Part 1 of 3.
My guest for this week’s episode is Kittu Kolluri, Founder and Managing Director of Neotribe Ventures, an early- and growth-stage venture capital firm investing in companies that solve hard technical problems and disrupt non-traditional industry sectors. Neotribe is led by a team of serial entrepreneurs with a track record of supporting and advising startups from seed round to IPO.
As a Silicon Valley veteran with a career spanning three decades, Kittu has had numerous roles before his time at Neotribe Ventures. Some highlights include working as an engineer at Silicon Graphics, co-founding Healtheon/WebMD, being the founder and CEO of Neoteris, and investing in over four dozen successful companies as a general partner at NEA.
Join us as we sit down with Kittu to talk about his childhood in Hyderabad and his recollection of the many serendipitous accidents that have occurred in his life. He talks about his experience as a first-generation immigrant getting into entrepreneurship, and the differences between his and his parent’s generation. He also discusses how he got into computer science, his time at Silicon Graphics, and his opinion on why culture can make or break a startup.
Please enjoy my conversation with Kittu Kolluri.
Staffing Your Startup https://www.excedr.com/blog/staffing-your-startup
Writing a Business Plan https://www.excedr.com/resources/how-to-write-a-business-plan-for-biotechs
What Is Startup Valuation https://www.excedr.com/resources/startup-valuations
Biotech Funding for Startups https://www.excedr.com/resources/biotech-startup-funding-options
Bootstrapping Your Biotech Startup https://www.excedr.com/resources/how-to-bootstrap-biotech-startup
Silicon Graphics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silicon_Graphics
Grant Funding for Biotech Startups https://www.excedr.com/resources/grants-public-funding-biotech-startups
Naming Your Startup https://www.excedr.com/resources/naming-your-startup
Pre-Money vs. Post-Money https://www.excedr.com/resources/pre-money-vs-post-money
Should You Incorporate in Delaware https://www.excedr.com/resources/incorporating-your-biotech-startup
Shankar Srinivasan https://www.linkedin.com/in/srinivasanshankar/
Pavan Nigam https://www.linkedin.com/in/pavannigam/
Kittu Kolluri is the Founder and Managing Director of Neotribe Ventures, an early- and growth-stage venture capital firm investing in companies that solve hard technical problems and disrupt non-traditional industry sectors. Neotribe Ventures is a team of serial entrepreneurs with a track record of supporting and advising startups from seed round to IPO. Kittu is a Silicon Valley veteran with a career spanning three decades, and has had numerous roles before his time at Neotribe Ventures. Some of those roles include engineer at Silicon Graphics, co-founding Healtheon/WebMD, being the founder and CEO of Neoteris, and investing in over four dozen successful companies as a general partner at NEA.
Intro - 00:00:01: Welcome to The Biotech Startups Podcast by Excedr. Join us as we speak with first-time founders, serial entrepreneurs, and experienced investors about the challenges and triumphs of running a biotech startup from pre-seed to IPO with your host, John Chee.
Jon - 00:00:22: My guest today is Kittu Kolluri, Founder and Managing director of Neotribe Ventures, an early and growth stage venture capital firm investing in companies that solve hard technical problems and disrupt non-traditional industry sectors. Neotribe is led by a team of serial entrepreneurs with a track record of supporting and advising startups from seed round to IPO. Neotribe's passion lies in helping founders usher in the next wave of transformative technology. As a Silicon Valley veteran with a career spanning three decades, Kittu had numerous roles before his time at Neotribe Ventures. Some highlights include working as an engineer at Silicon Graphics, co-founding Healtheon/WebMD, being founder and CEO of Neoteris, and investing in over four dozen successful companies as a general partner at NEA. Over the next three episodes, we cover a wide range of topics, including immigrating to the United States, his experience co-founding Healtheon/WebMD, his pivot into venture capital, and the thesis upon which he founded Neotribe Ventures. Today, we'll discuss Kittu’s childhood in India, his exposure to entrepreneurship upon arrival in the United States, and what it was like working at Silicon Graphics during the dot-com bubble. Without further ado, let's dive into this episode of the Biotech Startups Podcast. Kittu, so good to see you again. Thanks for taking the time to jump on the podcast.
