Posts from life lessons

Removing The CEO

In almost thirty five years of working on boards, the hardest decisions I have had to make involve removing the CEO. It is an important decision and one that must be made from time to time. I am not a fan of removing the CEO until and unless it is abundantly clear that it must be done.

But when the CEO has failed to manage numerous important challenges, when the senior leadership team has been a revolving door, when the CEO has messed up important relationships with customers, employees, and other important stakeholders, when the organization has become toxic as a result of the CEO’s abrasive personality, then the choice is abundantly clear and must be made.

It is an even harder decision to make when you don’t have an obvious replacement, or when you are not 100% confident that the obvious replacement will be an improvement over the current CEO.

But those are not reasons to wait. You must act and replace the failed CEO with whomever is the best option in that moment and work with the new CEO to address the challenges facing the company, many a result of the failed CEO’s poor leadership.

Waiting is never the right answer. Failing to act is never the right answer. You must remove a failing CEO.

#life lessons

Extending And Improving Bluetooth On A Mac Mini

As I have written here a few times, I prefer to do video meetings from a couch (vs a desk). I find it allows me to stay present in the meeting and not get distracted by everything on my desk. I call these couch setups “Zoom Rooms” and I have been doing this long before the pandemic but this approach has been incredibly helpful to me during the pandemic.

I use a Mac Mini powering two screens and a lot of bluetooth devices; a keyboard, a trackpad, a Jabra speakerphone, gamer style headphones, and a Smart Mic. The multiple audio devices are for different situations. If the Gotham Gal and I are doing a call together, we use the Jabra speakerphone. If I am doing a meeting solo, I tend to use the Smart Mic. If I am doing a presentation, I use gamer style headphones with a great mic on them.

Here’s the issue. The bluetooth that comes standard in a Mac Mini doesn’t like multiple bluetooth devices and the range is just so so. The farther you are from the Mac Mini, the worse this situation gets.

I’ve struggled with this issue quite a bit and I think I have finally found the fix. I got a USB extension cable and this Bluetooth dongle. This approach both extends the Bluetooth into the room better and the third party Bluetooth dongle supports multiple devices better than what comes native on the Mac Mini.

It is not drop dead simple to make this fix. You have to muck around with the bluetooth settings on the Mac to make the dongle work. The best approach is to get into Terminal and type in some instructions which is absolutely not user friendly.

But it does make Bluetooth work a lot better for me. If you are having similar issues, you might want to try it too.

#life lessons


I am in the middle of a week of back to back to back to back all day meetings. Which means I am not responsive on email, which means I am not getting anything done, which means I can’t be easily reached. Which means I am stressed.

In times like this, I like to remind myself of my priorities. What matters most?

For me, I like this line of f words which does not include the one I want to use when I feel like this 🙂

Family, friends, fitness, firm, fires.

Family comes first, always.

Friends are next. They keep us sane and laughing. I have a number of text chats with friends. Thank god for them on days like I’m having this week.

Fitness is next. I make time to ride my bike, do yoga, eat well, meditate, etc. I make time to see my doctors on a regular basis and engage in preventive healthcare. The more stressed I am, the more I do this.

Firm is USV. It takes priority over all other business activities.

Fires are the things that are burning right now and need my attention. This last one is hard because how do you know what is really a fire and what is posing as one to get your attention? That is something you learn from many years fighting fires.

Everything else has to wait on weeks like this. I use weekends to catch up after weeks like this one. That helps. But the thing that helps most is knowing what matters most and focusing on it at the exclusion of everything else.

#life lessons

My "Zoom Room" Keyboard and Trackpad Setup

I’ve written about the power of having a really great setup for doing long video meetings. I call it my “zoom room” because it rhymes. I use Google Meet and a bunch of other video services regularly in my Zoom Room so it’s not so much about the video service I use.

One of the challenges of using a computer (in my case a Mac Mini) from a couch vs a desk is the keyboard and pointing device setup.

My partner Nick suggested this trick and I use it in the office and at home. I buy an Apple Magic Keyboard and an Apple Magic Trackpad and then I snap them together with this piece of plastic called the MagicBridge.

It looks like this:

I find this works really well and if you are putting together a similar setup, I highly recommend it.

#life lessons

Landline Phones

I know so many people who don’t have landline phones. They simply have their cell phone and use it for everything.

But I also know a lot of people who are working from home (or a rented place, a vacation home, etc) right now and struggling with their cell phone reception and other issues.

I grew up in a time before cell phones and have always had a landline phone. I still use a landline phone. But I have used the power of voice over IP (VOIP) and the cloud to make landline phones work better for me and I thought I’d share that “hack” with all of you.

I’ve ported all of the landline numbers I’ve had over the years to the cloud and host them in a cloud-based PBX called Onsip.

I then use a VOIP phone (my favorite right now is a DECT-based VOIP phone from Yealink) to connect to one or more of those numbers in the cloud.

That way, my landline phone number can follow me from my office, to my home, to my Airbnb, to my wherever.

This also allows us to have different numbers; a home number, a work number, multiple work numbers, and even a number that only a few people have (which I like to call “the batphone”).

If you would like to combine the reliablility of a landline phone with the mobility of a cell phone, try a cloud based PBX and VOIP phones. It’s a great combination and works great for us.

#life lessons

Reading On Paper

I’m staring at a pile of paper on my desk that is my stack of things I found on the Internet that I want to read.

