10 Great Things I Heard at the Startups and the Cloud event

Last Thursday Intuit hosted an event titled Startups and the Cloud focused on the changing nature of starting and succeeding at building a technology business given all of the new tools and platforms that are available. I was honored to host such an awesome event with 200+ people packed into Bentley’s Adamian Hall. It was a great group all assembled to hear from Venture Capitalists, Intuit’s Scott Cook, and startup CEOs. We’ll be sharing some of the videos from the event once we’ve had time to edit them down.

At the end of the event (or at least the part before the cocktails) I gave a closing where I recapped ten great things I heard. Several people came up to me afterward to request that I publish the list… so, here it is (in the order I heard them during the day):

  • Scott Cook shared some great stories about the early days of Intuit from failed ads and trouble meeting payroll to the breakthrough insights that helped Quicken take off… but my favorite was when someone asked him how he had the courage to quit his job and try to start Intuit. His answer: his boss at Bain told him that they had hit a slow patch and his job wasn’t very secure. So relevant in today’s economy.
  • Shawn Broderick from TechStars hammered home the importance of relentless execution in building an early stage startup. Gone are the days when you get a few million in funding based on a PowerPoint and you can take your time. Now, it’s all about execution.
  • Jeffrey Bier from NorthBridge talked about “Capital to QED”. NorthBridge looks for how much money it will take to find out if the entrepreneur really has identified a big business opportunity. This is exactly how we think about funding new product initiatives at Intuit.
  • Jeffrey also talked about one benefit of cloud computing is that entrepreneurs (and their investors) get to put 100% of their dollars towards solving the customer problem where as in the past it was maybe only 50% or less because of the need to build out infrastructure.
  • The VC/Investor panel got a question on what they look for in an entrepreneur and they all chipped in to create this list:
    • Passion for their idea. Everyone highlighted this.
    • A desire to change the world.
    • An ability to set their ego aside and self-aware enough to realize where you need help and that someday you may even need to hand over leadership of the company.
    • Strong domain knowledge. Great quote: “I’ve spent my whole life getting ready to solve this problem/build this business”.
    • Unfair advantage: Does the entrepreneur bring something to the table that will be an ongoing competitive advantage… (I’d like to think that partnering with Intuit via the Intuit Partner Platform is step one of gaining competitive advantage in the small business market)
    • Street Smart: Has been around enough to know how things really get done.
    • Driven
    • Can sell their idea and vision unbelievably well.
  • From the CEO panel, Software as a Service (SaaS) includes the word “service” and in the small business market that’s critical. Don’t assume you can put the product out there and it will take off on its own. SMB’s need the human touch.
  • Cloud computing and one of its forms, Platform as a Service (PaaS) helps the CEO’s focus on being good at their unique competitive advantage vs. hosting/billing/login… all the stuff that everyone else does too.
  • Great discussion on software pricing with a debate about everything going to subscription/pay for what you use vs. perpetual license vs. other models. The best point was that customers will drive the answer to this market by market – not vendors.

Overall it was a great session and the response from the attendees was overwhelmingly positive. Keep an eye out for videos of the event to be posted soon. Thanks to those that joined!

Here are a few blog posts inspired by the event:

Bill Lucchini
VP, Platform as a Service Group, Intuit






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