Monday, January 17, 2011

Q&A with Seth Rudnick: Leadership and CEOs

Below is my conversation with Seth Rudnick, Venture Partner at Canaan Partners. Seth is the moderator for CED’s upcoming Biotech Forum on January 19 – CEO Panel: Leadership in Changing Times.

Q: What are some of the key lessons that you can share about your time as a CEO?

A: Being the CEO of a small company was incredibly complicated and had unique problems that aren’t necessarily the same as those faced in a larger company. The CEO of the small company has a complicated job, with few resources to draw upon. The CEO must determine and manage the key issues from this limited resource base, but must also be capable of delegating what he or she can. In that regard, they must understand their own strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with talent to fill in the critical gaps. The most important attributes for a CEO are: strategic, tactical, human resources, financial, and technical. No matter how skilled, a CEO rarely has more than one or two of these strengths and it’s vital to hire others that do.

At a small company, the CEO is always financially constrained and can rarely execute in all desired markets or areas; he or she needs to understand the highest and best use of available resources. They must find the application of their product or service that best fits achievable goals and stay focused on those goals. Companies must have great technology and people, but it is iortant that they have a path identified and clear milestones to mark and assess the company's progress.

Q: How important is the CEO as you look to invest in a company?

A: The CEO is ultimately responsible for building the team and program. We lookfor companies with CEO’s that understand these key points. Although our firm will evaluate all of the critical parameters of a firm, unless that firm is a raw start up, the CEO is critical to our decision.

Q: It is often said that RTP lacks adequate leadership talent... What is your response?

A: I don’t think RTP lacks leadership talent, but we do lack sufficient money and financial leadership to support all of our talent. The talent isn’t an issue, we need a stronger support system to help incubate and support theseentrepreneurs. In my experience, I’ve rarely had trouble attracting entrepreneurial talent to this community. Theclimate, academics, quality of life, and fellow entrepreneurs draw people to this area.

Click here for more information on CED’s Biotech Forum on January 19:

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