Andy Rachleff

Showing 7 posts tagged Andy Rachleff

9 Lessons to Learn From Failure

Nine Stanford GSB alumni including Chip Conley (MBA ’84) of Joie de Vivre Hotels and Beth Cross (MBA ’88) of Ariat International open up about failure and how to move forward after difficult times. 

I like to consider failures “noble experiments.”
—Chip Conley (MBA ’84), Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels
Read the full interview.

I believe you have to fail fast and be proud of your failures. If you don’t fail often, you are not trying hard enough.
Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO of Stella & Dot
Read the full interview.

Failing to seize opportunities. It’s the worst kind of failure.
Ian Kazi Shakil (MBA ’12), Cofounder of Augmedix
Read the full interview.

We have small, medium, and big failures all the time. The question is: How do you handle failure when it happens? How do you handle it with your customers, your team, your shareholders? A real failure is when you make a mistake and don’t do the right thing, fix it as quickly as you can, own it, and learn from it.
Beth Cross (MBA ’88), CEO of Ariat International
Read the full interview.

When we started University Games my cofounder and I said we have three goals: always be profitable, maintain our friendship, and have fun every day. We haven’t succeeded in having fun every day. Other than that I don’t think about failure. I’m always redefining success.
Bob Moog (MBA ’84), CEO of University Games
Read the full interview.

I have made mistakes, but I don’t feel I need to look at life and say, “That was a failure” or “That was a success.” I don’t believe in using that language. We are all doing our best.
Jessica Jackley (MBA ’07), Cofounder of Kiva
Read the full interview.

I don’t think about [failure].
—Lecturer Andy Rachleff (MBA ‘84), Cofounder of Wealthfront Inc
Read the full interview.

Figuring out the balance of work and family and personal time. It’s a struggle. I tend to be heavily weighted in two of those things and the third falls by the wayside.
Jeff Fluhr, CEO of Spreecast
Read the full interview.

My biggest failure was in business. I lost humbleness. When you have achieved success you get excited and lose insight into the future. You start to go downhill. You need to stay humble.
—Hidehiko Yuzaki (MBA ’95), Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan
Read the full interview.

10 Core Business Values That Really Matter and Why

We asked prominent Stanford GSB alumni an open-ended question: “What values are important to you in business?” Below you’ll find a combination of personal maxims and principles that may guide your own business values. Which values resonate with you? Tweet us @StanfordBiz.

1. Treating others the way you want to be treated
“I’m a big believer in the golden rule. It is the dominating value in my business relationships. If you treat people well, by and large, they will treat you well. That principle lets you sleep well at night and earns you tremendous respect. Every once in a while, someone will take advantage of you, but you just choose not to work with them any longer.”

-Andy Rachleff (MBA ’84), Stanford GSB Lecturer and CEO of Wealthfront
Read the full interview:

2. Integrity
“It means relating to people in a way that is authentic and true. It spans the gamut from not ripping people off to not putting up a false front. At Paga, we follow through on our promises to customers and partners, and we do our best to be transparent in the way we do business.”

-Jay Alabraba (MBA ’07), Cofounder of Pagatech
Read the full interview:

“I have relationships in business that go back 25-30 years and most of the business we have done together is on a handshake. With some people that means more than any other contract.”

-Bob Moog (MBA ‘84), CEO of University Games
Read the full interview:

3. Directness
“With me, what you see is what you get. In corporate America, that did not fare in my favor. As an entrepreneur, I like that I get to select my own clients. I choose to work with people who are straightforward and appreciate my directness.”

-Denise Brosseau (MBA ’93), CEO of Thought Leadership Lab
Read the full interview:

“One of our core values at Tiny Prints is to treat each other like family. When we recruit we look for people who value meaningful relationships. Our company is all about creating better connections. The work environment here is very collegial. People have become roommates, good friends, and godmothers. People have a great loyalty to each other. Of course every family is dysfunctional but we try to engender trust so people can be open and provide feedback that might be hard. When there is trust, you know it comes from a good place.”

-Laura Ching (MBA ’00), Cofounder of Tiny Prints
Read the full interview:

5. Open and honest communication
“Problems fester when teams are not open and honest, especially with diverse teams where there are a lot of differences of opinion. As a leader you need to create a culture that rewards and promotes honesty, even if you disagree with something. It is also important to be bold — especially if you are an entrepreneur and you want to impact the country and change the world. That takes guts and courage.”

-Steve Poizner (MBA ’80), CEO of Empowered Careers
Read the full interview:

“We all feel grateful for the business we’ve built together and the opportunities we have, and we work hard to communicate that to the team, our customers, and our business partners.”

-Beth Cross (MBA ’88), Founder and CEO of Ariat International 
Read the full interview:

7. Honesty, simplicity, and doing something you believe has real value
“Many companies do market research to try and anticipate the needs of the customer. I say just develop great products and tell an honest story about them. All the excess marketing spin in the commercial world has created a desire for authentic goods.”

-Rob Forbes (MBA ’85), Founder of Design Within Reach and PUBLIC Bikes
Read the full interview:

8. Passion
“I only want people to work at Stella & Dot who feel like it fits into their life’s mission. Life is way too short not to love what you do, why you do it, and who you do it with. You can’t wait for some event to be your payoff. When you wake up each day, you need to ask yourself: Is this my best purpose? Do I love where I live, who I know, what I do? So often we do things because it is an esteemed position to take, or because we need to simply pay the bills. I respect paying the bills, but you should stay on the quest to do that while doing something you love, too. Many Stanford alumni will have earned the ability to be selective. You need to ask yourself: Am I doing what I truly want to do, or just what others expect me to do? When I started making jewelry in my living room people thought I was crazy. I thought, ‘Yes I am! But who cares — I’m on my path to happiness.’ I believed enough in what I was doing to drown out the doubters all around me.”

