a16z and my own journey

a16z is a major Silicon Valley venture capital firm. I listened to their recent podcast episode where they talked with Jeff Lawson, CEO and author of Ask Your Developer. Generally I am very interested in the topic of software development as a creative exercise, this is probably why I chose that particular episode of the podcast to listen to. But what I found of particular interest came in the final 30 seconds of the interview.

Jeff has a view of his own trajectory as a CEO, from that of a Technical-CEO, through Product, and then to Go-to-market. The a16z interviewer pointed out that they have an entire series on the concept of how technical people develop as CEOs and they see them moving through the following sequence:

  • Technical
  • Product
  • Sales
  • Go to market

I have to say that I have followed, what I perceive to be, the exact same sequence as Jeff. Granted I have not really been a CEO, but I have founded two companies. On both of those occasions I have been CTO. My second time out I was completely Product oriented. And now, as a sole-preneur, I have become more and more obsessed with go-to-market.

As a technical person I am probably at risk of under-rating the importance of sales. I should say that I am actually very good at sales.

In order to sell into large companies over an extended period requires serious investment in relationship building. I deeply value my human relationships. But I struggle to behave in a purely transactional manner. I think, until I actually have a long-term existence in a single market I will not be fully ready to put in the required investment in relationship building.

Where I stand today is the following: I want my next project to be – yes technically challenging and inspiring – but more importantly I want to figure out the scale and market access issues first before I even consider paying anybody to write a single line of code. That is what I spend my time on today.

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