Kittu - 00:01:36: Thanks, Jon.
Jon - 00:01:37: Really, really looking forward to this, you know, as the team and I have been kind of doing our homework, kind of figuring out a fun place to start. We wanted to kind of go back in time and dig in a little bit into your early days and your early career. So the listeners out there can learn vicariously through your lived experiences. Going back during your adolescence and upbringing, what got you into entrepreneurship? And was there like an early interest in science and company building?
Kittu - 00:02:03: I'd say my forte into entrepreneurship was bit of an accident. In fact, a lot of things in my life were a series of accidents. I mean, I grew up in a town called Hyderabad in India in the 70s and 80s before going off to IT for my undergraduate studies. I had a keen interest in math and science from a very young age, but it was more on the academic side of things, a desire to excel academically. I don't think there was much of an entrepreneurship culture before. In India at that time, particularly, you know, where I was growing up, it was only after I came here to the US that I got exposed to that. But even when I came here to the US, it was for graduate studies. And then I moved to the Bay Area for a job. And as you can imagine, as a first generation immigrant, My focus was on getting a job going from F1 visa to practical training, from practical training to H1B, The thought of going off and starting a company never really crossed my mind. My vision was very close to my eyes, if you will.
Jon – 00:03:23: Yeah, totally.
Kittu – 00:03:24: And that's how most of us as first-generation immigrants then, and I'm talking the late 80s, early 90s here.
Jon - 00:03:32: It's interesting you describing this experience because my father is also a first generation immigrant and definitely had a similar kind of lens. It was like, I need stability. We didn't move all the way here to find something that was not stable.
Kittu - 00:03:47: I got married when I was still a graduate student. And so I told my wife, then my new bride, I said, let me go back to the US and I'll get a job and then I'll sponsor you. And she's like, uh-uh. I'm going with you. So she came with me on F1 visa. We somehow managed. And at that time, my priority was, you know, getting a job so I can provide for my young family.
Jon - 00:04:15: Absolutely.
Kittu - 00:04:16: And so it was later at Silicon Graphics, when James Clark, who was our chairman, left to start Netscape, and which kind of started the internet bubble as we know it. That was when I got my first taste of entrepreneurship, vicariously, mind you, in the sense that he asked me if I wanted to come join Netscape and in my infinite wisdom, I turned him down. However, he came back after Netscape went public and became a multibillion-dollar company, and he became a billionaire. He came back and he said, I want to apply these, web technologies into a whole new domain, and which was healthcare. And that's what started Healtheon, which then went on to become Healtheon/WebMD, and then MDeon and WebMD and things like that. So that's when he said, come join me. And so, you know, two of us joined him in that effort. And that was when I first got a taste of entrepreneurship. We literally were the first two folks to wheel in the chairs. We worked out of Kleiner Perkins' office to begin with. We were plotting as to who should be recruited from Silicon Graphics. In fact, our first 15 employees were Silicon Graphics employees. And we got a notice from them saying, a seasoned dissist notice from Silicon Graphics. But that's how we got started.
Jon - 00:05:50: I love hearing where the origins of this original spark came from. And when I look back on my entrepreneurial journey, it was the same way. It was very much accidental, could not have predicted it. It looks more clear when you're looking retrospectively, but in the moment, you're just like, where am I going? Where is this going to go?
Kittu - 00:06:09: 100%. And you are second generation within your family. When I called my parents and I told them that I was going to start a company, my dad was actually unsure about it. He was like, you know, are you sure you're leaving a stable job and things like that. My mom on the other hand was like, okay, go for it. And she definitely had a little bit of that risk-taking streak in her. And so I convinced them that it was all going to be good and that I still was going to.
Jon - 00:06:42: That's amazing because I had an identical experience. And obviously you've had a much story longer career than me, but I still like 13 years in, my dad will sometimes come over to me and be like, “are you going to go to law school or medical school?” And I'm just like, “I've been doing this for more than a decade now”. But in a similar fashion, my mother was like, “go for it". Like, just, you'll be okay. Just go for it. I love hearing those stories.