-Jessica Herrin, Founder of Stella & Dot
Read the full interview:

9. Transparency and an open culture
“I believe you should share what many consider to be secrets about how the company is really doing, including the financials, to everyone at the company, all the way down to the call center. There should be no hoarding information. I also believe it is important to support experimentation. Everyone at the company should be encouraged to do fast experiments that fail quickly. Based on those tests the best ideas should win. Also, your values as a company have to be rooted in living a purposeful life.”

-James Gutierrez (MBA ’05), Founder of Progreso Financiero
Read the full interview:

10. Working to make a difference in the world
“You can see who’s most powerful in a society based on who has the tallest buildings. Two hundred years ago it was cathedrals. Fifty years ago it was a government building. Today, in most urban areas, the power rests with business and skyscrapers. Business is the most powerful influence in the world today. Fifty-four of the 100 most powerful entities in the world today are companies, not countries. That means it is that much more important that businesses take a conscious capitalist perspective to make a difference in the world. I’m a big believer in that on a global level. Businesses are finally asking, what is our ecological footprint? I also believe businesses need to look at their emotional fist print on their employees.”

-Chip Conley (MBA ’84), Founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels
Read the full interview:

Steve Blank on Customer Development

This post is from Anthony Yu, who is a social entrepreneur with Urban Light, a 501c3 providing direct services for sexually exploited boys and teenagers in Chiang Mai, Thailand. He is interested in applying Steve Blank’s principles of customer development in the social field. You can follow him at @baconstarvation.


The following is a synopsis of Steve Blank’s interview as part of the E-Provocateur series at the Stanford GSB.

All credit for the concepts below should be given to Steve Blank - for developing these ideas - and to Stanford’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and Andy Rachleff, for hosting and being an awesome interviewer, respectively.

For those angry with the tenets of customer development, please immediately direct all apples, oranges, and sasquatch meat stick projectiles at Steve Blank. His wonder-beard will subsequently consume these items and fire a comically large cannon ball at you, for we know these customer development tenets to be honorable and true. 

Twitter Handles

Technological startups are not smaller versions of larger companies. (Here are Steve Blank’s slides on this subject matter.)

  • Startups search, for at least two years, for new, scalable, and repeatable models.
  • Large companies, on the other hand, execute large business models. 
  • Business school skill sets can be toxic to early stage start ups.
  • If a person is in fact an entrepreneur, both McKinsey and startups should not both be seen as equal, viable life paths.

Entrepreneurship is a calling, not a job.

  • It’s like being an artist: it’s something you have to get out of your system.
  • Founders are not normal people and see things that normal people do not.
  • Caveat: A lot of founders, however, are hallucinating.
  • (The points above do not necessarily apply to joining a founder’s team as a non-founder.)

Customer development cannot be outsourced.

  • It’s not possible to outsource customer development and do something along the lines of hiring a customer development manager, or pushing the role to a VP of sales.
  • Founders must do customer development themselves.
  • It’ll take a while, but a great founder will listen to customers and determine ways to pivot their products into product market fit. (More on this topic from Steve Blank.)

MBAs are not necessarily suited to be sole founders of a technological startup.

  • However, MBAs are capable of being co-founders in a good mix of individuals, operating executives, and founders of non-technological companies.
  • Engineers almost always run the teams of successfully technological start-ups.

In many situations, second-mover advantage provides more benefit than first-mover advantage in a new market.

  • Simply having first mover advantage does not push tech ahead a few years. 

The venture capitalist secret memo for founders:

  • For some venture capitalists, if a company has discovered liquidity, then they’ll start to look to replace the founder with an operating executive. 
  • Many business school graduates are adept and can perform the role as operating executive quite well.
  • When it comes time to execute, not all founders will have the chance to move onto the next steps of execution. Again, a lot of founders can be replaced by an operating executive. 

Other key points:

  • Steve Blank has cracked the code, not to make one specific individual a great entrepreneur, but rather to make a larger population of entrepreneurs less likely to fail overall.
  • After customer development proof, the next challenge for startups to figure out is how to scale.
  • Military organizations (ex: Roman legions) reflect the growth of startups very well. 

Twitter highlights with #seprov:

Stanford Business (@StanfordBiz): "We have a special word in Silicon Valley for what we call failed entrepreneurs - they’re called experienced entrepreneurs. @sgblank #seprov"

@karenlee: "A simple but clear distinction by @sgblank: Large companies execute known business models. Startups search & create new ones. #seprov"

@alanchiu: "You cannot outsource customer development. The founder has to do it personally. @sgblank #seprov"

@mduboe: "A disproportionate # of founders are from dysfunctional families. Ability to see order out of chaos is a huge advantage" #seprov @sgblank"

@mduboe: "Consumer Internet companies are NOT technology companies" #seprov @sgblank"

@StanfordEntrepr: "The most successful entrepreneurs are technologists but there are no hard and fast rules @sgblank #seprov"

@kslicer: "a start-up = temporary organizaton designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model @sgblank @StanfordBiz #seprov"