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Archive for February, 2013

Have You Overstayed Your Board Seat Welcome…?

February 26th, 2013 Comments off

For those that know me, I am a fiercely competitive individual and that competitiveness extends to not only my cycling, but to a different degree, the office. Depending on the environment and who I am dealing with, my competitiveness will be adjusted accordingly. The satisfaction I have gotten from my career has been the derivative of the environments I have hired into and being able to let that competitiveness play out in the form of driving improved financial results at all levels, thus improving the financial health of the company. Over the last few years the scope of my involvement broadened as pursued my first Board seats, both of which were with non-profits. Both were equally enjoyable and had satisfying missions.

One of those Boards, the Orange County Marathon Foundation, was dedicated to the organization and execution of the OC Kid’s Run, which is a peripheral event to the Orange County Marathon. The Board already had a strong line-up, but I was asked to participate on the Board and very quickly was asked to be the Treasurer, a nomination I gladly accepted. I decided to participate since there was a strong initiative to increase participation, address sponsorships, and a few other key items. Seemed like a perfect strategic fit for what I had essentially done at a corporate level in the past. I spent my first few Board meetings getting to know the broader team, as well as the past challenges they had to deal with in the past. Very quickly I found that it was a very capable crew. Yes, there were a few contributions I made, but I also came to realize that it really wasn’t the standard “restructuring” I was used to, nor was there really a need for any intensive financial planning. The expenses that the team was dealing with were almost entirely variable with the runner count for the event.

Now let’s rewind to that whole “Performance” thing that drives me in my personal life. Essentially the Board really only needed an accountant or bookkeeper to count the debits and credits. I also really started to question my contribution to the Board and whether I was adding value to the seat I was occupying at each Board meeting. It took a bit of time to admit, but I arrived at the decision to discontinue my involvement with the Board because I knew there was somebody else out there that would deliver much more value than I was, which ultimately, would benefit the kids that much more. With such a capable team behind the Foundation, I didn’t want to hold onto my seat strictly for the sake of having a placeholder on the resume.

Whether non-profit or your standard corporation, it’s the duty of Board members to ensure that they are delivering value and helping the team drive a higher level of performance that might not be there in their absence. If that is not the case then perhaps they should be rethinking their position on the Board. I received some feedback that suggested I should hold my seat until I found another Board, but that certainly wouldn’t have been appropriate, or fair, to the Foundation Board. I know that as I continue my networking efforts I will find that next Board opportunity that will allow me to leverage my experience and deliver the value I expect to.  Have you overstayed your Board seat welcome…?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

When Everyone Is Your New BFF…

February 22nd, 2013 Comments off

As I had announced in my last posting, Cylance had officially launched, and with that news came additional details on our Board of Directors, Advisors, and the funding that we had secured. More specifically, $15 million that have been secured through two of the top VC firms, Khosla Ventures and Fairhaven Capital Partners. Now keep in mind, while we are still technically a start-up, there is no shortage of work and structure that needs to be in place to secure this kind of funding. The last I checked, you just don’t go knocking on a few doors and hope that someone writes you an 8-figure check.

I’m also not going to go into the details of our current structure, but I get a bit of a chuckle seeing the onslaught of marketing materials that we have received since our launch. You would think that in one fell swoop we had just filed our fictitious business name statement and only moments later had already sold the company for a HUGE payday. To start things off, there were countless solicitations for real estate representation and wanting to help us find our future home. Check. Already have that covered through a long established and trusted network. The next onslaught would be best characterized as the recruiter onslaught. With a management team that has decades of experience in cyber security then they better be able to recruit from within their own network. Check. We are already solidly moving forward with an A-grade team. Next you wonder? A myriad of folks who want to help us navigate the stormy waters of insurance coverage. Check. Already have that covered as well through our long established and trusted network. Whether workers’ comp or D&O, it we don’t have that in place we have no business being in the positions we are.

The next wave of solicitations was even more amusing. As you know, when you start a company you are destined for riches and it might as well be a slam dunk. It’s a good thing that we started receiving all the literature now on what to do with the vast wealth that will occur at some assured time in the future. Again, this is an area where I wouldn’t trust anyone I didn’t already know and was a trusted advisor or source in the past. I just have to wonder what kind of success these firms have by reading the paper, assembling an envelope of marketing filler, throwing on some postage and dropping it in the mail. In the Finance world, unless you have a unique value proposition that will help me improve my results, in a sustainable way, and isn’t offered by my existing trusted network…then you’ll have a long line to wait in.

As our work and efforts require, we secure our business on trusted relationships and a definitive expertise that we bring to the table and not a glossy brochure. A unique value & protection proposition that our customers can plainly see. What are you bringing to the table…?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Cylance, Inc. Launches & Comes Out of Stealth Mode…!

