The Most Important Relationship in Business: Best Practices for Board Directors and CEOs They Advise

Board members can bring a wealth of experience and advice to their CEOs – and not just when the board convenes each quarter. The chemistry of this critical relationship requires careful attention, particularly when selecting and onboarding new directors, coaching the team and providing diverse insights. Tayloe Stansbury, Venture Partner at TCV, shares lessons and insights from his board memberships and two decades reporting to corporate boards as CTO at Intuit, CIO at VMware, and EVP at Ariba. Beth Knuppel, Principal in TCV’s Portfolio Operations, guides the conversation to the key moments and processes that board members and CEOs need to master so that their relationships – and the business – can thrive.

In this podcast, Beth and Tayloe address practical questions for anyone coming onto a board or running a company with board support, such as:

  • The most important criteria for joining a board
  • How to maintain diversity of opinion on the board while still providing the CEO with convergent advice
  • Why board members should meet with their CEO informally between board meetings
  • How to set efficient board meeting agendas that allow for in-depth discussion of pressing issues
  • Why board members should evaluate their own performance and not just the CEO’s

For this and more, settle back and click play.

TRANSCRIPT

Beth Knuppel: Welcome to Growth Journeys. This is a podcast series from TCV focused on lessons from the field from both operators and entrepreneurs in the TCV ecosystem. I’m Beth Knuppel. I’m an Operating Principal at TCV, where I lead our talent center of excellence within portfolio operations. Our podcast today is all about the CEO board partnership and lessons learned for effective governance. I’m joined today by Tayloe Stansbury. Tayloe is a Venture Partner at TCV, where he works with existing portfolio companies, and he’s also involved in diligence for potential investments. In addition, Tayloe serves on the board of directors at Coupa Software and BlueJeans. Welcome to Growth Journeys, Tayloe.

Tayloe Stansbury: Thank you very much. It’s great to be here.

Beth Knuppel: So, Tayloe, you had a long, successful corporate career before joining TCV as a venture partner. Most recently you were CTO at Intuit. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got to this point.

Tayloe Stansbury: For the last decade, I was CTO at Intuit. I looked after all their technology operations — so engineering, data AI, IT, and information security. And before that, I worked at a number of other companies, including Ariba. I was EVP of product and operations there, which included customer support, product management, engineering, and operations. I worked also at VMware, Calico, Xerox, Sun, and Borland in a variety of different engineering and general management positions.

Beth Knuppel: So you are a technology veteran, for sure?

Tayloe Stansbury: I guess.

Beth Knuppel: In addition to those roles, I mentioned you also serve in some board of director roles. You were on the board of Shutterfly for three years. You continue to serve on the board at Coupa and at BlueJeans. What was it that attracted you to board service in the first place?

Tayloe Stansbury: I was a direct report to CEOs of public companies for some 20 years, which meant that most every quarter I was doing presentations to boards. And it started to intrigue me that maybe I could contribute at a different level. And that’s what led me to getting onto my first board.

Beth Knuppel: When you say at a different level, tell me more about what that means to you. What is it that a good board really adds to a company?

Tayloe Stansbury: Boards advise, right? Boards don’t manage. Management manages. And I think that distinction is really important. Boards bring a wealth of experience that is orthogonal to what some of the managers have and can advise them on new situations that arise and how to think about new problems.

Beth Knuppel: I think that a lot of people have in their mind this outdated stereotype of the board member who sort of jets in, goes to dinner, maybe makes a few pithy comments at the meeting the next day, and then you don’t hear from them again for another quarter. I should say, that is definitely not the model at TCV. Our boards are really engaged. But I’m curious, what would a management team expect, or what should they expect, in terms of engagement in between those quarterly board meetings? How do you work with the board in between those formal opportunities?

Tayloe Stansbury: For myself, I’d say, I generally meet with the CEO of each of the boards that I’m on once in between each board meeting — go out to dinner, to breakfast, or something like that — and just talk about whatever’s on their mind. And I usually adopt one or two, sometimes three members of the senior management team that I coach. And I usually meet with them once off-cycle between board meetings. And those meetings can be a lot of fun, high engagement.

