What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Jim Hogan: Surf & Turf in Santa Cruz
July 26th, 2012 by Peggy Aycinena
There are three things to remember about Jim Hogan: He’s an affable guy, he’s usually sporting a Hawaiian shirt, and he’s extremely accessible; when you interview him, he’s able to talk to you without a PR person sitting at his elbow. I spoke with Jim by phone in late July.
WWJD: How are you doing, and what’s up with this upcoming surfing-themed fundraiser you’re hosting?
Also I work a lot with Jill Jacobs [Mod Marketing], who’s got relatives here in Santa Cruz. Jill was my coordinator for roadshows at Cadence and still does logistics for some of my startups. Her relatives are just a great family and are neighbors with Jack O’Neal [surfing entrepreneur and credited by many for inventing the wetsuit] who’s always donating to charities here.
Santa Cruz isn’t too far from the Valley, and I always have a lot of fun when we put these two crowds together, the surfers and the technology folks. For me, it’s kind of like the parties we had at my frat in college. You pick the day, buy the beer, and invite a bunch of people. [laughing] Maybe we’ve scaled up a little bit since then. Now my frat parties have a somewhat corporate feel.
WWJD: Can you tell me a little bit about the EDAC series you’re currently hosting?
Jim Hogan: Let me tell you about the genesis of the series. We think we’re having a somewhat hard time bringing startups into EDAC, so I got to talking to [SemiWiki’s] Dan Nenni about it.
[In the process], somebody asked me to moderate [the series], but I said that’s not really my thing. I’d rather work on something else. But through that discussion, the idea of working on emerging companies came up.
We talked through the idea with [EDAC’s] Bob Gardner and [Gradient’s] Ed Cheng, the EDAC Board member responsible for emerging companies, and [Uniquify’s] Steve Pollock. The idea was: Why not bring important information to startups that would help them with their quest?
I hear a lot of startup stories. They focus on telling me what they do and how cool their technology is, but often miss the point of what it is their investors need to know – the market, how to build a team, how to execute [on a plan], and the hangups. So we said: Why don’t we build a series that sort of helps them?
You may know I have this Hogan’s Heroes panel at DAC. I always try to have people on the panel never do foils. I get them to do a position statement instead from their chair on stage. It’s [built] around conversion like in that movie, My Dinner with Andre.
To sit there and talk and talk, that was the notion. I always want to have more conversation [and less foils], and feel good about those panels, particularly the last one I did at DAC in San Francisco. The other part is, I have a fair amount of experience as a moderator and I’ve been increasingly participating in the panels. Although I’m not sure it’s fair for the moderator [to also participate], I feel I can offer stuff to the conversation.
So that’s the genesis of of this thing, the EDAC series. We wanted to get some guys who are serial entrepreneurs to sit in conversation on stage.
For the first one on May 31st, we got [Berkeley Design Automation President & CEO] Ravi Subramanian and [IC Manage President & CEO] Dean Drako. We wanted these two guys to share their experience and push the dialog along.
Dean’s a real wild man. He’s done a couple of startups, Barracuda which wasn’t in EDA, and IC Manage which has done well in EDA. For Dean it’s not about the exit, it’s about the employees. His ideas are contrarian; he just pays his employees a lot of money. Dean is unique in terms of his philosophy and very successful.
Ravi is a semiconductor guy, and a young guy with credentials up the wazoo. When he took on EDA, you could have asked: Does the world need yet another SPICE company? It turns out, the world does need another SPICE company. Ravi’s running a company that’s broken through the $15 million mark, which is not an easy thing to do.
So we got the series going, and Silicon Valley Bank graciously offered their theater, with the conversation starting at 7:30 on May 31st after the EDAC spring meeting.
It’s my idea that companies hit a threshold and then have to morph their business plan. Dean and Ravi both talked about this philosophy. I had broken my own rule about ‘no foils’ [for the EDAC panel], but felt it was important. I asked Ravi and Dean to each have a foil, and I had one, and then we spoke to the foils.
