Nov 6, 2015 Jessica Blechingberg
Mårten Mickos, the Silicon Valley based entrepreneur and business leader is the former CEO of Eucalyptus and MySQL. At MySQL, Mårten pioneered open source software and built the company from a garage stage startup to a company worth a billion dollars, later acquired by Sun Microsystems. Mårten joined Hewlett-Packard in September 2014 and served as HP’s SVP. Prior to HP, Mårten was the CEO of Eucalyptus Systems.
The School of Herring is Mårten’s website that brings leadership insights in short videos and blog texts. His friends encourage him to share his leadership experience and thoughts in a modern and brief format that’s easy to consume by reading or listening on a smartphone. Mårten has interviewed some of the leading tech leaders and gathered their learnings, along with his own experiences in building tech companies.
Even though he didn’t come up with the idea behind the school by himself, he for sure came up with the name. Mårten finds herring, according to himself, delicious in all of its forms, but what he finds to be the most important is that it’s also a way for him to make a statement: “Leadership is not about finding or being ‘big fish’. It’s about working together as a team.“
The greatest reward for a leader is to see those under your leadership step up to bigger and more responsible roles. Of course they do so because they have themselves developed that capability and drive, but you hope that you had at least a little bit of positive influence.
As it happens, I saw the MySQL team a few days ago, and I had exactly that feeling. It’s many years since I was in charge of that team. Today it is led by people we hired back in those days. The team is stronger today, and it’s wonderful to observe how people have grown into much bigger roles.
I am also proud of what the people of Intellitel Communications and MatchOn Sports (my 2 first CEO jobs) have gone on to do and accomplish in their lives and careers. And I am already seeing how the people of Eucalyptus are stepping into much bigger roles.
Listen and learn, but don’t assume that all advice is suitable to you. You must find your own direction and your own style. You find it by making mistakes. Learn from those. Don’t give up when it looks tough. Also, don’t drive yourself too hard – you need to have “spare batteries” for the times when it feels tough.
I don’t think there is any limit to the need for innovations in any industry or segment. But a smart entrepreneur will look for innovations for which there are many customers with money to spend. It’s important not to be superficial in the search for a business idea or innovation.
As an example, if we agree that “big data” is an attractive business to go after, it does not necessarily mean that you should build a “big data solution”. Perhaps there is a specialized corner of the market with a huge market demand and no competition. Perhaps there is an adjacent market that will soon blossom. Perhaps you should offer training and education in those topics.
Too often, entrepreneurs rush into the first business opportunity they think of. They are usually going in the right general direction, but they may still make serious mistakes in the actual choice of business. Do your homework before you decide on what to do.
Don’t believe everything you hear. Or, a corollary of that: Things are usually not what they look like.
Failure is painful and I hate when it happens. But I also don’t let failures bring me down. I have a positive view on life, and I quickly get myself thinking of all the good things that now can happen, because the bad thing already did happen. I think of what I learned. I think of what life was trying to teach me.
Every decision is important. That’s why entrepreneurship is so intense. The most important decision is the one about the team: Who will you be working with? Then there is a decision on culture and values: As a team, how do we treat each other and how do we conduct ourselves? Thirdly, you must know why your business is important – what the purpose of it is.
It’s easy to get drawn into lengthy discussions about the name and logo of the company, job titles, or what the office space should look like. Those discussions are fine, because in reality they will solidify the 3 decisions I mention above.
A desire to create more leaders out of the team you lead.
The vibe. Chaos, enthusiasm and an underlying machinery that in a phenomenal way orchestrates it all. I am looking forward to Slush!
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