Beth Knuppel: Got it. You know, a lot of our audience are founders who may not have ever worked with a board before. So you’re talking about this engagement in between. Who’s initiating that? Is that you, on the board? How should the CEO be reaching out?

Tayloe Stansbury: I think it’s best always if the CEO is making the introductions so you’re not invading their space and having meetings unbeknownst to the CEO. I’d give an example from a board I was on that was for a college. And the president asked me if I would lead the advancement committee, which means fundraising. And I said, “Hey, I’ll do anything for you, but I know nothing about fundraising.” And she said, “You’ll figure it out,” and turned around and then walked away. So she did actually introduce me to the head of fundraising and, we had a very fruitful relationship, where I would come down before each of the board meetings and go over his management challenges, his prioritization challenges, and how it is that he was going to present to the board, because while he was very experienced in fundraising and I was not, I knew something about presenting to boards and he didn’t. And so it would end up being a very fruitful relationship and we blew through all our targets and it was great.

Beth Knuppel: That’s great. One of the sayings that we have here at TCV is that the journey to the top is never a straight line, right? Every organization experiences setbacks and challenges. But I’m wondering, the CEO is typically looking to put their best foot forward with the board. How should a CEO balance that? How should they bring bad news or maybe challenging situations to the attention of their board?

Tayloe Stansbury: If all you’re doing is the Pollyanna version, nobody learns anything. I think what’s really best is approaching it with complete transparency and an attitude of seeking counsel, because that’s when you get the true value out of a board member who may have been through some of these things, or have cognated things before. So that’s hard to do. It means you’ve got to show your dirty laundry. But over time, you can build a relationship with a board where that’s okay, because they’ve had dirty laundry in managing the things that they did earlier in their lives as well. And they’re not going to be freaked out about it, and they’ll be able to give you much better advice which will enable you to perform better over time, with the transparency.

Beth Knuppel: It sounds like a key piece of that is just developing trust.

Tayloe Stansbury: Absolutely.

Beth Knuppel: How do you think about doing that when you’ve joined a new board and you’re establishing your own relationships with the other board members, with the CEO? How do you think about your entry into that board?

Tayloe Stansbury: Well, I think you’re hitting on a really important issue which is that the relationships are really important. And I think boards work best when there’s diversity of thought, everybody is respectful of each other’s opinions, but they’re also able to converge towards something which is a plan of action or a consistent set of advice for the management team. And I think the same thing is true with management. There has to be that trust of each other, the sense that different people are bringing something different to the party that is worth listening to and every now and then might be the key thing you need to know to manage through a tough situation. Mechanically, how that would work is going out to dinner with these people off-cycle from regular board meetings, getting to know them, and getting to build up that level of trust and respect for what it is that they’ve done.

Beth Knuppel: Right. I’m curious. As you work with a CEO, you want to build that trusted relationship, but at the end of the day, as a member of the board, part of your job is to evaluate the performance of the CEO.

Tayloe Stansbury: That’s right.

Beth Knuppel: How do you work through CEO evaluation?

Tayloe Stansbury: I think it’s best practice to have an annual evaluation of the CEO and actually even an annual evaluation of the other board members, where you think about: “What are the objectives that were set for the company, what are the objectives that the CEO may have set?” And everybody actually scores the CEO on that. You have a discussion as a board, and that gets presented to the CEO on an annual basis. And that discussion precedes setting the compensation for the CEO for the following year. I think that detachment where you can help and also provide some evaluation — hopefully which has got constructive ideas as to how the CEO can improve in areas where perhaps they need to grow.

Beth Knuppel: And you mentioned that you think it’s good hygiene for the board to engage in some self-reflection as well.

Tayloe Stansbury: Yes.

Beth Knuppel: How does that process work?

Tayloe Stansbury: Same way. Score each other, get together to have a couple-hour discussion about what came out in the survey. And if it’s a board that has mutual respect, those kinds of comments can end up helping bring the board closer together and help smooth out some rough spots.

