I Ain’t No Punk
Over the last ten years I have had the opportunity to meet dozens of CEOs of technology companies. One thing that has stood out for me is how many of these individuals come from tough backgrounds. If you look past the advanced degrees from Harvard and Stanford you often see the children of shopkeepers in Baltimore or soldiers at Fort Leavenworth. As I have learned first hand, the world of venture-backed technology companies can be tough business, especially in the aftermath of the collapse of the global capital markets in 2008. In this environment, these types of backgrounds can help CEOs survive and thrive. Recently I read a blog post written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, which brought me a fresh perspective on this.
“As a kid, I hated fighting - not simply the incurring of pain, but the actual dishing it out. But once I learned the lesson, once I was acculturated to the notion that often the quickest way to forestall more fighting, is to fight, I was a believer. And maybe it's wrong to say this, but it made the rest of my time in Baltimore a lot easier, because the willingness to fight isn't just about yourself, it's a signal to your peer group.”
A reputation for toughness can really help a CEO push an innovative new product to the marketplace, and a willingness to fight rather than compromise your most cherished principles can sometimes clear the way forward.
I would like to acknowledge and thank Michael O’Shaughnessy for reviewing this post and providing helpful comments and edits.