Kittu - 00:07:08: Yeah, I'll tell you a funny story. There was a guy called Shankar who was working for me. And when I recruited him into Healtheon. He went from being a manager to being an engineer, but it was a principal engineer. He was one of our lead engineers. Brilliant guy. And his parents gave him a bit of a hard time. They were like, you're going from a manager, you're taking a step down to becoming an engineer, principal engineer. Isn't that like a demotion kind of thing? And he was like, no, no, no, not at all. You know, it's a completely different company, different track and things like that. And, you know, but that was the prevailing culture, particularly coming from a country like India, where entrepreneurship wasn't really much of a cultural thing. You have to understand that. India, at least at that time, it's changed some, although I'll say there's still pockets of India where that culture prevails. Where failure has a stigma too. And there are several countries, I would say even countries like Israel, notwithstanding the amount of entrepreneurship that comes out of it, there's still a stigma around failure within some of those countries. And so India was no exception. So you were better off in India working for the government or some established company rather than working for some small company. I'll tell you another funny story. I graduated from IT Madras and then I had a few months to kill before coming out here to the US. And my best friend and I were watching a lot of movies, you know, we'd go on for an afternoon show, evening show. And one day I came back home for dinner. My dad, he really gave me a tongue lashing. He's like, “why are you wasting all your time? Why don't you go get a job?” I felt a little guilty and I went and got a job. I looked for some jobs and I actually interviewed at two places and they couldn't be more different. One was a company called Praga Tools, which was an Indo-Czech joint venture, public venture. And the other was a company called OMC Computers. I got both offers. I came back proudly to my home and I told my dad and mom, I got both these offers, but I'm going to go join OMC Computers. And honestly, if I were to think back, it was an inflection in my career. My father was like, “what, you're walking away from Praga Tools?” And I'm like, Dad, I'm going to the US so what difference does it make I'd rather develop some skills at OMC computers because those will hold me in good stead but that was the mindset that was the difference in the mindset between my parents' generation and my generation
Jon - 00:09:57: Absolutely. And I know when you were studying in university at Madras, you studied mechanical engineering. Was that transition like from mechanical engineering to now focusing at CMC Computers? Was that just like for your parents, just like the shock to the system that you're not only like you're going to America and you're kind of turned down this opportunity?
Kittu – 00:10:17: You're not pursuing mechanical engineering.
Jon - 00:10:19: Yes, exactly.
Jon – 00:10:20: I don't think they worried that much about it, that you were transitioning from mechanical engineering to computer science at OMC Computers. It was more the big public company versus a small company. And I'd already indicated to them that, look, the world at that time was moving more towards having a knowledge of how computers work was a prerequisite. If you thought about how economics was a prerequisite on the liberal arts and social sciences, computer science was rapidly becoming a prerequisite on the technology side. And so while I'm happy that I did the mechanical engineering, I wouldn't be where I am if I did not embellish it with the computer science background.
Jon - 00:11:10: Totally. And as you finished up kind of the months in between your undergraduate and your graduate studies, Did you always know that you were going to end up at Buffalo? Was that always on the horizon or was that something that you kind of like, yeah, this looks good.
Kittu - 00:11:24: No, I think like most students who are graduating from an IIT or an NIT or a BITS Pilani, which are some of the best universities in the country, and you had aspirations to go abroad for graduate studies, you typically applied for a bunch of universities. And I remember, you know, I got into USC, but I didn't get an assistantship. And they said, you come here and we'll see. And whereas at SONY, I got the assistantship and my parents weren't, nowhere could they have afforded sending me and paying for my education. So we were a middle class family. And so I had to find a way to finance my own graduate studies.
Jon - 00:12:08: Absolutely. And USC is not cheap.
Kittu - 00:12:11: USC is a private university, not cheap. And you know, the other thing that was a kicker was in-state tuition versus out-of-state tuition. That was another kicker. So if you went to USC as a foreign national, you had to pay out-of-state tuition. So without a tuition waiver and an assistantship, you were done for.
