Kaviza was one of the first companies I started working with as an Advisor. I was referred to them by a business colleague who thought my experience with PlateSpin and the virtualization market would be ideal for their business plan. 18 months later, they announced selling the company to Citrix, a strategic partner.
The advisory role can often leave you with an unfulfilled feeling. You are not on the payroll of the company, have no specific responsibilities or deliverables and are often only engaged when the CEO or management team member wants to engage you. You offer input, suggestions, ideas but there is often no compelling reason to take them up — especially if the CEO has limited overall experience. You are often just a name on a web page or a picture on an investor presentation. You are an outsider with a funny title that most people can’t relate to — what does an Advisor do for us? Is it a sign of weakness that we need some? What do we get out of keeping this person in the loop?
Kaviza was distinctly different. Here are the main reasons why this was the most fulfilling advisory experience for me to date and perhaps, in a small way, why they were successful in building a business that was worth selling to Citrix in such a short period of time:
- My contact with the CEO was frequent and regular throughout the whole 18 months.
- We spoke at least once a week for an hour, a time period we both respected.
- The conversations were often of a strategic nature and very much covered the issues of the day for how the business was progressing.
- There was little preparation for each call required, so there was no overhead on either of us beyond the 1 hour time frame.
- The CEO was open minded.
- There was a genuine feeling of interest as we explored key issues of the day.
- There was always a desire to see an issue from another angle.
- There was a recognition that I might have some experiences that could sway the way key decisions were made.
- There was a recognition that time was important.
- The subjects discussed were focused and to the point.
- There was no issue too confidential to discuss.
- Follow up did happen when needed, confirming the value of the discussions.
- The business was making progress.
- The issues evolved from week to week, month to month.
- There was always a need to talk about what might be next so that context for current decisions was valued.
- There was awareness that making stupid mistakes was avoidable through this process.
As it turned out, I only met the Kaviza team once during the entire Advisory period, even then only because I was conveniently in town (San Francisco). We developed our relationship entirely over the phone, which did not get in the way of how well we worked together.
Kumar and his team should be congratulated for the success they achieved and I thank them for allowing me to participate in the way I did. It showed me how my type of experience can be shared in a productive and fruitful way. It made me believe that new business leaders (at least some) are open minded and savvy enough to realize they should draw on every and all experiences they can to help make their business the success it can be. Not all CEO’s think that way, unfortunately.
Cheers to Kumar and Kaviza.