March 23, 2014

An interview with Jerry Colonna

Jerry Colonna (his Twitter) was a venture capitalist in New York City and played a prominent part in the early development of Silicon Alley. He's now a life and business coach where he helps clients design a more conscious life and make needed changes to their career to improve their performance and satisfaction.

Lessons learned
  • One of the the reasons Jerry Colonna became a life and business coach was because of a depression after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. He was actually close to committing suicide. This was common, the host of this show, Jason Calacanis, who also lived in New York, had a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
  • Another reason was that  Jerry Colonna grew up poor, and now he had everything he thought he wanted - but he felt empty inside. He also felt he didn't deserve his success.
  • No matter how much you work, you can never forget that you also have to be lucky. The problem with luck is that it's random. A lot of people were lucky during the buildup of the tech-bubble in 2000, but they didn't understand it since they thought they had skills and "knew" something no-one else knew. When the bubble crashed, they realized that what they knew didn't work anymore and they had just been lucky.  
  • Many entrepreneurs tend to dream about how they will get rich, how they will be in a newspaper, and how they will be famous. But there's probably an underlying reason to why they want these things. They might feel powerless, poor, disliked. Maybe you don't want to build a great product - maybe you want to become powerful because you feel powerless. Jerry Colonna's blog is called "Chase your daemons" so you have to figure out why you really want to build a company.  
  • The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is that they don't tell their investors the truth. It's easy to blame metrics - but harder to blame people. Is it a cash-flow problem - or a management problem? It's harder for an investor to blame the management because then the investor has to admit he/she made a bad decision.
  • Most entrepreneurs fail. Because successful entrepreneurs were stubborn doesn't mean you should be stubborn. You might have to admit that what you are doing is stupid and is a waste of time. There are probably better ideas out there.   
  • Why is it that stupid people become rich and smart people don't? The answer is randomness. The only thing you can control is that you have to keep improving what you do and try multiple times. 
  • Calm down! Humans don't have adrenaline because they needed it to create companies - humans have adrenaline because they had to escape from wild animals.  
  • "Swim in your own lane." Elon Musk might be one of the richest people in the world and have founded 5 successful companies, but you shouldn't live his life. 

In this video, Jerry Colonna came up with the 6 biggest mistakes founders make. They are:
  1. Diluting yourself and your team. Fear will prevent you from facing the reality, but facing the reality is important. Always tell the truth.   
  2. Merging yourself with your business or product. If the product/business fails, it doesn't mean that you are a failure.
  3. Understanding the role of the CEO. The CEO's job is not to do everyone else's job better than everyone else. The CEO's job is to hire people that are better than the CEO at doing their job.
  4. Being unclear. Lack of clarity is probably the single biggest problem. Make sure everyone have understood each other. 
  5. Avoiding difficult, fearful, or challenging situations, people, or conversations. It took a company 2 years to fire one of the co-founders. 
  6. Externalizing responsibility for everything.    

More articles in the same series: Lessons learned from the Foundation interviews