It’s a bit ironic to write this on a blog, but if I come across something on my computer or phone that is longer than a page or two, I print it out and read it on paper.

I have found that when I read on a computer screen or phone, I tend to skim. That’s fine for a short email or a short blog post (as this will be).

But it is not great for an eight page blog post, a white paper on a new crypto project, or a memo from one of my colleagues or portfolio companies.

When I read on paper, I often will use a pen to underline or mark-up the document. I find that leads to better comprehension and retention of the concepts.

I’ve noticed that our children, all of whom are in the mid to late 20s, also read books in paper form and mark them up when reading them. So while reading on paper may be a generational thing, I believe it is also a valuable technique for all ages and all generations.

#life lessons

Two Screens

Last December, my friend Brad Feld stopped by to see me in Los Angeles and I proudly showed him my home office with a separate Zoom Room. He looked at me with a quizzical look on his face and said “why don’t you have two screens on the wall?” I asked why and he explained that Zoom allows you to have the gallery on one screen and the person or material presenting on the other. So I added a second screen and was blown away by the better experience in video meetings.

When we left Los Angeles at the beginning of May and returned to NY, I added a second screen to my home office setup here. I honestly can’t imagine a video heavy work day without the second screen.

We have offered our USV employees to pay for upgrading their home work setups. New chairs, new desks, second screen, etc. Many have taken us up on that and I am glad they have. Working from home can be a challenge, but it is way better if you have the right setup.

I would encourage all companies to invest in their employee’s work from home setups and I would especially recommend getting a second screen.

#life lessons


One of the great joys of the work I do is I get to watch the leaders of our portfolio companies grow over time.

I’ve had a number of moments over the last few months where I got off a call or a meeting and thought to myself “wow, she’s a new person.”

Growing as a leader takes time, mistakes, failure, feedback, and a lot of work. You don’t magically show up as the CEO and you are good to go. It’s not like that at all. The authority to make the final call doesn’t mean that you are good at it and that people will line up behind your decisions.

It is a process and like all processes, it requires time and patience. But for those who are committed to personal growth, there is a path.

Two syndromes I see quite frequently are “deer in the headlights” and “I’ve got this.” They are both tell tale signs of a leader who isn’t there yet.

Deer in the headlights is pretty obvious to everyone. The leader just doesn’t seem steady and solid. You can see it in their eyes. I like to provide a leader with deer in the headlights syndrome a lot of support, advice, and constructive feedback. I have seen people go from deers in a headlight to strong decisive leaders in less than a year. It helps to have a gauntlet or two to have to run through. The greater the challenges the deer in the headlight faces, the more quickly they can emerge as a strong leader.

“I’ve got this” is more problematic. The leader acts like they know what they are doing, but they don’t. And everyone around them knows it except them. I like to provide a leader with “I’ve got this” syndrome with a lot of tough love but that is usually not enough. The answer to “I’ve got this” is usually failure of some sort, often a very significant one. The key is to be there for the failing leader in that moment and help them get through the failure and come out of it with self awareness and a desire to address the issues that have gotten in the way.

These are just two of the immature leader syndromes, but they are two very common ones I have seen.

I believe that most people have the capacity to be leaders if they want that for themselves. I also believe that leadership is a skill that you never stop learning. And I believe that it requires self awareness, courage, and deep empathy.

Sitting at a table and watching a skilled leader work is quite a sight to see. And watching someone grow into that person is one of the great joys of my work.

#entrepreneurship#life lessons#management

Timing, Luck, and Surviving

This moment we have been living through over the last two months has put pressure on many companies to figure out how to keep the lights on and stay in business. It has also been a second wind for some companies that have been struggling to survive in difficult sectors like delivery, food, and e-commerce.

At the intersection of those two things lies a truth that I have seen over the years. If you stick around long enough, you can often catch a lucky break. But that lucky break can’t come for you if you didn’t figure out how to stick around long enough.

Survival instincts are something that I have learned to appreciate in founders. There are other things that are important too, possibly more important, like the ability to get the right product to market, the ability to sell, recruit and raise, and the ability to inspire and lead. Those are all necessary for success.

But the survival instinct is related to luck, which is an underrated factor in success. You can’t be lucky unless you are at the right place at the right time. And you have to survive for that to happen.

#life lessons

Event Driven Growth

I realize that most businesses are suffering greatly in this pandemic. Many have been shut completely.

But there are some that are experiencing the opposite situation. They have a growth spurt as a result of this moment. Businesses in food delivery, e-commerce, online education, telehealth, remote work, and cloud infrastructure are examples of such situations.

I’ve seen event driven growth spurts over the years. A plane lands in the Hudson and everyone heads to Twitter to see it. A competitor is shut down and everyone shows up on your door. Crypto gets hot and everyone wants in on the action. That sort of thing.

And I’ve been talking to leaders who are experiencing this and wondering how to model out what happens when and if things return to normal.

Each situation is different but a framework I like is to take your pre-event baseline, your event driven peak, and assume you will give up half of the delta when things return to normal and that will be your new baseline.

That won’t be right of course. It’s a model. You can revise as real data comes in.

But what it suggests is that not all of your new customers will stick around. But some will. And you will have a new and higher baseline. That has been true of almost every event driven growth spurt I have seen in my career.

#entrepreneurship#life lessons#management