Mike Kimball is an attorney who works on venture capital deals in the tech space. He knows what it takes to create and execute structures and agreements to foster fast growth. He also knows where entrepreneurial leaders fail. Mike has a wealth of experience from working on a nuclear submarine to working in big tech in Silicon Valley and negotiating business deals for companies of all sizes. For his stories and insights from his eclectic background, listen to the episode.
Q: Tell us about your eclectic background.
“As a kid, I always had a fascination with airplanes. I also had a fascination with submarines. When I was in college, I spent two summers working in the space program. I graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry. I ended up in Bakersfield, was bored, and went to see the Navy recruiter. When he heard I had a technical background, he put me in the nuclear submarine program.”
“When I got out, I worked in energy, then went back to school and got a law degree. I had met a friend (our families were water skiing buddies) and the two of us went shopping for a house boating trip. We were walking out of the store with our grocery carts full of groceries and he told me to call his friend about a job. I did and was hired and helped grow the company. I was then introduced to the general counsel at Yahoo and he hired me in an executive position, where I stayed for six years until I hung out my own shingle. My clients are typically either small companies or small venture capital firms.”
Q: What observations did you have working at a large company?
“As a company grows, unless they have a very enlightened HR department, it naturally starts making decisions more by committee than by leaders and that slows things down.”
Q: What do you look for in startups?
“If you had to pick one thing to bet on it’s the founder. Have they had a successful exit? Does their vision hang together? Is it coherent with the business model? Is the founder coachable? And coachable really comes down to good listening skills.”
To hear more about why startups fail and the importance of sales early on, listen to the episode.
Words of Wisdom:
Leaders need good listening skills.
We always do it better the second time than the first time.
There’s a true art to getting doors open and deals made.
The power of “no” when you don’t want to do something is very powerful.
I would like to see more coaching of founders.