I am not sure what it is, but I have been fortunate to be a part of some of what firms like Forbes and the Wall Street Journal have identified as “America’s Most Promising Companies.”
As the former CEO of both Fusion-io and HireVue, it has been very exciting to see both companies receive these recognitions.
When I came across Fusion-io in 2008, I was struck by the energy, the breakthrough value proposition and the marketing vision possessed by David Flynn and Rick White, the Founders of Fusion-io. They had envisioned and built a new tier of data storage for corporate data centers – some called it the world’s fastest data storage device. It made my decision to join them, and eventually become CEO, very easy.
The same thing happened in 2011. After I had retired (I thought), along came another brilliant tech founder in Mark Newman. He had a vision as a college student 7 years earlier that would turn the hiring process on its ear. He built HireVue from the ground up and I was honored that he invited me to be CEO of that company until 2013.
HireVue makes the world’s leading talent interaction platform allowing companies to accelerate their hiring and on-boarding processes by digital screening and live interviewing capabilities. As one executive put it: “HireVue has completely reinvented and modernized the way we recruit talent.”
I am a lucky man.
In both instances HireVue and Fusion-io were named to lists proclaiming them as part of America’s Most Promising Companies. For Fusion-io, it happened in 2010 when the Wall Street Journal announced that FIO was the #2 Most Promising Company in America.
Just last week, HireVue became part of this elite group of Companies when Forbes named it #10 on its list of Most Promising Companies in America.
Four things in my estimation make a company among the Most Promising in America:
1. A Most Promising Company has a Breakthrough Value proposition
I am not just talking about something that is interesting… I am talking about something that really changes market dynamics. I oftentimes find people that say to me about companies that I am part of: “Duh – why didn’t someone think of that before?” I love that. That means the Company has achieved something that is a true value add. A “Most Promising” company provides a simpler, more efficient, way of getting something done. Does it really solve a pain that exists in the market? Will people write a real check to relieve themselves of that pain? If the answer to both of these questions is “Yes” then you may have a breakthrough value proposition on your hands.
2. A Most Promising Company is one that has signed Marquee Customers and/or Partners
When I was CEO of Fusion-io, we signed Facebook. That made everyone stand up and take notice. We also signed great strategic partners like Samsung, H-P and IBM. In HireVue’s case, large enterprise customers from a variety of industries have adopted the Company’s game changing digital interviewing solutions – companies like Red Bull, Geico, Wal-Mart, Ocean Spray, Dow Jones and the United Health Group.
3. A Most Promising Company will have a Team of Passionate and Smart leaders
I prefer companies where the Founders are still in involved. While I may have a good eye for emerging growth tech companies, I know great Founders when I see them. I love working with exceptional talent that has vision and passion that is beyond the ordinary. Founders are in a unique position to understand the market and the competition. They also have a passion around the core of the company. They also understand the technology and can envision how it will evolve over time. Ben Horowitz of the leading VC firm of Andresseen Horowitz pointed out the following in his blog several years ago. He cited a study done at the Wharton School of Business that shows that Founder CEO’s consistently beat Professional CEO’s on a broad range of metrics from amounts of capital raised, valuations, and return on investment.
4. A Most Promising Company will have Capital
Speaking of VC’s, most every company in the tech space finds a moment in time when they need an infusion of outside capital. My experience is that most companies wait TOO LONG to raise capital. They keep believing that somehow, someway, the cash flows will become so overwhelming that no third party funding is needed. My distinct experience, and my advice to those of you who may be building companies is this: Learn that you would much rather have a small piece of a very large pie than have a large piece of a small pie. In terms of dollars, if you own 5% of something worth a Billion, it is worth far more than owning 50% of something worth 10 million. (i.e. – $50 Million v. $5 Million).