Innovation Stories

I worked at Oak Investment Partners for a long time until retiring from it at the end of 2015. Here is part of my page on the Oak website in 2015:

During that time, I had the opportunity to dive into hundreds of tech companies over many cycles, and the further opportunity to be an insider at dozens in which we invested. I learned that what most people tell you about how to be a successful entrepreneur often doesn't match up well with the winning companies I saw.

So what's a person to do?

One thing you can do is read my book. It won't tell you how to win (that's on you), but it will clearly identify some of the most important success patterns to follow, and some of the popular failure patterns to avoid. It has dozens of examples from real life to illustrate the points.

Here are some of the companies in the book and the points or patterns they illustrate.

CRM co., OpenData, Sybase: Do NOT make your execution match your strategy! If you're going to invade a country, don't attack everywhere, pick a beach.

Captura/Concur: Don't let perfection get in the way of making your product usable.

Web services company: Pick something that you can finish, well and quickly.

Smartdrive: When you think you're really focused, try making the focus even narrower.

Inktomi: Don't move on to the next battle until the current one is totally wrapped up; mostly wrapped up may not be good enough.

Workflow companies, collections: The customer defines the problem, not you.

HNC/FICO: Using a platform to attack a narrow but important problem set.

US Auto Parts: Does the customer have a problem right now?

G-Market/E-Bay: Cross-border issues are more than language.

Bank processors e.g. Fiserv: Customers aren't fond of risk.

Nextpage: Are your benefits tangible?

Fastclick: Can you deliver results quickly?

Rebelmouse: Make each step towards a vision be usable.

Athena Health: Adding a whole new service can be 1+1=3

Radisphere to Candescent Health: Giving your customers to someone else can be a great idea!

Company A: Using end-user products in a product/service can save time and money.

Video Ad Network: Sell it first, then build and deliver it seems backwards, but it beats everything else in the right situation.

Maestro Health: You don't always have to program everything; sometimes having people do some of the work is a big win.

Evident: Methods that are great in one domain maybe be failures in a different one.

The Innovator's Dilemma book: Listening to your customers can hold you back.

Smartdrive: Picking the right group of customers to listen to is key.

TxVia, Feedzai: Building a tool and delivering an application or service with it can be an overwhelming advantage.

MobiTV: Do you have large customers? The power relationship determines the outcome.

Huffington Post: Pick a direction, go quickly, stop for nothing.


I'm kind of slow. It took me more than ten years to start noticing the patterns I've written about, and another ten years testing the patterns against the companies my partners looked at and/or invested in. But they've held up. I know I haven't discovered all the relevant patterns or explained the success of every company, but I also know that I don't read about the things I wrote in the book, which is why I took the trouble to write it. I hope new generations of innovators will improve their odds of success by following the path of the winners.