Mike Maples: There will be no next Silicon Valley; Mike Maples on his fellow VCs: “Most just suck at it”

Mike Maples: There will be no next Silicon Valley

ON MAY 8, 2014

In 1994 when Mike Maples graduated Harvard Business School, he didn’t head straight to Silicon Valley. He thought that at that point the Valley had been developed so extensively he couldn’t make a big impact. He feared he’d be traversing the same well-worn path without forging new ground.

Instead, Maples decided on a different course of action: To find the next Silicon Valley. He headed to Austin, which is where he made his home for the next decade. He co-founded a broadband software company called Motive, building his entrepreneurial name and experience and working on his fabulous Southern twang. Eventually he helped take Motive public and reached a point where he was ready to put his founding past behind him.

Maples headed back to Silicon Valley for a visit, and he got a “lump” in his throat. He realized that no matter another city’s potential, there would be no “next Silicon Valley.” Much like Florence in the Renaissance, Silicon Valley was the place of his lifetime. After all, it was not so much a place as it was a set of ideals, stemming historically from the Gold Rush in Silicon Valley.

As an example of the area’s ideals Maples cited “growing the pie,” referring to the tech trait of trying to reinvest in helping other people and companies instead of focusing just on getting one’s own slice.

He returned to the area he had resisted for so long and began his career in venture capital.


Mike Maples on his fellow VCs: “Most just suck at it”

ON MAY 8, 2014

Floodgate’s Mike Maples — an investor in Twitter, Digg and Lyft — made the jump from entrepreneur to venture capitalist in 2006. He gave himself three years to make a go of it and promised himself that he wasn’t going to fall back on reliving his entrepreneur glory days, he reflected at tonight’s PandoMonthly event in San Francisco.

“Most VCs lose money. Most just suck at it,” Maples said. “Every job has a one percent.”

The key to being a good VC, Maples thought, was remembering what it was like to be the one in the founder’s seat and respecting those pressures. “When I was a founder I hardly thought about my VCs. I was doing real company stuff. If I’d asked [Breyer Capital’s] Jim Breyer how I should recruit people, I would have felt weak sauce, like I was lame,” he said. “The best VCs I’ve seen in the business act as if they’re working with a strong founder.”

Crossing over from operating a business to being a VC is more complicated than people gave it credit. “The fundamental thing I realized is that most operators are not great VCs. When you’re an operator you make deals. When you’re a VC you’re a buyer,” Maples said.

“Most people suck at this and if you don’t get your head on straight you’re gonna suck.”

The divining factor, Maples thought, was establishing the right level of control and power dynamic between VC and founder. “The entrepreneur is going to do what they want. The operator is going to do what they do,” he said.

“The fun is backing great founders. You need to get comfortable with riding shotgun. If you’re not ok with that, you’re in the wrong line of work. I want for them to call me. I don’t really think about it as ‘I’m an owner,’” Maples said.

“The idea that the founder reports to the VC doesn’t jive with my experience. My role at Twitter was to say something so they can do the opposite. If it works, awesome.”



About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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