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What’s Your Thesis?
At Percolate, we start the week off with a Monday morning business meeting where our team gets together and reviews priorities for the week. It’s also a chance for folks to give presentations to the team, where a member from Client Solutions talks through how we executed a brand’s global on-boarding, or a product manager debuts a new feature of Percolate. I love these presentations, I always walk away energized for the week, knowing I’m surrounded by great colleagues.
A few months back, I gave a presentation to the team called “What’s Your Thesis?” The thought behind this presentation first came to me as I was watching some of our new hires pitch Percolate.
At Percolate, we believe we have the best vision of the future for our clients, the best products to execute on that vision, and the best people to explain that vision and product and deliver the whole package. Whether you build our products, communicate to clients or meet with prospects, you are ultimately expected to tell the story about why you, personally, are here.
That story should involve a thesis and, for the thesis to be believable, should be unique to why that person does what they do. With that challenge in mind, I thought it would be fun and helpful to share my thesis as it relates to how I think about investing my time and effort in the world. For those that know me, it will come as no surprise that I’m excited and optimistic for what the future holds.
First, let’s start to define what a thesis is. Here’s how Fred Wilson, a venture partner at Union Square Ventures describes it as it relates to being a venture capitalist:
“Thesis driven investing involves drawing a picture of where your particular area of focus is going. I like to take a five to ten year view. And once you have mapped out that picture, it becomes your thesis. And you evaluate every investment you make in the context of that thesis.”
The basic idea here is building a thesis allows you to apply a filter to everything you look at. Ideally this is a filter that you believe in and can prove to be both lucrative and deeply meaningful. This is true whether you are an investor or building your professional career.
This, of course, isn’t easy, but the good news is we have a long time to get this right. Most of us are going to be working for decades to come and we should make sure our work aligns with our thesis. A thesis should be what you believe in, what you’re willing to make big bets in your career around.
With the definitions behind us, let’s jump into my thesis.
First, I believe we are moving to a truly connected global world, the impact of which is still only dimly understood. Today, more than 3 billion people are connected to the internet and that number is set to double as over 88% of the world will have access to data (by comparison, electricity in the home is at 83%). As access becomes cheaper and easier, platforms that allow people to connect become bigger and more more powerful than ever.
Second, I believe technology will change the world: We live in amazing times and have the opportunity to do something that wasn’t possible before.
Off the first point, we’ll go from three billion to six billion internet users with the majority of that growth happening in mobile. Moore’s Law and the cascading effect that it has on our world is truly remarkable. Just think about what a world looks like when everyone has a very powerful and connected computer in their pocket. As an example, the A4 chip in iPhone 4 had 177M transistors in 2011. The iPhone 6 has 2B transistors 3 years later. We continue to make insane computing leaps, meaning the low end of the market has access to what the high end of the market only once had access too and there is no sign it is slowing down.
Third, we are moving to a world where software starts and finishes the whole process. The transformations Marc Andreessen observed in his 2011 op-ed in WSJ “Why Software is Eating the World” continue to accelerate with each passing year. Software is guiding the customer experience in industries like media, retail, healthcare, and beyond and I believe the whole world will be re-written in software.
When you take into account these three trends, what you get is a connected world with everyone having powerful computers in their pocket and connected on platforms that allow for a free flow of information amongst them.
As a talented professional, you’re going to gravitate towards the best company in the market. So where do you choose to spend your time when you want to invest your career in a company?
Here is how I think about taking those three trends and overlaying them with a few assumptions that I believe are important in order to build a great company. I look for these assumptions as a way to think about the type of company I would want to build, invest in or go to work for.
The company has the best brand in their industry. By brand I don’t mean their logo or their marketing campaign, but the sum of all interactions people have with the company, its people, and its products. I believe long term, the best brand will always win.
The culture puts technology and product at the center of the company. During the early 2000’s, Yahoo! was led by Terry Semel, who wasn’t a technology CEO, but a grown up media CEO, and I believe Yahoo! shifted it’s focus away from answering to a product. Having a strong technology leader like Marissa Mayer now leading Yahoo! is definitely a step in the right direction.
The founders still drive the company’s vision. I believe founders have the vision to build companies and lead them forever. This doesn’t mean you don’t need operators and other executives as you grow, but I do think that founders are the folks that can get you in and out of product life cycles and help you win for the long term.
There are many great companies that fit these criteria, and ideally you can find your fit based on what you are looking for. If it doesn’t exist, then this also offers the opportunity to start your own company.
When you work at a startup, or any company, you have to be aligned with that company’s mission. Certainly that’s the expectation when you work at Percolate. But how you get there is based on your unique past experiences and thoughts on the future.
What’s your story? What’s brought you to where you are today? And what is your thesis on how the world will evolve over time?
It’s important to develop strong answers to these questions, and share them when you introduce yourself as a representative of your company. Doing this will build your personal credibility; and nothing is more exciting than talking with someone that truly believes in what they are doing.
We have long careers ahead of us, and we should dedicate our effort and talent to work that most aligns with our personal thesis. And if they’re not aligned, it will always be a struggle and people will notice on your team and across the table.
At Percolate, we’re looking for people all over the world that have a strong personal thesis that aligns with our mission. I hope I get the opportunity to talk with you.