Wednesday, September 26, 2012

On stage, having fun, with GE Capital

Had a blast on stage with Steve Kozek from GE Capital at Dreamforce last week. Here are the much-edited highlights from our session. My favorite bit, apart from all the excellent serious content, is the carrots. Yes, we really did have real carrots, with long green tops on them, up on stage with us. We had planned to eat them but in the end we took the session seriously and didn't.

Thanks to Steve. He's the dream customer and a big believer in FirstRain.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The rewards of taking risk - at Dreamforce 2012

I'm living in a Dreamforce whirl this week, and am reminded again and again of the importance of taking risk.

As T.S. Eliot said:

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

On the GirlyGeek panel last night - alongside of an EVP of salesforce, the CFO of Square (such a cool company), the VP running the party for 84,000 people, a very brave CEO of a salesforce consultant firm and an EloQueen - every panel member talked about the importance of taking risk. Leaning in, following the anxiety, taking on a challenge you don't know if you can do.

Leading up to the show, my team and I came up with the idea of "Letters to Marc Benioff", but based on the comment an SVP at one of salesforce's competitors had said to me the first time I presented to him - he said "you had me at hello". All about how having customer intelligence makes you more useful to your customer, and grows your revenue.

We put together the Letters tumblr on a whim, hoping to make a funny thread to bring attention to FirstRain and to my great surprise, I found not only do I get lots of positive feedback, I also enjoy writing it (yes I am the author, truly, it's not ghost written). But it's risky.

Daniela put together the hilarious S**t Dreamforcers Say video. She was sufficiently concerned about the risk that she didn't tell me until it was done. She was concerned it would not work, or would be too lame. But for anyone going to the show it's pretty funny - or as my son (who worked at FirstRain this Summer) said "Mom, you guys are SO DORKY". No higher praise from a nerd!

And then there is the Carrot. Again feedback from a customer. Imagine an EVP of Sales, in a French-Canadian accent "Penny, you are ze carrot to my stick!". Who knows whether our Carrot strategy will work at Dreamforce or not. It will reach it's peak at my session on stage with Steve Kozek of GE Capital on Thursday. He's game and has a great sense of humor. Should be fun, but it's risky.

No one achieves great things without risk. No career grows without risk. As Sarah from Square said, you won't grow if you are not uncomfortable in conversations with your manager. I know that if I am not feeling the anxiety in my gut I am not taking enough risk to move forward.

So onward into Dreamforce 2012. Carrots, S**t, Letters to Marc. We are going to channel T.S. Eliot and find out how far we can go in the next 72 hours.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

S**t Dreamforce goers say

All credit to my nutty San Mateo team.

The Performinator!

We're in the countdown to Dreamforce - billed as the biggest tech show on Earth!  And we're having fun with it.

We're calling our solution the Performinator, and smiling as we do it. It's all about performance --- but we're talking about the performance of your sales and marketing team, and so the performance of your business.

Our new solution embeds FirstRain customer intelligence into CRM in a way that feeds the sales staff real-time developments on their customer's business and markets, tuned to their view of the market, right in their CRM or mobile workflow.

As GE told me, for the very first time the middle 70% of the sales team can be as well informed as the top 10% are. Steve Kozak from GE Capital will be on stage with me at Dreamforce on 9/20 talking about GE's integration of the FirstRain solution. Join us!

I'm proud of my marketing team. They're taking a risk, making a bold statement about the impact FirstRain has on your business, and they're doing it with a smile.

Dreamforce is all about momentum and humor for us. Something super heroes know a little bit about.



Don't call me a girl. Don't patronize me. Don't think you can back me down by bullying me. I am not a bitch, I am assertive. I am not emotional, I have the advantage of being empathic. I'm a business person, but never forget I am also technical.

Want to weigh them? Mine are steel.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Swimming with company in the Maui ocean

It's 6:30am in Maui on Labor Day 2012, the sun is just about to come up over Haleakala, I'm wide awake on California time and I walk into the ocean.

This is my meditation. I jogged into the water at the Wailea beach with David Bowie playing on my swimp3 waterproof headset. The water was like a millpond: grey, clear and flat with only the slightest ripple at the edge. As I pushed into the water (shaking off the initial chill) I felt the wash of calm come over me. There is simply no more beautiful experience.

But the best was yet to come. This time I was not alone in the water.

Of course there were lots of fish. Humu humu, angel fish, goat fish, porcupine fish all snacking in the early morning light. And then, I was joined by a manta ray. He came along about 5 feet underneath me, cruising along just a little bit faster than me, gently flipping his wings. I held my breath and then, once I remembered to breathe, sped up so I could stay with him for a while. Of course, that was not far... he was much better equipped than me for the environment.

This swim was a pilgrimage. A year ago I did the 2.4 mile ocean swim in Maui to raise money for ovarian cancer in honor of my mother. It was important to me to swim in the Maui ocean again this year (and the race was cancelled) and so this particular morning was a longer swim than normal.

To my delight, I was rewarded a second time. This time by a more social creature than the ray. A huge turtle decided to swim along with me for a while. She swam up beside me just a few feet away, surfaced to check out what else interesting might be happening, and then swam along with me. For 5 glorious minutes I was not swimming alone. Of course she got bored eventually and, with the smallest flip of her fin, turned out to sea and moseyed away. But I was enchanted.

Running a fast growing tech company in Silicon Valley is an intense experience. Round the clock, stressful and exciting, joyful and frustrating. But it's a journey, not just a destination, and the journey needs to be enjoyed. And sometimes that means stepping away from it into a different world.

Photo credit: Sunrise - planetware; Mantra ray - Long shore photography; Turtle -

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cougar night busted in Silicon Valley!

The bar at the Rosewood Hotel, at the end of the fabled Sand Hill Road of venture capital fame, has been building up a reputation for a while now as a pick-up joint. I wrote a blog about the bar scene more than a year ago now, not realizing I was seeing the myth develop in front of my eyes.

But last night, as we sat at the outside bar watching the sun go down with some good friends, we commented how odd it was that a bar and restaurant that had always seemed packed seemed half empty.

And now this morning I found out why. The bar has been faux-busted for Thursday cougar night. According to the Merc, "a recent report that police had arrested several big-name venture capitalists for solicitation -- by all accounts, a false story on a satirical Web site -- seems to have helped chill the scene, at least for now." 

Faux-busted, not even really busted. The VC world is actually pretty conservative. Mostly white men, mostly funding deals they've seen before, following the pack. Only a few are truly risk taking visionaries. And sex is under cover here. Cars, wine, jets, houses are all on show, but the women I meet through my VC friends are almost always wives or daughters. Even so, the scene had definitely been building up at Madera, but who knows if it was pickup for fun or for money (or both)?

The scene will be back. And in the future, as we get more women in power in technology, maybe the Joss Whedon imagined universe of Firefly will happen even here.

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