Beth Knuppel: In the case of, maybe, a board that’s underperforming, what are some of the things that in the past you’ve encountered that help address an underperforming board?

Tayloe Stansbury: I see it as a spectrum – where at one end of the spectrum, you have a rubber-stamp board that’s not really providing any meaningful thought diversity to the problem, and the other end, where you have an acrimonious board which can’t agree on anything and they’re just fighting over stuff. And I think the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, where everybody is thoughtful, they’re presenting diverse points of view, and they’re figuring out how to converge that into something that is constructive for the management team. And how do you get there? Again, I think it’s by spending time with each other and learning to appreciate what each other’s gifts are, what each other’s experiences are, what their scars are that they’ve managed to live through and learn things from. On a rare occasion, it may be best if some people move off the board if they just can’t get aligned with the rest of the team.

Beth Knuppel: Are there any common pitfalls that you see?

Tayloe Stansbury: In one case in particular, we did have a board that was pretty acrimonious and couldn’t get on the same page and it was very hard to get anything done. It was very hard to give consistent advice to the president of that organization. What happened in the end is some of the people who were really on a different page rolled off. And we got down to a set of people not who were rubber-stamped, who had diverse points of view but were able to come together in the end.

Beth Knuppel: I know at Coupa, you’re a member of the nominating and governance committee. What is it that you think about when you’re evaluating somebody who might potentially join the board? For CEOs out there, what should they be looking for when they’re thinking about board composition?

Tayloe Stansbury: We look at: “What is the skill set?” We have a whole matrix for skill sets that would be desirable for the board, and we score each other on how strong we think we are on those things. And that leaves it clear where there are some areas where we may have some gaps, some skills gaps — some experience gaps — that it would be really nice to flesh the board out with. And so then you go and say, “Well, who would be the people who could best fill those skill or experience gaps?” And then you look for, “Who are the people who are going to work well with the rest of the board, whose voices will be heard, who will hear other people’s voices, and will actually be convergent in their thinking, over time.”

Beth Knuppel: And, of course, the other side of the coin, as you’ve joined boards, you’re also making an evaluation. What is it that you look for to figure out whether a board is a good fit or not?

Tayloe Stansbury: The first thing is, you’ve got to have a passion for the business. If it isn’t a business that you love, then you probably shouldn’t be taking up space on the board. Another thing I really want is to have a visceral sense of what is the strategic path to success for this organization. So how is it that they’re going to weather whatever competitive threats and come out on top? Your sense of that may change over time, but I think you have to go in with a pretty good hypothesis of how this organization can become durable and win against the invariable competition. And the last thing is, it’s got to be people I like, because you’re going to be working with these people over several years. And you’re going to have to come to converged advice for management. It helps if you like everybody who’s involved.

Beth Knuppel: Sure. I’m curious to get your perspective on bringing on a new board member. Is there anything that you’ve experienced personally, or you’ve seen done really well, in terms of onboarding somebody onto the board?

Tayloe Stansbury: I think that bringing on a new board member is a big deal, and if you just hand them a board book and say, “Show up for the next meeting,” they’re going to come in without a lot of context, and they’re going to feel a little bit not on the inside, and their questions are just going to be off-kilter. And what I’ve seen as a best practice is you invest several hours, like a day, in training a new board member by having them meet with some of the senior management people, one-to-one, and then also go through a full rundown on the products, including demos of the products, so they have a real feel for the business and the competitive space.

Beth Knuppel: I’d love to get your perspective on how you think about the board agenda, and what topics are actually covered. Board time is so precious, you want to make sure that you’ve got a thoughtfully constructed agenda. What, in your view, rises to the level of importance for a board meeting?

Tayloe Stansbury: One thing I’ve seen that doesn’t really work really well for board agendas is to try to have every key member of the senior leadership team talk about the progress in their area every single board meeting. What I have found works a lot, lot better is if you look at the board calendar over the course of a year and say, “How do we make sure that every function gets their day in court, if you will, with the board, over the course of a year rather than the course of a single meeting?” And everybody can have a deeper discussion, and you get into the meatier stuff. Now, to complement that, I think having board materials that are first-rate, that come out early enough so that all the board members have a chance to read and digest them, is really important.

