What I’ve Learned From 25 Years in the Tech Industry


Building and running a successful startup in America’s fiercely competitive tech industry is never easy. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution or manual for how to go about it. But as they say, experience is the best teacher. So it’s my pleasure to share with you some of my own experiences and observations in building and managing tech companies.

I began my journey in the tech industry over 25 years ago, working my way up to senior management roles in IT companies such as LoudCloud (renamed Opsware), NorthPoint Communications (which was later sold to AT&T), and IBM. For the last 10 years, I’ve served as the CEO of MetricStream, a Silicon Valley-based governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) company which I helped build from the ground up.

I’ve learned several important lessons—not only from my personal career journey, but also from the challenges and successes of my clients and peers in the industry. Here are a few key lessons which have stood me in good stead:

Innovate! Then, Protect Your Innovations

When we first formed the new MetricStream in 2004, our aim was to offer a robust compliance product built on an enterprise platform for end-to-end compliance management, to help companies better manage their risks. But we soon realized that customers were struggling with a wide range of compliance process issues across many regulations. So we extended our platform to address broader requirements around risk management, audits, supplier governance, and IT GRC. Given the new focus, we detected a need for collaboration and training. We launched ComplianceOnline.com, a portal for GRC professionals. And today, we continue to innovate, developing GRC products around social media, mobility, big data, and the like.

If you want to stay relevant, you have to innovate. The good news is that startups are great places for innovation because there are fewer stakeholders and more openness to ideas. But a word of caution: protect your ideas. Take a cue from Blaze Mobile, a leader in near field communication (NFC) technology. At a time when resources were scarce, Blaze Mobile invested in filing multiple patents for things like NFC mobile payments, NFC stickers, mobile ticketing, and more. Today, the company has over 30 patents and is well-positioned not only to effectively protect its intellectual property, but also to generate revenue by licensing out and monetizing its patents.

Be Quick and Agile

There was a time when Kodak dominated film and camera sales in America. Then came the digital revolution. Photography started to shift away from traditional analog film, but Kodak didn’t evolve quickly or effectively enough. And by the time they did, it was too late—the market had been taken over by other players with more advanced technology.

Speed and agility are two of the biggest advantages that tech startups have over their larger, more established counterparts. But it’s easy to get complacent, especially after you’ve tasted some measure of success. Meanwhile, markets will have moved on, customer expectations will have changed, and the competition will have caught up. So, if you want to stay ahead, you have to … Next Page »

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Shellye Archambeau is CEO of MetricStream, a Palo Alto, CA-based company offering governance, risk, compliance, and quality management solutions to enterprises in the pharmaceutical, medical device, high tech manufacturing, energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, food and beverage, and automotive industries. Follow @metricstream

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