"What is an Entrepreneur?", Lecture by Jeff Hawkins (2002)

Video Lectures

Displaying all 22 video lectures.
Lecture 1
What is an Entrepreneur?
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What is an Entrepreneur?

Jeff Hawkins, co-founder of Handspring, has never thought of himself as an entrepreneur.Being an entrepreneur is not a career choice, he says, but is something you do at certain points in your life because you have to. Hawkins believes entrepreneurship is a means to an end, as opposed to an end in itself.
Lecture 2
Genesis of Palm Computing
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Genesis of Palm Computing

Hawkins talks about his life, his education and work experience. He started his career at Intel for 3 years and then moved to a start-up that he did not start. While working at the latter he created his first product - first pen-based computer. He soon realised that all personal computing ought to be smaller and simpler. With this thought he started on the path to try and accelerate this shift - and that was the genesis of Palm computing.
Lecture 3
The Accidental Entrepreneur: Palm History
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The Accidental Entrepreneur: Palm History

Hawkins never really wanted to start a company, he admits. He considers himself an accidental entrepreneur who was approached by two venture capitalists while planning on building a small product.
Lecture 4
Story of Acquisition: Palm, US Robotics, 3Com
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Story of Acquisition: Palm, US Robotics, 3Com

Hawkins shares his story about how his initial company was continually acquired by larger companies.
Lecture 5
Spinoff: Handspring
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Spinoff: Handspring

Hawkins shares the various reasons why he and his team finally spun off from 3Com to start Handspring. Although they were reluctant to leave and start a company from scratch, they felt that Palm did not belong in 3Com- a networking company. Palm was the only healthy division in 3Com and they could not continue growing and competing with a financial hand tied behind their backs.
Lecture 6
Handspring: Envisioning the Future
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Handspring: Envisioning the Future

Hawkins discusses how the cell phone took over mobile devices in the realm of personal computing. He projects where Handspring will go in the future with this transition.
Lecture 7
Serial Entrepreneurship: Redwood Neuroscience Institute
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Serial Entrepreneurship: Redwood Neuroscience Institute

Hawkins is working on his third start-up. Besides starting Palm and Handspring, Hawkins also followed his passion for theoretical neuroscience, the study of how certain parts of the brain work from an information theory point of view. He started a non-profit research institute called the Redwood NeuroScience Institute. Through this experience, he learned that starting a non-profit is just like starting a business.
Lecture 8
Profiles of Entrepreneurs
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Profiles of Entrepreneurs

Hawkins does not believe there is a single model for an entrepreneur. Each entrepreneur is unique in their own way, he says.
Lecture 9
Importance of Experience
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Importance of Experience

It helps to have experience under your belt before you start your own business, says Hawkins. You ought to have experience working for a good management team and give yourself time to have great mentors. You also have to learn to manage growth and success and how to deal with and anticipate bad times. In Hawkin's experience, the vast majority of people that start companies and do so successfully have had past experiences that helped them.




Transcript



My number one lesson is, be patient. I started my first company 13 years into my career. And I don't think I wasted the first 13 years of my career. I enjoyed them and happy about it. As I said, I didn't really want to start a business as much as like I want to be an entrepreneur. That's a lot of work but there's a couple of things that some really good reasons to be patient. And I'll just talk about it in a little bit. First of all, it really helps to have some experience on your belt. What kind of experience ought to do you have? The couple of things, one is you ought to have experience working for some good management teams. You ought to be exposed to people who know how to run businesses. And you want to be exposed to them for more than just few minutes. For few a years perhaps, it would be a good idea and to see how things are done. Then to learn from people, have some mentors and so on. It's going to be invaluable to you later. And those things you want to do and experience. You want to experience good times and bad times. You want to live through both. I know a lot of people who like they were at Apple during the really heyday of Apple. And then they jump off and say, "Hey man, business is easy. This is great! Let's go do something." And they don't know that business is really a lot of work and really hard because they never saw it. They just happened to be at a place and time where it was really easy. And so they just don't have that perspective to say, "You know what, business is often hard. It's cyclical or it goes up and down." You have to know how to deal with the bad times. You have to able to anticipate them. You have to have your bearings about here and so on. On the other hand, you also have to be exposed to the good times. That's something I didn't really have. In my earlier career I was working. I always worked for companies that were struggling. And my business partner Donna Devinsky. She had some exposure to companies that've been really successful. And that was great because it's hard to manage growth as well when things turn out. When things are really going well it's also really hard. Not hard emotionally but it's hard to know how to handle it. How do you manage growth? It's a skill. It's a skill you need to learn. I don't think anyone has it intuitively in their psyche. You just need to learn it and you need be exposed to it. So the best thing you could do in your career is to work for some great management teams and go to both cycles. The good side and the bad side and I think every party who successfully runs a company in a point in their life has had that experience. And you need to have it. We all know the stories about people who just drop out of school and start a really successful company. Stanford has a more than a bit share than anywhere else perhaps. And those are great stories but it's not typical. It just isn't typical. You can hope for that. But my experience is that the vast majority of people who start companies and do it successfully have had a lot more experience in their career before they go ahead and do that.

