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Advice at Scale 1

Diane Bryant, Former Chief Operating Officer at Google Cloud and Group President at Intel, on how to formulate a viable strategy for a startup, and convince VCs to invest in it.

Diane spent 32 years at Intel, serving the last five years as Group President of Intel’s Data Center Group before moving on to accelerate the scale and reach of Google Cloud’s business. Bryant was named among Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business in 2015 and 2016 and is a tireless advocate for women and underrepresented minorities in the fields of engineering and technology.

1) So Diane, what are some of the key learnings you’ve had during your journey? Is there something you would have done differently?

“Although success can’t be guaranteed, I’ve learned that failure is infinitely avoidable. What is required to evade failure is adaptability. You must be ready and willing to shift in response to the inevitable moves in the market and competitive landscape.

A core competency for success in any business big or small is market intelligence. It’s critical given the accelerating pace of innovation. Sadly I’ve watched many promising startups fail because they clung to their original strategy, plans and products long after the market had shifted, competitors emerged, rendering their product irrelevant.”


2) What concrete advice would you give to a fresh startup founder?

“My advice is to understand and embrace the approach of venture capital in assessing your startup. Prepare (and over-prepare) accordingly. To gain the VCs support, you need to convince them of three things:

1. You have intellectual property, competitive differentiation, competitive advantage and/or a moat that protects you (and hence protects their investment in you).

2. The addressable market you are targeting is big and growing, and believable.

3. You – the founder – are brilliant! A fellow VC told me that he doesn’t even ask about the product when looking to invest. He only evaluates the founder. If the founder is brilliant, the product doesn’t matter. The founder will find a path to success.”


3) Is there a book or a piece of content that has really shaped the way you think? How?

“Two recent books that provided me new ways of approaching business are:

1. The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin: As a world chess champion, dominating the field from 9 to 19 years old, and then becoming the World Champion of Tai Chi Chuan, Josh provides incredible insight into what it takes to persevere in the pursuit of excellence.

2. 10% Happier by Dan Harris: Dan tells his story of being highly competitive and highly explosive in his high-stress, high-power career and how he realized the toll the aggression was taking on his mental and physical well-being. Reading how Dan came to reassess his happiness was refreshing and invites us all to take a pause. (In addition, Dan’s humor is amazing.)”