Jon - 00:12:31: Totally. And your mechanical engineering background, you then got into like dabble into like kind of computer science a little bit. And you ended up at SUNY. I know you studied operations research. What drew you to that field of study?
Kittu - 00:12:44: Well, doing operations research from a mechanical engineering degree was kind of a natural transition. To me, OR and industrial engineering were kind of like a quantitative MBA, if you will, Jon. But what I got there was I got a lot of exposure to computer science because at Buffalo, our was housed in the same building as the CS department. And so I used to bump into a lot of computer science students. I started taking some courses in computer science. And so that's how I got exposed to it and developed an interest in it.
Jon - 00:13:27: That's amazing. I love hearing that because I was speaking to a previous guest of ours, Singh, Manish, and he was saying that he had a similar experience where he was previously studying physics and then just by happenstance was walking around and bumping into bio folks. Started to get that exposure, which kind of just like opens up a whole new field that you never knew existed. And I love hearing that because it really kind of shows it may feel a little bit unplanned, but sometimes you just need to put yourself out there and get as much exposure as possible and be open to these opportunities.
Kittu - 00:14:02: 100%. You know, I like to say this, that your undergraduate degree teaches you how to teach yourself. I would be lying to you if I told you that somehow I had a dream one day that I wanted to become a mechanical engineer. No. In India, you write an entrance examination. And based on the rank you get, you're basically matched with an institute and a department. So it's very close to the matching algorithm of you did an, what is that? It's called the MCAT, right? For the medicine degree. It's very similar to that. I mean, so you literally fill out this thing during your orientation, this form, and you say, okay, I want to be at this university and this department. And the computer takes over and then matches you and they come back and tell you what university you're going to and for what department. So I didn't know if I would have any aptitude for mechanical engineering. And in hindsight, I am so glad I studied mechanical engineering because it gave me exposure to a wide variety of disciplines. I got exposure to thermodynamics, to material science. I got exposure to computer science. I got exposure to electronics, electrical engineering. So it was like a melting pot of sorts. And so I'm really glad. I like to say, thanks to that degree, I know what I don't know, which helps me a great deal in my current job because the worst thing is if you don't know what you don't know because then you have a whole lot of hubris around how hard could this be. But when you know what you don't know, you're able to underwrite the risk that you're taking. And you know what kind of questions to ask. And you know how to price that risk. So that was what mechanical engineering taught me. It taught me how to teach myself. And I came here and I really fell in love with computer science. And then moved out here to the West Coast, spent a little bit of time at UCSC before starting work at Silicon Graphics.
Jon - 00:16:14: Being at SONY and then coming out to California and the West Coast, how did the opportunity to work at Silicon Graphics come about? Was it someone that you had met during your grad program or was it something where you're just like, I'm going to go out on a whim and I'm just going to give a shot to this?
Kittu - 00:16:31: It was really family initially that attracted me to California. I had at that time, I think, three cousins, three first cousins who all lived here in California, particularly Northern California. And so that was an attraction. And then in terms of the job, after I got married, as I mentioned, I was looking for a job. And I got referred into Silicon Graphics by a graduate student friend of mine. And then interviewed there and I got the job.
Jon - 00:17:03: That's amazing. And Silicon Graphics is like a storied institution.
Kittu - 00:17:07: I'll tell you, Jon, Silicon Valley is such a fun company to be at. I used to come back and tell my wife, I can't believe these guys are paying me to work here. It was so much fun. Just working on those 3D graphics workstations And just even using the file browser to go look at files, and everything's in 3D, things like that. And the projects we worked on, and the culture within Silicon Graphics, it cherished the engineers in the company. And so we felt like rock stars inside the company. And honestly, in hindsight, maybe to a certain extent to our detriment, because we were very much like a technology-driven company. Build it and they will come. And that worked for a certain period of time, but it crashed and burned after some time.
Jon - 00:18:02: Absolutely. And all the stories I've heard about Silicon Graphics, at least in my mind's eye, I'm envisioning like working on things like the Nintendo 64 and Jurassic Park. I guess let me back up. Were you involved in those projects?