As a result, however, the panel began as too much of a monolog. We spent 45 minutes [on our opening statements] between the 3 of us. Once the conversation began, it then went on for another hour, with people asking questions until finally we said we just had to bring the thing to a close. If I look at that evening, it’s the best attended meeting EDAC has ever had. Everybody stayed for over an hour and a half, so there must have been some value in it.
For the next event we’re setting up in October, we know we have got to get the conversation going a lot faster in the evening and drag in the audience a lot more. It’s a tuning issue: I don’t want to hear a monolog, I want to hear a conversation.
What’s the next topic? To talk about things the emerging companies care about: How to get customers and how to get money. We’re trying to narrow it down [from there] and at the start of September we’ll decide how to do that. We’ll get the guys together who are going to be in the conversation, go to dinner, and kick around the ideas to help sort it out.
WWJD: How many companies are you involved in currently?
Jim Hogan: In terms of boards, I’m on 5 right now. It includes Solido and Tela, where I’m a founder and director, and I’m an adviser on 4 or 5 other companies. I get bored really quick, so the more I have going on, the better for me. Typically when I sit on the board, I’m the founder and have my own money in the company. Also, if somebody’s going out for an IPO, sometimes I’m involved.
WWJD: Are any of your companies being showcased in the EDAC panel series?
Jim Hogan: No, none of my companies are in the conversation. Ravi and Dean are just friends. These EDAC events make sense as conversations. They’re not so much about promoting [a particular company].
WWJD: You almost make it sound like these conversations are about philanthropy and helping young companies, not so much about making money.
Jim Hogan: Look, at Altos where I was involved – it was a bunch of smart guys who worked their butts off. They didn’t pay themselves for several years, because they realized there were some big holes in the market.
In terms of ownership, we owned about 20 percent, with the rest of the ownership with the employees and founders. The company was sold for a decent price to Cadence, and now there are 5 new millionaires. That’s the ideal way [for things to go]. I made money for sure, but the employee and founders are the benefactors.
Yeah, I like to make money. If I don’t make money, I can’t do these things. But in the end, if the yeoman becomes a millionaire – true, it’s not enough to retire and never work again – it takes care of the problems everybody’s got, having a nice house and getting the kids to go to college with the money. It also changes the equation for their careers, because these guys are then candidates for the next startup.
WWJD: Draper University has just started up on the mid-Peninsula with the intention to teach entrepreneurship. (San Jose Mercury News) It sounds like you’re teaching entrepreneurship, but in a more ad hoc manner.
Jim Hogan: I’ve got a bunch of brothers and sisters. They’re all well educated, and all really smart, and lots of them are teachers. But I couldn’t be a teacher, I don’t have the patience.
I like teaching to the top quartile. It’s not that I’m an elitist, but I want to find people who are smart, hardworking, and crazy enough to do a startup, and who want to go out and see if we can do something interesting and maybe make some money along the way.
Nobody ever does a startup to be rich. They do it because they’ve got passion for an idea. It’s been said that money is the oil that makes engineers run – but still, nobody does this stuff because they want to be rich.
If I get 20 people asking for a meeting, I’ll always go have coffee with them, offer advice, and hook them up with other people. Out of that 20, maybe one or two gets my interest. But the first order of discussion isn’t money, it’s to offer honest advice. It’s the same with the EDAC series. The [goal is] to offer honest advice for the audience.
I’ve started quite a few bands, and when you play in a band in a bar you can tell pretty fast if the audience is getting their money’s worth. You’ve got to keep them dancing, happy, and in beer – they have to get some value out of the show.
It’s the same the EDAC series. We want to get past the marketing BS and offer, instead, useful conversation for the listeners. We want them to get some value out of the show.
Tags: Berkeley Design Automation, Bob Gardner, DAC, Dan Nenni, Dean Drako, Draper University, Ed Cheng, EDAC, Gradient, Hogan's Heroes, IC Manage, Jill Jacobs, Jim Hogan, MOD Marketing, My Dinner with Andre, Ravi Subramanian, Santa Cruz, SemiWiki, Steve Pollock, Uniquify
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