friday reflections

Persistence Pays, Part 2: Silicon Valley’s Midas: What it takes to win; and win a customer.

Istock_000001110433xsmall_2“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” 

~ Calvin Coolidge

 

Storyline: Silicon Valley’s Midas: What it takes to win; and win a customer.

At the age of 16, he read about founding of Intel and decided to follow technology as a career. At the age of 24, he founded Daisy Systems, a pioneer in Electronic Design Automation. A few years later, he co-founded Sun Microsystems with two Stanford colleagues and a UC Berkeley friend. In the mid 1980s, the San Jose Mercury News profiled him on their front page as a young entrepreneur who had achieved his dream: financial independence for life, by the age of 30.

But Vinod Khosla, like any great entrepreneur, did not stop there. In 1986, he left Sun and joined a venture firm. He selected and funded many companies whose technologies became the foundation for the Internet revolution. His investments of less than $100 million were converted into over $15 billion; to the great delight of investors.

Passion and Persistence are two of the key traits of such people. Here is one key incident from Vinod’s career that shows what it takes to win; and win a customer. The following excerpt is from a real story about Vinod, shared several years ago, by Joe Krauss (His friend and Co-Founder of Excite and JotSpot).

This story is from the early days of Sun Microsystems. Sun was a fledgling company, 40 people perhaps, and a deal of critical importance was being bid. Computervision was the name of the company and Sun was fighting for the deal with the 100 pound gorilla of the day, Apollo. Sun had pulled out all the stops to win the deal. They knew it was a 'bet-the-company' opportunity -- all or nothing. Either Sun would rise or it would set on Sun Microsystems.

The deal was worked for months. Then, one day in July, a phone call came in to Vinod. As Vinod tells it, "It was from a purchasing guy from Computervision, and that was terrible. He thanked us very much for bidding on the contract but said they had chosen another vendor."

By the time Vinod got this call, the decision was baked: "Apparently, Computervision had made the decision long ago. By now, there were Computervision technical people from Europe who had arrived here for technical training, at Apollo. It had gone that far. They were on crossing the Ts and dotting the Is on the contract."

It was over.

But, here's what Vinod did. "I took over. By 6:00 p.m. I had sent off a letter, Federal Express, to about 30 or 40 people at Computervision. I said we would do anything for their business.  I didn't go home; I had my wife bring my clothes to the office, and I caught a red- eye to Boston. The next morning, I was in the Computervision lobby, making phone calls, trying to see someone. Nobody would talk to me."

Turns out, after 50 phone calls, he got through to the VP of Sales and Marketing.  Through a chain of events and two days of non-stop work (where no-one was let out of the hotel room in which they were meeting), Vinod convinced the customer that Sun offered a better value and signed the deal with Computervision.

The rest, for Sun, is history.

Reflection: Passion and Persistence Pays. It is not over till it is over.
Forbes magazine has accorded him Midas ("The Man With The Golden Touch") award numerous times. Well, one would think "It's about time to take it easy." But not for Vinod; he founded Khosla Ventures to help  great entrepreneurs build companies with lasting significance. He himself is very passionate about the environment. Currently he is heavily involved in clean energy initiatives and the use of ethanol as an alternative to gasoline.

See also, Persistence Pays Part 1

 

Comments

Good Story. Wish there were more Midas around. I have seen investment people taking money the other way; from 15 billion down to 100 million. Thanks for sharing.


Is this example crossing the boundaries of ethical behavior? If Computervision is ready to sign the deal with Apollo and Vinod pulled the rug under them promising heaven and earth, did he compromise on his personal values, company's values and doing business the ethical way?


It's like the famous line from the Alchemist : "If you want something so much, the world would conspire."


 

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