Integration Ain’t Easy

Integration is where most projects and companies fail. Whether it’s an M&A deal failing to live up to its promises of efficiency synergies or an endlessly-delayed project to integrate a key piece of technology, the main execution challenges reside in the integration of pieces, not in the creation of the units. In the software world of multi-tiered systems, project management generally has an inocuous line called “back-end integration”, when in fact it is the most costly and risky piece of all. What I like to stress to people is that the words “back end integration” seem pretty harmless, and only Read More …

Tech co-founder: CTO or VP Engineering?

As a startup grows from a few people into 30+, there is no role that is more prone to change than that of the tech co-founder. And managing that change correctly is key to the success of the company. The issue can be framed by first describing the early role of the tech co-founder (TCF): a jack of all trades, the guy/gal who gets the stuff made. The process goes as follows: the founding team brainstorms, the tech head says yeah ok we can do that but not this, and if we try that it would be cool, and it’ll Read More …

Entrepreneurship after Oil in MENA: 4 Hard Truths

When I was a kid, we were taught in school that oil would be drying up, and so would revenues from oil. At least they got one thing right: oil revenues are drying up, albeit for vastly different reasons. And those governments that used to rely on oil revenues for income are going to have to switch to the good old taxation systems. But taxation systems only work in economies that have a thriving private sector, since a governement that takes back money that it gave away in the first place can’t last very long. So the oil problem boils down to Read More …

The difference between a CEO and a COO

The difference between a CEO and a COO is surprisingly easy to understand, but it is also surprisingly misunderstood by too many entrepreneurs who start as CEOs and devolve to COO roles. At Leap Ventures we have had to explain these roles enough times that I feel compelled to write about it, in the hope that we can simply point to this post in the future. So what is a CEO, how does she differ from a COO, and where’s the problem? A CEO does what he wants to do. A COO does what he has to do. — Hervé Read More …

Startups: Valuing equity, cash, and the team

Valuing equity can be very hard in startups, but so is valuing cash and the team. I gave a talk a few days ago at the TechWadi Roadshow powered by Google For Entrepreneurs, that took place in the UK Lebanon Tech Hub in Beirut. I was asked to discuss the importance of teams when launching a startup, so I decided to explain the relative importance in time of the triumvirate: teams, equity and cash. A major error by many first time entrepreneurs is to misprice the value of equity and cash, and generally assume they’re constant over the life of Read More …

You’re on stage: entertain!

I’m talking to you, the boring person on stage behind the mike, looking at your screen or notes, reading a speech with long sentences and big words in a monotonously boring voice, clicking a device to move forward an endless stream of badly edited PowerPoint(TM) slides. What is wrong with you? No, really. I mean it. What is wrong with you? You’re given a (somewhat) captive audience. You have the opportunity to impact the next 2, 5, 20 minutes or hours or years of dozens of people. And you squander it all away. Why? Do you really think you’re actually good Read More …

Determining The Value Of Your Company

I was asked by Entrepreneur ME recently to explain how I valued companies, and as I was thinking about writing a post here on Leap’s website about it, I’ll just instead link to the article. I’ll just quote myself… I am in no camp whatsoever regarding valuation, and, to enrage all philosophy teachers out there I have to state that the answer is ‘it all depends.’