And what you can do in the board materials is make sure that the board materials include some news about what’s happening in every function that has something to report — even if they’re not going to present — so the board gets a view of that as it’s happening but then gets the deeper-dive discussions.

Beth Knuppel: Great. When I was presenting to boards on a regular basis, one of the things my CEO always said was, “Be bright, be brief, be gone.” In other words, do whatever you need to, to avoid the dreaded page flip where it’s kind of a march through slides that hopefully the board has already read. Is there anything you would share with folks who are in that spot of presenting to the board?

Tayloe Stansbury: I think it’s important for presenters to realize that the board has read the materials in advance and say the things only that punch up the most important parts of what’s on the pages. I think another good practice is you may think that you’re going to have an hour to present or half an hour to present, and it may be that the schedule goes sideways and you end up with only 5 or 10 minutes to present. It’s always good to have the 5-minute version of your presentation in the back of your mind so if you’re asked to do that, you can say something intelligent and helpful during whatever time remains. An important thing to remember about board members is they come and engage only periodically in the business. You, as an operating leader, are in there every single day. The board member isn’t going to remember all the context that you’ve got in your brain, and they’re not going to remember the thing that you told them three months ago. So making sure that you show not current state, but trajectory over what’s happened before, can help make sense for the board member.

Beth Knuppel: Great. Good advice. I want to close out with two questions. And first, I’m curious, if you look back over your board service, what do you think is the biggest learning that you’ve taken away? What is it that you would do differently the next time you join a board?

Tayloe Stansbury: You know, I think that getting to a sense of flow with a board, where you’ve got good ideas that are coming in, people bringing diverse thoughts, and where people are thoughtful about that and get to a good place quickly in terms of advising management, those are the boards that feel really good. The ones where you have people who are on a different place of, “Hey, I’m excited about this company,” and others who are thinking, “We ought to sell this company,” and you just can’t get them together, those end up being pretty rough situations. And you want to avoid the latter, if you can.

Beth Knuppel: Finally, for founders, for management teams who might be listening, what would you say would be the key takeaway that you would offer them for, really, how do you build and leverage an effective board?

Tayloe Stansbury: Look for openness and trust. Build a board where that exists. And working together, you can actually be a lot smarter than you can individually.

Beth Knuppel: Absolutely. Great insights, Tayloe. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Tayloe Stansbury: Thank you so much.

###

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Software-Defining the Pathway to 5G: How Cradlepoint Transformed Its Business Model (Twice!) to Revolutionize How Businesses Connect

Cellular connectivity has come a long way over the past two decades and today cellular coverage allows for an always-on world, connected by voice, text, apps, and the internet.  Mobile data usage has exploded, up 73x in the U.S. from 2010 to 2018.  There are now more mobile devices in use in the U.S. than citizens.  Almost 40% of the entire global population owns a smartphone, which are only a little over a decade old.  The disruption from a wired to wireless world has transformed the global economy. 

Different than consumers, businesses have been slower to adopt cellular for primary internet connectivity in their offices given historic cost and reliability concerns However, this is changing quickly with continued improvement in both quality and affordability in cellular service as the world embarks on the pathway to 5G journey. 

Cradlepoint is a market leading innovator helping businesses move from a wired to wireless world powered by next generation LTE and 5G networks, utilizing Cradlepoint’s software-defined wireless products to connect people, places, and things with enterprise-class visibility, security, and control. 

In today’s podcast, Board members Matt Robinson and Doug Gilstrap from TCV explore Cradlepoint’s growth journey with CEO George Mulhern, as he talks through the opportunities, tough decisions, and lessons learned to become the global leader in cellular connectivity for business.

For these insights and more, settle back and press play.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Is the Cloud Safe? – The View from Vectra on Reducing Business Risk as Enterprises Aggressively Move to the Public Cloud

Digital transformation is driving enterprises to rapidly enter the next chapter of cloud adoption. Nearly half of current infrastructure-as-a-service Enterprise users are running production applications on public cloud infrastructure. As such, organizations are acutely focused on dynamic scaling, 24×7 availability, streamlined management and development tools to make the migration seamless…yet, security seems to be an afterthought or maybe just assumed to be “locked down” given that the bulk of workloads are at Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud. Given the brands and heft of these mega tech companies, how can these clouds possibly not be secure?