Kittu - 00:18:15: Well, I was involved in the interactive television project that we did. The first interactive television project, which was the Orlando Project, And Jim Clark actually wrote a paper in SIGGRAPH called Telecomputer . And it was his vision that the television and the computer would converge. And rumor has it that Gerald Levin, who was then the chairman CEO of Time Warner, read that paper, reached out to Jim and said, that's how we got our first $20 million investment into that effort. And so I was very much involved in the first interactive television system end-to-end. It was called the Roadrunner Project. And so that was a lot of fun. I mean, I got thanks to that project. I got to meet Michael Jackson. You know, Dreamworks SKG launched on the Silicon Graphics campus. And Clinton Al Gore launched their presidential campaign on our campus. Louie Lewis performed at the Silicon Graphics campus. I mean, we were a hot ticket in time. Steven Spielberg rented an entire theater to show Jurassic Park to all the Silicon Graphics employees.
Jon – 00:19:37: Holy crap.
Kittu – 00:19:38: First day, first show.
Jon - 00:19:39: That's so crazy.
Kittu - 00:19:40: So that was a fun time. And that was when, you know, I fell in love with being a software engineer. You know, I don't know if you had a software engineering background, but I'm sure a lot of software engineers in your audience can relate to this. You get into a problem-solving mode and you get into a zone. And it's like meditation. When you're in that zone, the world is, you're oblivious to the rest of the world. And I should love it that much.
Jon - 00:20:10: That's amazing. I'm so jealous of that experience. It is crazy. And I totally think that like looking back, that was like very novel at that time where it was just like engineering first. And of that era, it made, you know, it was kind of the hyper growth tech company, 1.0, 2.0, kind of of that era. And as you started like as Silicon Graphics was like hyperscaling, what was your experience with like, in addition to getting into a flow state with your actual, you know, engineering, what was it like to be at an organization that's just like rapidly growing from a business perspective?
Kittu - 00:20:43: Well, that's how I got into engineering management. So I was doing very well as an engineer. And one day I got a call. I was actually on a customer visit to Rhode Island. And I got a call from my manager's manager, my director. And he says, your manager has been promoted out of the organization to become director of another group. And I'd like to promote you to be manager of this group, the workshop. And truth be told, I was a little shell shocked. And there was a certain element of apprehension in me. She's like, will my skills as an engineer decay? And I bet you there are a lot of engineers that go through this. And I didn't say yes or no then. So I said, probably, can I call you back in just a minute?
Jon - 00:21:36: Yeah.
Kittu - 00:21:36: So I had to talk to someone. So I called my wife and I said, you know, Aditya, this is what Bain is asking me. I want to do this. And we discussed it for a bit and said, okay, I'm going to say yes. And it was, I'd say, a weak yes at that time. I said yes, took it on. And I'll tell you, the first few years of being a manager were not a bed of roses. I screwed up in every which way possible. And I thought I'd surely get fired. And in fact, I reminded our vice president. I'd screwed up in a big way. And waiting was then our vice president called me. And I was literally shivering in front of him. Literally. I was like, okay, he's basically going to fire my ass. And he was sitting on this windowsill. And he says to me, Kittu Kolluri, you're one lucky son of a bitch. What? Where's he going with that? And I was like 28, 29 at that time. I was probably one of the youngest managers in all of Silicon Graphics. And he says, “if you made the same mistake 10 years later, your career is shot. Go back to your job. Don't do it again. Learn from this mistake”.
Jon - 00:22:53: Oh my goodness. And that is the baptism of fire. And I think those kinds of experiences too are like, there's only so much you can do when you read it in a book. Like here's the theory on how you should manage properly.
Kittu - 00:23:07: There's a lot of learning that I got from my personal experiences. And I wasn't that smart to learn from others at that time. Since then I've gotten a little smarter. But at that time, I was making every mistake in the book. But failure taught me a lot. And I actually like to say this, that you learn more from your failures. In fact, you should make an effort to learn more from your failures. And that's what happened in my case. And I'm fortunate that I went through this and people still bet on me.
