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 The Breker Trekker
Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing
Tom Anderson is vice president of Marketing for Breker Verification Systems. He previously served as Product Management Group Director for Advanced Verification Solutions at Cadence, Technical Marketing Director in the Verification Group at Synopsys and Vice President of Applications Engineering at … More »

Sage Advice for Startups

 
October 16th, 2015 by Tom Anderson, VP of Marketing

We’re coming up to the two-and-a-half-year anniversary for The Breker Trekker, with 124 published posts. Initially I promised a post every other week, but after looking at the viewing patterns I quickly realized that I had to publish every week to establish a consistent audience. There’s always something to talk about in this fast-paced world, whether something new at Breker, standards activity, observations about the EDA industry, or analysis of the customers who drive our business.

Today I’d to acknowledge a second Breker blog that has actually been around longer than this one. Just over three years ago, Breker board of directors member Michel Courtoy started a series of posts in Electronic Engineering Times to offer advice to startups. He has published 28 such posts, and has covered an amazing amount of territory. I suppose that I should have done some “cross-promotion” earlier, but at this point I would like to highlight some of Michel’s sage advice.

First of all, let’s establish Michel’s credentials for offering advice. He started his career at Intel in design engineering and software engineering, and then managed product marketing for layout verification software at Cadence Design Systems. He led two startups into successful acquisitions, as vice president of marketing for Silicon Perspective and as CEO at Certess. Today, he serves on the board of directors of multiple start-up companies, including Breker.

When Breker relocated our headquarters from Austin to Silicon Valley four years ago, the main reason was to have better access to experienced entrepreneurs who could help guide the company to success. Michel is just the sort of person our founders had in mind, and he has been generous with his time and talent. Michel likes to say that “it takes a village to make an entrepreneurial CEO” and has addressed the value of startup advisors in several of his posts.

Of course, the best board of directors and set of advisors can’t compensate for the wrong employees. Michel has also offered advice on how to hire the right team, with the warning that “the first few hires are the most important because there’s absolutely no margin for error.” As for motivating the team and establishing the company culture, Michel quotes the late EDA guru Phil Kaufman on the first step of eliminating sources of unhappiness or dissatisfaction by taking care of “corporate hygiene.”

Michel does not shy away from discussing what is often the toughest job for any CEO or manager: cutting employees whose behavior or performance is detriment to the company. He really hits the nail on the head when he says “not firing someone who is not a good fit or not competent at the job is unfair to the rest of the team.” I’ve had exactly that same thought several times in my own management career when I saw no choice except to terminate a member of my team for the good of the organization as a whole.

Naturally, I love it when Michel says “ignore marketing at your peril.” My nearly four years at Breker began when Michel advised the company that it was time to create a full-time marketing role. He has also offered excellent advice on creating and growing the sales channel. He makes the crucial point that “founders must be active participants in the sales activities” by driving customer engagements in the early stages and then hiring the right team to take over day-to-day sales as the company grows.

I encourage you to follow the links in this post and check out all the advice offered by Michel in his EE Times series. He speaks directly to startup founders and CEOs in most cases, but his words of wisdom often apply to managers in technology companies of any size. If there’s a topic that you’d like us to tackle in a future post, please leave a comment. Thanks to Michel for all his support of Breker, and thanks as always to you for taking the time from your busy day to read this post.

Tom A.

The truth is out there … sometimes it’s in a blog.

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