Recent high-profile breaches demonstrate that there are inherent risks in the public cloud. In fact, just moving workloads to these branded cloud providers does NOT make them more secure at all.  It’s clear that enterprises must ensure their security stack is properly architected for the cloud. The recent Capital One breach was a shock to the system.

In the case of Capital One, a combination of a tech savvy team and AWS were breached by vulnerabilities that were known and could have been avoided. Does that mean it’s inherently risky to migrate to the cloud? Probably not, but it is clear we need better tools and processes to make this migration secure, scalable and cost-effective.

In this podcast, TCV’s Tim McAdam and Vectra CEO, Hitesh Sheth, talk about what it takes to reduce business risk in the cloud – and keeping enterprises, consumers and their transactions/interactions secure – while capitalizing on the tremendous opportunities the cloud offers.

For these insights and more, settle back and press play.

***

Tim McAdam: Welcome to Growth Journeys, a podcast series from TCV, focused on lessons from the field from entrepreneurs in the TCV ecosystem. I’m Tim McAdam, General Partner at TCV, and I’m here with Hitesh Sheth, CEO of Vectra, a leader in applying artificial intelligence to detect and respond in real time to cyberattacks in the cloud, data center, and enterprise infrastructures. Hitesh brings a wealth of experience from senior roles at Aruba, Juniper, and Cisco, that affords him important lessons about how enterprises can assess and address security as they migrate workloads to the cloud. These lessons include views on encryption, 5G, and commingled log data, to name a few. We’re covering all these topics today, but first, thanks for joining me, Hitesh, and welcome to Growth Journeys.

Hitesh Sheth: Great to be here, Tim. Thank you for having me.

Tim McAdam: So, let’s start with a relatively simple one, but probably complicated in its scope. What’s the general state of cloud security today?

Hitesh Sheth: Cloud security today is, in my view, where Windows used to be circa 1990s. If you go back in time a couple of decades when Windows started to proliferate, security was really not the first thing that Microsoft thought about. And at that time, it looked like a pretty complex setup with multiple operating system versions, different devices on which Windows was getting deployed, and it felt like it was an endless opportunity for attackers to leverage.

Now, fast forward to today, and if you look at the cloud environment, whether you’re dealing with serverless computing, whether you’re looking at Kubernetes, none of the technologies that are being built for the cloud have had security at the front end, and by comparison we have a thousand-fold more complex scenario than we had when Windows started prevailing from a security point of view.

So, I think the scenario we have right now is that while cloud is taking off exponentially, the security holes that we are facing are indeed very profound.

Tim McAdam: And how do you think enterprises should approach assessing their security vulnerabilities as they migrate these workloads to the cloud?

Hitesh Sheth: One of the most important things that they should think about very carefully is that whatever strategy they had in place in their traditional on-prem networks is not the strategy they should deploy into the cloud. And a good example would be – you think of perimeters when you think of on-prem networks. So traditional firewalls tend to be the way you think about security. That already is disappearing in traditional networks, and that certainly cannot apply when you’re looking at cloud infrastructure.

Now, I think Gartner has come out with a very good synthesis of how to think about building visibility for next-generation SOCs and they’ve got this thing called the Triad, and the Triad has three components to it. There is a SIEM in it. There is NDR, which is network detect and response. And there is endpoint detect and response, EDR. And logically, if you have those three technologies in place, then you have the best shot at delivering comprehensive visibility for the SOC. And the good news there, is that it is independent of whether you’re in the cloud or on on-prem networks as well.

Tim McAdam: Right. And just for the audience, could you define what a SIEM is?

Hitesh Sheth: Absolutely. SIEM is security information and event management systems. A vendor example here would be Splunk. When you’re looking at EDR, a vendor example would be CrowdStrike. And then certainly when it comes to NDR, Vectra would be the example in mind.