Jon - 00:23:41: Absolutely. Speaking of these hard lessons learned while at Silicon Graphics, are there any standout stories or memories of a specific time you failed, but you took away a very key lesson?
Kittu - 00:23:52: Yeah, I remember a time when I released a product knowing full well that, its quality wasn't up to par. And the customer reaction was very strong. And that was a hard lesson because that pride of ownership is really important. And I told myself, I'm never going to put out something that I can't be proud of.
Jon - 00:24:18: Absolutely. And I think there's kind of like schools of thought when it comes to like launching products. There's like sometimes like ship, ship, ship, ship the product, and then we'll kind of like fix it as we go. But what you're describing is a little bit in the different direction where it's like, let's take our time with this. You know exactly what you said. We want to get it right if we're going to launch it at all.
Kittu - 00:24:36: I mean, engineering is all about making choices and compromises. But there is a line beyond which you're putting out crap. And you don't want to do that.
Jon - 00:24:49: Yep. That's absolutely true.
Kittu - 00:24:51: And the lesson there for me was I should have been stronger as a leader at that time.
Jon - 00:24:56: Totally. And as you were wrapping up your time at Silicon Graphics, looking back, were there any mentors or colleagues that really left a lasting impression on you?
Kittu - 00:25:06: Oh, 100%. As I mentioned, of course, it starts with Jim. I got to know Jim as a person and as a friend and as a mentor, And that was very fortunate. I've spoken about this and it's been written about in the book, New New Thing by Michael Lewis. And so I won't bore you with the gory details, but I got a chance to get to know Jim at a personal level by happenstance because he happened to call me or a problem that he was having, and I happened to solve it for him. And then he would come over to my office, and he was the chairman of the company, coming over, hanging out with me. I'm like this low-life engineer in the company. But, you know, we had a similar sense of humor. I think that was what he enjoyed. He enjoyed coming over to my office and telling me the joke of the day that he had heard, and I would tell him what I had heard. And there was no expectation from either side. So he's clearly somebody. And of course, you know, we went on to do Healtheon/WebMD. He was my chairman at Neoteris. So he has invested and supported me all through. So he's somebody I owe a lot to. My director that I mentioned to you, Pavan, Pavan Nigam. He's someone who is a dear friend, mentor, just a great partner in crime. He and I were the first two guys that Jim recruited to Healtheon. And so he's someone I've had a long association with, where, you know, we have agreed, disagreed, fought over. But at the same time, you know, there's always this affection for each other and for our respective families. I mean, we become like real close personal friends, right? And now I'm kind of a mentor to his kids and vice versa. So that's another person who is being a very important person. Started off as a professional relationship, went on to become more of a personal relationship. There's an organizational development consultant I met at Juniper Networks. Who was hugely impactful and again became a very dear friend, Jocelyn Kang. I mentioned waiting. I enjoyed watching waiting as manager and a leader. I enjoyed watching Tom. McCracken, and how they led. Tom, in particular, I got to know him a bit, but nowhere near as closely as I knew Jim and Pavan. So there were, along the way, some people that helped me in my journey. And then fast forward to my venture capital career. There are so many people that I've learned from, and they don't even know that I've learned a lot.
Jon - 00:28:10: I would agree. I feel like there are clearly these like pillars and mentors who kind of like take you on their wing. It's almost like an apprenticeship almost. But in every interaction, there's something to learn from the person on the other side. Be it small, large, there's always something to learn, which I've always thought as a mental model.
Kittu – 00:28:27: I want to be a student for life.
