Technology investor Mike Lynch, the founder of Invoke Capital, says it’s important to challenge people to do great things.
Challenges in different areas of business are very different, but leadership issues are the same. It’s about building a team of the right people, and giving them the tools to create and sell really interesting technology. If you find the people that can and want to take on a challenge, and give them the ability to do so, they will.
I’m meritocratic. It’s about finding really good people and looking after them. Lots of corporates think that as long as they pay to the required salary level that means they’re looking after their people, but it’s not. If these people are creating value, then there should be no limit on what they get paid. So the trick is to find those good people, put them around you and then look after them. If you invest in people who do a great job, then the whole operation will begin to run more smoothly because you’ve created the right environment with a strong team that will motivate and inspire each other to keep doing great things.
Try new things even if it means that people will make some mistakes along the way. You have to have a culture where people appreciate doing a moon shot and failing is a great thing. That’s because occasionally you hit the moon.
One of my first investors was a key mentor to me. He moved us from enthusiasm to directed enthusiasm. He manged to get us to do things like budgets without undermining the fun.
People starting in business should seek to build or join a team that doesn’t just consist of people who have the same skills as you. One thing I say to many MBA students is go down to the Engineering Department and speak to some of the engineers building amazing things in there. They don’t speak the same language as you, and they don’t have the same skills as you. Find a way to work together and then you will have a much better chance of creating an interesting company.
My first business was started with only £2,000. It’s very sobering to worry about how you’re going to meet payroll at the end of the month with almost no cash, so we quickly learnt the core lessons of running a business first. A lack of cash will focus the mind, which preserves the most valuable item in technology – time.
My father always regretted not having had the chance to go to university, so education always featured highly in my home. My family were also Irish, and I grew up in England so we always looked at things slightly differently, as outsiders. Everyone I work with in technology who is achieving incredible things has a bit of an “outsider” about them, which seems to be an advantage in my area.
One of the great things about being a technical person is working with, and competing with, other technical people. Building something that will impress the friends you respect is a great motivator. To continue doing that, I created a business that would allow me to continue building even greater pieces of technology.
I deal with business here in Europe during the day and then, from 8pm onwards, I get to deal with California. That gives me a nice little slot that I use to spend time with the children. I’m happiest when my daughter is telling me why the latest apps that one of the R&D guys has produced doesn’t work, because I love that sort of interaction.
For the whole story (regarding Autonomy and HP) you will have to wait for the book. But it’s an amazing story.
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Dr Mike Lynch is founder of Invoke Capital, a technology investment and advisory company that invests in cyber defence, genomics and other areas - with offices in London, Cambridge, San Francisco and New York. Previously, he was co-founder of technology company Autonomy, which was sold to Hewlett-Packard for $11 billion in 2011, and the relationship between Mike Lynch and HP then deteriorated into a highly public dispute. He studied Natural Sciences at Christ's College, University of Cambridge.