Tim McAdam: Perfect. So, talk about encryption for a second and what role encryption will play in securing workloads. And I think there are probably some schools of thought that say, “Why do you need any of this stuff if our data’s encrypted?”

Hitesh Sheth: Correct. So, I think there’s good news and bad news in encryption. Let me start with the good news. The good news is that you can indeed encrypt the traffic from say, the endpoint to the edge of the infrastructure, or to the SaaS application. And so, in theory, you are reducing the opportunities for a hacker to break into that workload or into the payload and initiate a cyberattack. So that’s the good news.

However, the reality is that whether you’re dealing with data centers or you’re dealing with cloud infrastructure, the number of times where the traffic’s going to get encrypted post the edge of the cloud or the data center tends to be very, very limited. And therefore, you have the need to still continuously monitor the inside of the data center or the inside of the cloud for tracking advance attacks. That’s number one.

But number two what is also probably not fully appreciated is that encryption is actually a friend for attackers. So, if your device is compromised, Tim, and then your traffic is encrypted from your device to the SaaS application, then if I’m the hacker, the chances that somebody’s going to pick me up really get diminished. Therefore, you know, logically the only way you can really find those attacks is by looking at the behavior of your device and how you’re interacting with the application. Therefore, behavioral approaches become really essential in this scenario.

Tim McAdam: Right. And that begs the question – that might be a device-specific viewpoint. But how about the data itself? Obviously, multi-tenant cloud applications have effectively commingled log data or log data from multiple customers. Is that a limitation or security risk as enterprises move their workloads to the cloud, and how do enterprises gain comfort that the integrity of their data will remain intact as they move workloads to the cloud?

Hitesh Sheth: The reason logs get commingled in the cloud environment – I’ll come back to the point I made earlier. Security is an afterthought in the scenario. The primary objective of doing that is to add efficiency to IT ops. That is the reason why they do that. For a customer, who is adopting cloud services, you have to reconsider the Triad that I described earlier. You have to have a SIEM. You can take this commingled log data and you can have this centralized in one place for analysis purposes.

But, what is really crucial is that you don’t rely on that by itself. You have to use network detect and response. You have to use endpoint detect and response. And so, the whole point of that Triad is to give you coverage in scenarios like the one you just described.

Tim McAdam: Got it. That makes sense. How about trends around next-gen communications like 5G, for example, and then this whole mindset of zero trust? How do you see these newer trends enhancing, or frankly, causing security issues?

Hitesh Sheth: The benefit of 5G is that we, as users, can bypass traditional networks, and with our devices – whether it’s a phone or a tablet – you can go straight to the cloud and order the SaaS application. You don’t have to worry about your traditional network and the security therein. Which is great.

Now, the challenge with that is that you have just now opened up a direct path into the data without any intermediary layers. So, this is where zero trust is supposed to come in.

Zero trust is supposed to introduce the notion that unless every device is authenticated, it should not be trusted. But frankly, it’s a very simplistic view of security because it essentially says, if Tim on Tim’s phone is authenticated, then Tim and Tim’s device are now automatically safe. But what if somebody stole your credentials? And that happens on a daily basis, as we know. And, therefore, it is not enough to rely on something like zero trust.

You have got to have the right monitoring principles in place in the cloud itself to ensure that if your credentials are stolen on one end, you’ve got the right mechanisms to watch for the behavior of the privileged user in the cloud.

Tim McAdam: Got it. So, let’s talk about responsibility for a second. I recently read a Gartner report that was talking about degrees of hand-off points from infrastructure as a service providers, to platform as a service providers, to SaaS providers. How do you think about this shared responsibility continuum, and do you see this security responsibility changing over time?

Hitesh Sheth: First of all, I think a lot of companies make the mistake of thinking that the security responsibility is solely the cloud provider’s responsibility. And I think that mistake originates from consumers of SaaS applications.

