Reliving Keyssa’s Early Years: An Evening with Stanford MBA Students

By Steve Venuti, VP Strategic Solutions

Last Thursday evening, I spent 2 hours at Stanford’s Business School participating in Rob Siegel’s class entitled: “Entrepreneurship – Formation of New Ventures.” Stanford has written a case study on the transitional days of Keyssa when Eric Almgren was brought in as CEO and all the management issues associated with that kind of fundamental organizational change.

It was two hours of thrashing through key decisions made about funding, the management team, strategic partners and company strategy. For Eric, I can imagine it was half therapy and half reliving what can be likened to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride!

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Here’s what I walked away with:

First and foremost – complete respect for the students in that class. Sharp and inquisitive, I was amazed at how fast they drilled down to the fundamental issues and shot laser-focused questions that clearly demonstrated a grasp of the core issues.

And Rob Siegel, who led this class with a combination of overly-caffeinated high energy that at any time, could be directed at one student as he challenged them to make a decision and stand by it. “You’re asking me to make a decision on the basis of only 15 pages of information,” one student bemoaned. Rob’s retort: “You never have enough information…now what are you going to do?”

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And in the end, after all the dust settles, I’m left with a no-so-original conclusion about how so many of these critical decisions are made. You go with your gut. Oh sure, you look at the facts, you pore over the details, you negotiate the fine points, you talk to your management team, you talk to your Board. But in the end, you go with your gut. Who are the right strategic partners? Who are the right management team members? Who are the best first customers?

Most of these tough decisions are never easy, and rarely is the answer clear. But you just do it, based on your core belief that it’s the right thing to do. Not every decision is going to be the correct one, but more often than not, if you take the time to listen, hear and digest the information at hand, let it rattle around in your head and your gut, you can at least be satisfied that the best decision was made given the facts at hand. And that’s the best you can do.

Many thanks to Ryan Kissick who put this case together and spent the time to understand Keyssa’s business. Thanks to Scott Brady who also helped teach the class. Thanks to Jim Whims, one of Keyssa’s key investors and Board member, for attending and participating. And a huge thank you to Rob Siegel, whose led this class of over a hundred of the brightest business students in the nation and challenged them to assume a leadership role and make hard decisions.

Keyssa’s Business Case: “Unraveling the Laws of Physics” can be purchased at the Harvard Business Review Store: https://hbr.org/product/keyssa-unraveling-the-laws-of-physics/E599-PDF-ENG

“You never have enough information…now what are you going to do?”

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