When Doug Galen’s visit to Nairobi Garage was confirmed, we were ecstatic. Doug is a leading figure in entrepreneurship and was definitely the right person to talk to members from within as well as outside the space on how to scale their businesses. Having successfully launched 4 startups in Silicon Valley, Doug has an immense wealth of knowledge and entrepreneurship wisdom.
When the session kicked off, he started by taking us through his journey. He admitted that the life of an entrepreneur is hard saying, ‘I kind of refer to it as big roller coaster ride, we can have more highs and more lows in one hour than most people can experience in a year’.
In the journey to build his first company e-loan, Doug shared how it was difficult to get a venture capitalist to invest. He and his team, decided to take out the last $6000 in their account to put a billboard on highway 101 which is a free-way in Silicon Valley that all the venture capitalists use. This, they hoped, would trick the venture capitalists into thinking they had an advertising budget and hopefully get interested.
Doug explained that even though they eventually got an investor, it wasn’t due to the billboard.
He took us through the different levels of entrepreneurship and how to know when to scale. This as he mentioned has to be informed by how much your product or service is needed. If for instance, your servers cannot handle increasing volumes of data and visitors and/or signups, then you need to scale.
Doug also emphasized the need to ensure customer retention is high as well as ensuring user growth is happening naturally before thinking about scaling.
However as Doug mentioned scaling is an unpredictable thing saying, “scaling is like riding a horse that’s out of control, you can’t hang on”. He added that you know you are scaling when you cannot keep up with demand and your nights are often sleepless.
In winding up his talk Doug gave for pointers of how to deal with scaling;
-As a CEO stop ‘working hard’ and delegate more.
-Hire your ‘avengers/heroes’. Get employees to help you grow your company.
-Communicate effectively. Ensure your team understands what it is you are saying and how you need it accomplished.
-Be fast and aggressive in making decisions since the company is moving fast as well.
He then asked participants in which level they are in terms of growing their business. Some knew exactly and definitively where they stood while some didn’t raise their hands.
This showed how clouded knowing your business, developing a clear strategy and knowing when to scale or not can be and Doug warned entrepreneurs not to worry about scaling too early.
All in all it was an interactive session and we are looking forward to meeting Doug in other entrepreneurship forums as well as invite him over for other talks such as this.
For a media set to see how the session was like, click here.