If you are consuming Salesforce, as an example, I think it’s very reasonable to expect that Salesforce has taken care of your security requirements. In theory, that’s generally true. However, if you are the entity that is actually deploying your applications into the cloud environment, having that expectation that AWS, Microsoft, Google, have done the same thing is fundamentally not true.

At the end of the day, the company that’s utilizing cloud resources is responsible for the security of the network layer, the data on top of that, the applications, and how people are interacting with those applications. That responsibility solely resides with the entity that is using those services. And I think even as cloud providers evolve their security offerings, it would be a mistake for consumers of those offerings to relinquish their responsibility back to the cloud provider.

Tim McAdam: So, Hitesh, you can’t pick up the paper today without reading headlines about the shortage of qualified cybersecurity talent relative to the size of the problem. This is a massive issue. Why haven’t more cybersecurity companies adopted an AI/ML framework like Vectra’s given the obvious dearth of humans in the sector?

Hitesh Sheth: I actually think, Tim, that a lot of security vendors are talking about AI today. It’s become one of the pain points for customers, where AI has evolved into a buzzword from vendors, and they talk about it all the time.

The issue fundamentally is that the vendors are approaching this completely wrong, in my view. Even for investors, as they think about investing in companies that are touting AI, the principle of generalized AI simply does not work. Generalized AI equals a human being. And AI is not advanced enough, from a software point of view, to repeat what a human being would do in technology. So, the notion of applied AI is really key here. Applied AI does work as evidenced from the work that we do at Vectra.

And I think the key there is you cannot just take AI by itself. If it’s application-specific, then domain becomes very critical. And one of the early epiphanies that we had in our journey here is that as we experimented with generalized AI, and frankly we made mistakes with that. And what struck us very quickly was that, “Hey, you need security domain, you’ve got to have security domain paired up with AI for this to work.” If I’m a customer, I would be testing for that every single day before accepting a vendor’s word that their tech is actually going to work in my environment. Otherwise, it’s the person behind the curtain actually doing the work, not the software.

Tim McAdam: Right. Well, thank you for making all those generalized AI mistakes before we invested, Hitesh.

Hitesh Sheth: And, yes, we did that in the first few years, Tim, as you know well, but if you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn. And we are much better off as a result.

Tim McAdam: So lastly, at a recent offsite, one of my partners floated the concept of via negativa, or addition by subtraction, as it related to our business model as investors. That is to say, focus on fewer, more high-impact investment themes or investment types by not focusing on others. Hitesh, should via negativa apply to streamlining the security posture of enterprises as they think about moving to the cloud?

Hitesh Sheth: I think it’s an absolutely fantastic principle for how you think about where you invest in infrastructure broadly and certainly in security, because as we all know, security is rife with a plethora of technologies and vendors pitching the next-greatest tool to customers every single day. Yet, paradigms have evolved very, very rapidly.

So for example, if I am building something from ground up, a customer should ask themselves, why do they really need a firewall? For what purpose? If I have EDR on my endpoint, if I have the right setup for monitoring my workloads in the cloud, what role does a firewall really play? What role does a perimeter play? If you want to save your dollars, OpEx or CapEx, I’ll put something bold out there and say, eliminate the firewall. I would challenge somebody to do that. And then provided they are actually following the SOC Triad – be religious about implementing the SOC Triad.

Do that first and then question the need for spend on anything else next. That’s the approach – that’s how via negativa can apply to security spend.

Tim McAdam: That is bold. I like it. Hitesh, thanks for joining us today.

Hitesh Sheth: Thanks very much, Tim, really appreciate it.

***

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Making the Mundane Sexy: How Intuit Turned SMB Bookkeeping and DIY taxes into Massive Business Lines

Dan Wernikoff rose to become an EVP at Intuit and general manager of its small business unit and consumer tax group. In both cases he scaled the business-within-a-business from small groups of early adopters to huge hordes of happy SMBs and consumers, by relentlessly measuring early indicators, leveraging core strengths, and focusing on long-term growth goals.

In this conversation with TCV General Partner Tim McAdam, he shares:

  • Lessons about how selling into SMB markets differs from enterprise
  • The best metrics for tracking success, and
  • Why empathy and understanding matter more than slick ads and sales techniques.

