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Leadership
Neeraj Agrawal  |  June 3, 2015
Be Intentional About Culture—and Pick Your VCs Wisely: Lessons from Marketo’s Phil Fernandez

In the final installments of our Phil Fernandez SaaS Adventure video series, the Marketo CEO talks with Battery’s Neeraj Agrawal about building a healthy company culture; encouraging diversity; picking a great VC; and, finally, the thrill of going public.

 

In the first video—the 7th in the overall series—posted above, Fernandez urges other entrepreneurs to think about company culture “explicitly every day.” He says many companies reach a cultural inflection point when they hit about 80 employees and people start organizing into formal departments. This means, unfortunately, that they can lose touch with each other on a day-to-day basis. But people should resist the urge to turn inward, Fernandez counsels, and companies shouldn’t be afraid to bring in consultants to tweak culture to get it right—since the stakes are so high.

Segment 8: Selecting Investors

In the next segment, Fernandez recounts his experience picking investors and building a functional board of directors. He says his company didn’t just look for the best valuation or terms from its investors, but sought out people “who could be on the journey of building the company we were trying to build.” (It’s a lesson already known to anyone who’s been watching HBO’s “Silicon Valley” this season.) “You want that venture partner to challenge you,” he says, but also understand what you’re doing and support your decisions.

 

Segment 9: Scaling a Company, and the IPO Process

If the partnership between entrepreneurs and their investors works out, of course, the entrepreneurs might reap the ultimate reward: an IPO. Marketo went public in 2013. In this segment, Fernandez says it’s essential for CEOs to keep reinventing themselves if they want to grab the brass ring. “The business problems (along the way) are hard,” Fernandez says of the entrepreneur’s journey. “But it’s understanding how to be a person who can keep leading through (adversity and change) that is actually what’s harder.”

 

Segment 10: Diversity in Tech

Finally, Fernandez talks about his commitment to diversity. He is proud of Marketo’s diverse workforce—he says he recently came away from a new-hire training session which included “people in three-piece suits and people with red Mohawks.” The Valley’s workforce is not diverse enough, he says, and hiring managers need to work harder to deviate from the norm when they look for new workers.

 

Phil Fernandez was the first guest in Neeraj Agrawal’s SaaS Adventure video-interview series. In the series, Agrawal, a Battery general partner and SaaS investor, analyzes the ins-and-outs—and ups and downs–of building a breakout software company, offering lessons for entrepreneurs. To watch more videos from Fernandez’s interview, click here and here. And here is link to Neeraj’s inaugural SaaS Adventure blog post, which sets the stage for these CEO interviews.

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