Lecture 10
Follow Your Passions
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Follow Your Passions

Jeff Hawkins encourages students to do something they believe in. Business is hard and every company will have its trouble, the only way one gets through these times is if they you a cause and you believe in it. This passion gives momentum to see the bad times through. In his experience, people who started a company for the sake of starting a company failed when the hard times came upon them. At Palm the passion was the product, selling the company was not in contradiction with this passion, but allowed people at Palm to continue making good products. He says that it doesn't matter that the money isn't rolling in, but that we are all excited about what we are doing, and we think its great! This excitement carries companies and people through!

 




Transcript



The thing is I would suggest you really do something you believe in and do it because you believe in it! My main lesson here is business is hard and, I don't care who you are, every company that gets started eventually has trouble. It's just inevitable. It's part of business. And it gets really hard and it gets really draining. And there are times when you can get depressed and you just come home and you're grumpy! And this is where the stress and the friction at home come from and so on. And at work people are down and you've got to motivate them. The only way you are going to get through this time is you have to have a cause. You have to have a belief in something! You have to be doing this for some good reason because if you're just in it for the money or you're just in it because you think it's going to be fun or you want to be in control of yourself, you don't have a real foundation belief in something. You just won't have the momentum and the strength to carry through. I have seen a lot of entrepreneurs start companies and the hard times come and they fail. They fail even personally or the company fails. And the people who generally have moved through those things are the ones who have a long term belief in what they are doing for some purpose or another. I'll give you a story here. I was going to say this, when we were Palm and we were about to launch the Palm Pilot and we sold the company to US Robotics. Why did we do that? Because our passion was the product! We were all there because of the product. Long ago we gave up making any money at this. Right, that was a dream that was a couple of years earlier. Why we were doing it? Because we believe in it! We believe in this product. We believe in the concept. So selling the company was not in odds with that. It wasn't in odds with that at all because now we have financing to bring this thing to market. We are going to be left alone. We're going to be able to do our thing and the product was going to be successful. And sure enough that's what happened! If our motivation was different if our motivation was financial we probable would have totally different outcome. It was during those times when everyone said we were crazy and all these things we're going bad it was that belief in the cause that kept us going. That's why we started Handspring because we still have the belief. We still believe we are on a mission and that's why we try to get over employees around that mission and that helps you get through the bad times. You now, someone asked us about our stock, our stock is in the toilet right now! But it doesn't matter. We are not losing any employees because we are all excited about what we are doing! We think it's great and it's still has most of the fun than we usually have. So that is really helpful. Do something you believe in to help you carry through the difficult times.

Lecture 11
Individual vs. Company
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Individual vs. Company

Hawkins stresses that one must separate oneself from work. You are not your company, he says, you are not your product. Your company may fail, your product may fail, but not you, he adds. He stresses the importance of giving credit where it is due.
Lecture 12
Entrepreneurship is a Means to an End
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Entrepreneurship is a Means to an End

Entrepreneurship is a means to an end, it is not an end in itself. The passion is with the product, Hawkins notes, and succesful entrepreneurs must follow it through.




