‘Future Forward’ Conferences & Irony

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For me, today has been a day for conferences. In the morning, I attended Scott Kirsner’s “Future Forward” gathering, and, in the afternoon I spoke at the MIT Sloan CFO Conference. Serendipitously, the theme was “The Future Forward CFO.”

Two completely different events. Scott’s conference was in town and featured founders with a lot of edgy ideas, such as MegaBots (giant robots for paintball wars). Start-ups really pushing the edges. The MIT conference was at a hotel out in the suburbs and many attendees wore suits and probably aren’t the edgy founder type.

A day of contrasts.

As I thought about it more, moreover, I started to think that both constituents need each other. It is tempting to simplify the world and say that it is all about Kendall Square and young founders and social apps.

But, I think building a real company and a real business is a lot more than building a product. You need other DNA strands with which to complement founders. I’ve found that founders are indispensable to a company. Their energy, drive and institutional memory cannot be replaced. But, often, they need much help to grow a company.

IMO, founders who admit gaps/weaknesses are the ones who tend to do best. The ones who have all the answers usually find they do not, but then, it becomes very difficult, or it is too late, to change the company’s course.

It is a true irony: acknowledging weaknesses leads to a stronger team.

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