Chamath Palihapitiya formerly of Facebook, now running the very successful VC fund Social+Capital Partnership has said that he learned a lot of important business lessons when he was AOL. Basically he learned what not to do because it was such a mess at that time. He said that at a well known and super successful and high growth company like Facebook its “easy to conflate luck with skill”
I fully agree with this. I’ve learned to take a more critical view of credentials and people who have worked at “Academy” companies. You all know these companies, General Electric and in Silicon Valley it is Google. However, if you look at the success rate of ex-Googlers at very senior levels after they left Google (with some exceptions ie. Sheryl Sandberg) has not been that great. I believe greatness comes from being tested and where you get tested is when things are just plain messed up. I learned this at Yahoo!: when there was a period of time when things were going well (2002-2007) and I was glad to be part of this. But the great learning happened when things were falling apart (sadly), I was able to build a 2 different yet successful businesses while the larger company was suffering.
I have said it before, that the best entrepreneurs and programmers are ones who have had both successes and failures. They can draw the right conclusions from their mistakes & wins to build something great. The most dangerous entrepreneurs and worst ones in my view are ones who’ve had one big success. They draw the wrong conclusions from this success and frankly makes them overconfident. Think Steve Jobs: his NEXT company was a disaster because he took the wrong lessons from his first stay at Apple. But because NEXT did not go so well, he took these lessons to PIXAR and his amazing turnaround of Apple.
So the point: be careful with credentials and especially when you are hiring. Especially for a startup, sometimes better to hire someone local community college who is smart and hungry than the safe on paper, credentialed Harvard MBA.