In his own words: Founder/CEO, David Friedberg
Are you The One?
Have you ever seen the movie, The Matrix? There’s a scene where the main character, Neo, asks the Oracle if he is The One, and the Oracle says, “Know thyself… no one can tell you…you just know it through and through.” Then, the Oracle takes a good look at him and says, “you’re not The One.” Meetings with Vinod are a lot like [The Matrix].The purpose of the exchange is not to give an opinion about Neo being The One but rather to present a challenge to Neo to test and drive his beliefs. Meetings with Vinod are a lot like this.
Rather than try to drive a particular outcome, KV pushes you on all the barriers of your business, testing your thinking and your assumptions about what’s possible. Vinod is not purposely telling you that you are wrong; rather, he is forcing you to defend your thesis and challenging you to build the biggest and most impactful business possible. He tries to help entrepreneurs think differently and maybe even act differently. His opinions don’t matter; the value is the discourse.
Pushing the product forward
The Climate Corporation successfully evolved with the development of a SaaS decision support tool for farmers, which was built on top of existing technology used to deliver the company’s legacy insurance offerings. During a set of strategic review meetings with Vinod about our initial plans to do this as a small part-time project, Vinod challenged us to think about how we could change the whole company and try to become the “Bloomberg for Farmers”. While Bloomberg is an information service, we also provide personalized recommendations to farmers about “what to do” on the farm, which would definitely help U.S. row crop farmers realize billions of dollars of incremental crop production value if we put enough effort into this project.
Vinod pushes you on all the barriers of your business, testing your thinking and your assumptions about what’s possible.Rather than engage this opportunity as merely an interesting side project, Vinod’s challenge to be bigger and do more with this idea really gave us the fortitude to put significant investment capital and team members to work on it. Although we didn’t ultimately become an information portal for farmers, our toolset delivered significant value with stability and extensibility due to the deep resources we invested, which was very much a result of Vinod’s prodding to recalibrate our thinking to be bigger.
Real operating help
Mike Kourey spent time with us every week after Vinod introduced him to us. He’s actually been a COO and CFO at early-stage startups that have grown into big public companies, from 20 people to several thousand. He coached and advised me on everything from interviewing and hiring executive leaders to driving good operating practices and running effective board meetings. When we were growing the team, Mike personally interviewed every executive hire. He spent enough time with me to actually know about fit and had a good read on who I’d work well with; he’s an exceptionally good read of people. When we didn’t have a CFO, Mike actually guided our controller and finance team on how to build an organization and acted in a capacity that almost resembled a temporary CFO.
Best of all, Mike didn’t step on anyone’s toes in areas outside of his core. One of Mike’s strengths is that he knows what he doesn’t know, meaning that he isn’t interested in opining on product strategy, engineering or customer development. Rather, he focuses on helping and advising in the core tactical areas he has experience and expertise in and admittedly stays away from the rest. This made him an amazingly complementary partner to our leadership team.
On selling the company
Investors in successfully growing private companies are rarely excited about an “exit”. Many of our shareholders wanted to passively wait and see how acquisition conversations developed once they began. KV, on the other hand, was very analytical about what was the right thing to do and helped us think through all the options with a framework that gave me the comfort to know how we could drive an outcome that would make everyone happy.