He also explains how to infuse human expertise into SaaS models in a way that fits the SMB/consumer mindset.

For these insights and more, settle back and press play.

***

Dan Wernikoff is a former Venture Partner at TCV.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


The Xero Story: Building a Global Platform Out of New Zealand

We believe innovation and great entrepreneurs are everywhere. We’ve been fortunate to back some important technology franchises that were built outside of Silicon Valley. In particular, there’s a strong emerging software ecosystem coming out of Australia and New Zealand. We count two category leaders — SiteMinder in hotel management and Xero, a global leader in accounting software — in the TCV portfolio.

TCV GP David Yuan recently had a chance to chat with Rod Drury, Founder of Xero, about his take on building a business from the region. Rod and his team have created and scaled a massive SaaS platform for small businesses around the world that’s made Xero the largest tech company coming out of New Zealand.

Rod really packs in the lessons for growing companies, including:

  • The advantages of a small home market
  • How to build a global team and business from day one
  • Why Xero IPO’ed first and then scaled the business worldwide
  • How to make the journey its own reward

For this and a lot more, settle back and click play.

###

The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Brands with a Purpose

Even the most hardened left-brain investor can recognize the genius of Jonathan Mildenhall. While leading the marketing organizations at Coca-Cola and Airbnb, Jonathan focused each of these brands on an authentic and emotive purpose that cut through the cynicism of modern consumerism to create connection and change human behavior based on shared values. Jonathan was kind enough to share with TCV GP David Yuan his stories and experiences leading Coca-Cola and Airbnb marketing, as well as his new venture, TwentyFirstCenturyBrand.

Key takeaways from this wide-ranging conversation include:

  • Energizing an icon, helping Coca-Cola reclaim and extend its emotional core
  • Authenticity as an enduring and compounding competitive advantage
  • How aligning brands with core human needs can change consumer behavior

For this and a lot more from one of the most creative and successful marketers of this century, settle back and click play.

 

###

The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Woody Marshall on The Twenty Minute VC

Check out Harry Stebbing’s latest podcast with TCV General Partner Woody Marshall.

 

 

###

The statements, views, and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any responsibility therefor. This interview is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies. For additional important disclaimers, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/.


Creating and Nurturing a High-Performance Culture: Lessons from Netflix for Businesses of All Sizes

Netflix founder Reed Hastings is known for placing big bets on bold ideas. One was turning conventional corporate culture on its head by stripping away limitations on employees, so they could be more free – and more accountable – to achieve shared goals. It worked so well that he published the blueprint online as the “Netflix Culture Deck.”

TCV’s Founding General Partner Jay Hoag, a long-time Netflix board member, chats with Patty McCord, Netflix’s chief talent officer for 14 years and co-creator of the Netflix Culture Deck, for this exclusive podcast about her new book: “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility.” Together, they detail the origins of the culture deck, what happened when it went viral (it’s been viewed more than 15 million times), and how CEOs can apply the principles that made Netflix a magnet for high-performance talent.

The path to industry leadership is rarely smooth, and those that make it to the mountaintop must adapt to both market opportunities and dynamics. Jay and Patty anchor their conversation in historic pivots and lessons learned from Netflix’s evolution to become the world’s leading internet television network. Patty reveals how vigorous management debate and candor with employees kept morale high during both peaks and troughs. The podcast includes numerous lessons for successful recruiting and creating the conditions for people to do their best work. Topics covered include:

  • What really attracts top talent
  • How to ensure that employees link their work to high-level strategy
  • Why employee compensation should not be secret
  • How to sustain the speed of a small company as you build a large one
  • Why lavish perks do not promote higher performance
  • How to use a product-development perspective to enhance culture

 

For an inside story on the cultural principles that made Netflix a household name worldwide, settle back and click play.

 

TCV is an investor in Netflix and Jay Hoag serves on the board of directors of the company.

The views and opinions expressed in the transcript above are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). This transcript is not an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational Purposes Only” in the Terms of Use for TCV’s website, available at http://www.tcv.com/terms-of-use/