February 13th, 2013 Comments off

Cylance, Inc. today formally announced $15 million in funding from Khosla Ventures and Fairhaven Capital, along with the Board of Directors and Advisors that have been put in place to help guide the company for the years ahead. While this day is merely the culmination of months of hard work by a team I have come to admire over the last 7-months, it still feels fantastic to take a day and celebrate the accomplishments of the team and what we have to look forward to. The full details of the press release can be found on our website at www.cylance.com .

A bigger affirmation for the mission and future of this company are the backers and advisors that have come on board. Khosla Ventures was founded by Vinod Khosla in 2004 where he was formerly a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins, as well as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Fairhaven Capital is a venture capital firm focused on themes in the enterprise, physical technologies, media infrastructure, and security markets. Both are neither strangers to technology, nor are they a stranger to the talent and abilities of Stuart McClure, the founder of Cylance.

In addition to the funding, Stuart has been able to assemble an incredibly high caliber Board of Directors and Advisors with additions that include Patrick Heim, former Kaiser Permanente CSO and now Chief Trust Officer at Salesforce.com, Admiral William J. Fallon, U.S. Navy (Retired) former Commander, U.S. Central and U.S. Pacific Commands, and Alex Doll, former co-founder and COO of PGP who sold to Symantec in 2010, who will guide the Company to achieve its goals. With this Board pedigree, Cylance has a deep and diverse team to help guide the Company. An equally talented Board of Advisors brings together a diverse group of experts to solve the complex security problems that the industry currently faces. Advisors include: Paul Forney (Invensys), David Willson (Army/NSA), Shane Shook (KPMG/PwC), Robert Bigman (CIA), Stewart Baker (Steptoe/NSA), Alex Nazaruk (GetCo), Michael Rauchman (GetCo), Eric Culp (formerly of ESRI), and Joseph Gabbert (formerly of McAfee and EMC).

The team here at Cylance has an incredible opportunity, and a fantastic level of support to carry out the mission at hand. As I’ve written in previous posts, it’s all about delivering on what you promise and driving high levels of performance. With the team and backing that has been assembled, this is merely the first step. There’s more to come, but it feels great to formally step out from behind the curtain and share more detail about what has been assembled for the future.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Start-Ups & Shades Of Grey…

February 10th, 2013 Comments off

I’ve written a few other posts about the hiring process we all inevitably go through (continuously…) and the critical need to be honest with yourself and have an accurate assessment of your skill set, as well as the environment you might possibly be hiring into. This scenario played itself out again this week as I potentially started the interview process with a candidate. I know that this candidate had some insight on the company so the fact that they were going to be potentially joining a start-up was not a new development. However, and almost immediately out of the gate, the questions were all in the spirit of “How is process “X” defined?”. “Where do you see the company in 5-years?”. “I’m used to working with automated process so what will my budget be for “xyz” technology?”.  Already I could tell we weren’t quite getting off on the right foot and the candidate likely would have an extremely tough time adapting to the life of a start-up.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all very valid questions, but when you’re 6-months into a start-up, there are very few things that are black & white. For starters, when I’m asked how a certain process is defined & documented, there are few processes, at least at this point that are documented. Yes, we might have specific deadlines for submitting payroll, paying vendors, and we might have project timelines, but the time that the respective teams have available needs to be spent on mission critical tasks and not defining & documenting processes. From a Finance perspective, I have always had to live in the world of defined processes and reams of documentation on how something needs to be channeled through the organization to be addressed. In the world of a start-up, there has to be an implicit level of trust that your team members are working with their respective Director or VP and progressing in the completion of their deliverable. Yes, there are check-in meetings and other discussions to ensure progress…but processes and documentation…not here. Just get it done and deliver on what you promise.

Regardless of whether it’s a cyber security start-up or a small apparel firm, you’re bringing together a group of individuals with the experience to deliver and that have the requisite experience in the industry or their respective expertise. If you’re the newbie, as I am amongst my team, you’re not going to be pestering them for documentation and whether they’ve defined the process. Clearly not a value add in the very earliest stage of a start-up.

Even slightly more amusing is the question of where we’ll be in 5-years. Well, unless we deliver on what we’ve promised inside of the first 12-18 months it’s hard to think about 5-years. Don’t get me wrong, we have a wicked brilliant team and we can reasonably table that 5-year question with the talent that has been assembled, but the more valid question is “What are the immediate needs over the next 3-6 months as you navigate the critical first stages of the company?”.  It was very clear that hiring into the CFO role for a start-up meant I was going to be doing a high volume of “non-traditional” work for my role. I wasn’t looking for traditional since I had plenty of “traditional” in my career. I was looking for a true challenge and the opportunity to join in the mission of a company that I could believe in and would have a positive benefit for the customers we’d be servicing. However, assuming that same role also meant joining the uncertain world of start-ups and being comfortable living in the many shades of grey that would present themselves. What’s your comfort level when definition might be lacking?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael