Valley of the Jobs

Gary Megennis explains why confidence and fearlessness top blue-chip credentials and process in Silicon Valley.


Who he is: Gary Megennis, managing director, Kindred Partners


Who He’s Placed: Jeffrey Housenbold, CEO, Shutterfly Inc.; Christine King, CEO, AMI Semiconductor; Hank Nothhaft, CEO, Danger

Your firm placed Meg Whitman at eBay when it had less than $1 million in revenue. What single trait do you think ensures success when running an early-stage tech company?

Confidence. We’re asking the executives who join our companies to do something very difficult. They’re going to have limited resources, somewhere between no money in the bank and $20 million. They’re joining a company that no one has ever heard of before. Their competitors are 100 times their size, and they’re doing something that is probably brand new. If you’re not confident in your own ability on day one, you’re screwed.

Can that be developed if you don’t have it?

The best way to cultivate that kind of confidence is to put yourself in positions throughout your career where you’re working for a manager who doesn’t give you the answers, who’s not afraid to throw you into things you’ve never done before.

Can working for a blue-chip company hurt your chances of breaking into the startup world?

It has less to do with the company you’re working for and more to do with what you’re doing. Just yesterday I met with this chap who has spent 20 years at IBM. I looked at his background: “I restructured this sales organization.” “I managed the integration of this acquisition.” It’s organizational, it’s process-oriented. He’s very successful, and I bet every search firm on the planet would love this chap. But he’s not going to be a guy who grows the value of a tech startup from $10 million to a billion dollars. We love the people who say, “We had this brand new product, we had no idea what the hell we were going to do with it, and I had to figure it out. It was a lot of fun.” Whether it was successful or not is almost secondary.

About the author

Danielle Sacks is an award-winning journalist and a former senior writer at Fast Company magazine. She's chronicled some of the most provocative people in business, with seven cover stories that included profiles on J.Crew's Jenna Lyons, Malcolm Gladwell, and Chelsea Clinton