeds and get a pulse of what is happening in the industry. I spend the rest of my time either working with our team of developers, curators and marketing folks.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Almost always by going around and talking to friends about the idea. When I have an idea, I am always excited about it and think it is an amazing idea. I spend time with friends talking about the idea and getting brought back to earth by their comments. Every once in a while, my friends think an idea is as amazing as I think it is and that means it is time to start another company. I then assemble a small group of people, most of whom I have worked with before, to form the core of the company and then look for a few new people to join the team.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Wearable technology is really amazing. I bought a Pebble watch to see what it was like and I found it far more useful than I thought to be able to just look at my wrist to see who was calling and touch a button on my watch to send the call to voicemail. I think these types of devices will make people more effective than ever before.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I know how to turn it off and relax. It is important to be able to stop working and give your mind a rest and take a fresh look the next day. I often will tell developers who are clearly facing a very frustrating problem to go home early, stop thinking about it, and start again in the morning. In almost all cases they come back the next day and solve the problem.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I had a job where my boss was the worst boss I ever worked for. I was actually pretty experienced and a senior exec at the time, but this boss was a destroyer of energy. What I mean by that is when you met with him, you always left more depressed, less energized than when you walked in. I try my best to energize people, so that when they meet with me, they leave the meeting more excited and more energized to get back to work.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Marry my wife sooner (we met in college and didn’t get married until 20 years later).
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Be nice to everyone you meet. I always try to make time for entrepreneurs who find me and contact me directly to ask for help. Even when I was a senior executive at very large companies, I would always make time for meeting new companies even if I didn’t immediately see the value.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Have a compelling vision of why your business is going to make a real difference in the world and get your team to share in that vision. Everyone wants to make a difference and your job as the CEO is to create an environment in which people can make a contribution to something they believe in. The CEO sets the vision and recruits people who share in that vision. If your team believes in the vision, it will drive the business to great success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I realized at an earlier age that I am not a detail/operations person and without other people around me who are I could not succeed. It is important to understand your own strengths and weaknesses as a leader and surround yourself with other team members whose strengths compliment your own.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I actually don’t have that many business ideas. Sorry…
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
My first job was collecting soda bottles on the beach to return to the store for the deposit money.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
I use feedly every day to keep up on news feeds from a wide range of sources. Cardmunch is a great app which lets me scan in every business card I get and connect to the person with linkedin. Evernote lets me keep notes on everything from my last meeting to a recipe for Hot Fudge I like and finally I use a livescribe echo pen, so I can take notes and keep a digital copy of them.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Innovators Dilemma, by Clayton Christensen without question the most important business book. It changed my entire way of thinking about the dynamics of large vs small businesses and how innovations can revolutionize a business.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Geoffrey Moore, the author of the landmark book “Crossing the Chasm” an many others , John Seely Brown and John Hagel whose thinking on business innovation is groundbreaking http://www.edgeperspectives.typepad.com/ and Bill Gurley whose new blog entries at http://abovethecrowd.com/ on the business of the internet always teach me something.