Jon – 00:28:28: Absolutely. And it's funny when you're talking about you being recruited early days to Healtheon kind of having these kind of butting head moments and kind of disagreeing. And I always think about like what makes for an early healthy team. And it's that healthy disagreement. But it comes from a place of like respect. And it comes from a place of wanting the best out of your teammate, where it really, that's where magic happens. And my co founder, we're like, pretty much the opposite of each other. You know, we disagree all the time. But it's never out of a place of malice. And I think when I look back on like, I'm so grateful for that kind of opposites coexisting, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Kittu - 00:29:07: Yeah, 100%. You know, Jocelyn F. Olson actually likes to say this, and I totally agree with her on this. She says, you know, trust is when you can have conflict without any kind of attribution of mal-intent or without any attribution of some hidden agenda. That's what trust is. To when you can have conflict, without Singh, oh, I know why you're saying this because you have this other agenda. That's the very definition of trust.
Jon - 00:29:39: Absolutely. And when you have that trust as a team, you just move faster. You're able to execute at a velocity that just, like, if you're second guessing whoever your team is, you're going to move very slow.
Kittu - 00:29:51: And when you don't have that, it will completely destroy the chemistry of the organization.
Jon - 00:29:56: Which I think is something that is, when we think about like company success or company failures, and you kind of do like an autopsy on what happened, kind of being a student of entrepreneurship and startups, it seems like a lot of the teams and the companies that don't make it is because there's like this infighting and lack of trust. You kind of destroy yourself from the inside out.
Kittu - 00:30:18: Here's the thing, right? Why does a startup succeed? A startup succeeds because everyone's pushing the border in one direction. The border has no choice but to move. And why does a startup win over a large company? Because... Not everyone's pushing the same direction within a large company. But if you have people within a startup or an upstart tugging in different directions, that company is destined for failure. You know, I like to talk about this in some of my leadership talks The first few employees in a company feel like owners. I call it this. The employees who have had an office in the first office, they feel like owners of the company. They don't mind doing the janitorial work. There is pride of ownership, and they don't care about titles or anything like that. But then you move to the second office as you expand, and now you're hiring the second wave of people. They still want to make some money, but they know they're not going to make that kind of money because by that time, the company has been sufficiently de-risked. And so they're also looking to pad their resume. And so now what happens is you start to see the emergence of these microcultures, Jon, and that can be a recipe for disaster if you're not careful. And that's when leadership matters to say, hey, here is what our value system is. Here is what our culture is. And you want to make that culture statement overt rather than covert. You literally want to formalize it. So that everyone knows, here is how we operate. Here is how we do business. And why is culture important? Culture is important because that gives every employee a blueprint on how to act when no one's looking. How to make decisions when no one's looking. Because you say, okay, here's basically my value system. And here is the best practices of this organization. That's why culture is that important.
Jon - 00:32:38: I couldn’t agree more because I think my team probably gets annoyed with me when I'm like repeating the same North Star and just trying to drive it home. But exactly what you, you know, thinking about companies as they grow, you just have entropy. It's a more complex system and things are going to get disorganized, whether it be, you know, work processes or just exactly what you said, just like these like microcultures that are starting to crop up. We're a smaller company, so we haven't had to experience too many of these like kind of instances, but it always seems for me incredibly valuable to just continue to beat that drum and just remind of like, why do we do what we do? And this is how we do it. And it's important for hiring too.
Kittu - 00:33:20: It is. You may have heard the old adage, practice what you preach. A leader needs to preach what he or she practices to. Because that's how you evangelize, what's the company's value system.
Jon - 00:33:40: Totally.
Outro - 00:33:42: That's all for this episode of The Biotech Startups Podcast. We hope you enjoyed our discussion with Kittu Kolluri. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave us a review and share it with your friends. Thanks for listening. And we look forward to having you join us again for part two of our conversation with Kittu. The Biotech Startups Podcast is produced by Excedr. Don't want to miss an episode? Search for The Biotech Startups Podcast wherever you get your podcasts and click subscribe. Excedr provides research labs with equipment leases on founder-friendly terms to support paths to exceptional outcomes. To learn more, visit our website, www.excedr.com. On behalf of the team here at Excedr, thanks for listening. The Biotech Startups podcast provides general insights into the life science sector through the experiences of its guests. The use of information on this podcast or materials linked from the podcast is at the user's own risk. The views expressed by the participants are their own and are not the views of Excedr or sponsors. No reference to any product, service or company in the podcast is an endorsement by Excedr or its guests.