Transcript



So my number four thing, this is my last one and then we'll do questions and answers. And I mentioned this earlier. Entrepreneur is a means to an end. It's not an ending itself and you shouldn't view it that way. There are people who just start complaining over and over, over again. I don't know how they do that. I wouldn't recommend it. That's only not the way I view it. My thing in life is always been following the product. Right, I want to build a product. I envision the product I say, "How do I go about it?" Can I do it where I am right now? Yes, then do it where I am right now. If I can't do it where I am right now, there's some place I can do it, no? Perhaps I start something and then if I have to start something too bad, I have to start something. But the passion is with the product and you follow it through. And starting a business is just a means to an end and it's a difficult means. And there's not one that I even think it's the preferable means to do it. If you can somehow do what you want to do in the context of an existing enterprise, it's a hell of a lot easier! Then you know, to hire people and then create everything and start it all from scratch. And then spend all this time structuring things. So, just make sure that it is a tool that you could use in your career. Now, if you're doing a lot of creative things, the things that haven't been done before then you are naturally be using the entrepreneurial tool over and over again because you may not have a place to do it. I couldn't do the Palm Pilot at GRiD because it was a wrong kind of company. They were selling the enterprise, I wanted the consumer products. I couldn't do what we're doing at Handspring, that's part of Three-Com, again the wrong sort of structure. And I created the RNI, the Redwood Neuroscience Institute because it turns out the kind of things I want to do in neuroscience are not being really done anywhere else. And it was very difficult to structure that in traditional neuroscience and neurobiology particularly. Then you say, all right now it's time to build something.

Lecture 13
Work/Life Balance
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Work/Life Balance

According to Hawkins, no one remembers the 14 hours at work or the time missed with their kids. What people remember is if they changed the world, if they had a good time in the process, or if they promoted a positive culture. He talks about balance in regards to developing a great product and having a normal life. Hawkins believes that you can do it all and live a normal life!
Lecture 14
Defining Company Culture
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Defining Company Culture

Hawkins believes you have to be conscious and methodological about your company culture. The culture starts at the top and permeates to the bottom. The culture at palm is a product culture. High integrity is not just internal, but integrity with vendors, suppliers and customers. A lot of companies keep secrets, but the transparency has been very good for Palm, Hawkins points out. A good, solid culture can help a company go through hard times.
Lecture 15
Difficult Negotiations
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Difficult Negotiations

Hawkins talks about the complicated negotiations with 3COM for the spin off of Palm. Discussions lasted five months and involved investment bankers and board members. Five different proposals were presented to the CEO, including spinning off Palm two years in the future. However, the final decision involved no doors banging, and no storming out of offices. All said and done, Jeff Hawkins did not want to start a company.
Lecture 16
Designing Successful Products
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Designing Successful Products

Jeff Hawkins, one of the founders of Handspring, claims to have witnessed teams of entrepreneurs brainstorming a product just for the sake of the sale, and he criticizes this approach. A good product can only be conjured by a genuine need in the marketplace. If there are no holes to fill, says Hawkins, then there is no point to being an entrepreneur.
Lecture 17
The Role of Market Research
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The Role of Market Research

Founder of the Palm Jeff Hawkins shares his story of graffiti, a handwriting recognition software, and the intuitive leap of using a keyboard to show that users can and will adopt to new technology. He elaborates on the role of market research, as well as how to listen to customers and follow your intuition and vision for the future.




Transcript



How do you bounce off your intuition about what products you should do and what the data meaning like market research and things like that, right? It is a business selling research. It's always research firm. Do you know how they got the research? They call people like me. It is all they do. I get calls all the time. "Sir, what do you think about this? What do you think about this?" And they packaged it up and then they sell it. And then they start to sell it back to you. It's not just me. I mean I'm just me. I mean like they call the industry people. They ask them what they think and then they packaged it up and it's like sell. I don't pay much attention to that stuff. No, but it's a good question. There are times when you, you know market research is really valuable and it tells you things. And then there are times when you just have to totally ignore it and do what do you think is right. I'll give you some examples about it, if you want in the Palm Pilot example. After the failure of the Newton and the Zoomer which is our first PDA. After that those products failed, Little Palm was the only one out and I actually did some market research. We called up the people who bought Newtons and bought Zoomers. And we said, "Why did you buy it? What were you hoping that was going to do? Now that you don't like it, what did you think it was going to do?" I'm serious. We were just asking these questions. And they say, "Oh, I hate everything." OK, but you did shell out some money for it. So did you have any expectations about what it was going to do for you? And we actually got similar interesting information that this is the case where market research really worked. They said, "You know what, I was just hoping to organize my life. I got this paper calendar and I got my address book. I worked with my assistant. My assistant's always printing these things out where any coordinates on paper. I just can't stand it I got little yellow stickers all over the place. I was hoping to replace my paper daily calendar and have something automated." And we know that over and over again. No one said, "Wow! I was hoping to have some intelligent agents to control my life." No one said that. It was like paper calendar. And so we listened to this. They said that's what they wanted. So we said, "Ah, our competition's is not a computer right now." Our competition is paper. So we started looking at paper products. We went and bought all the papers products and we saw how they worked. And what was the quickest way to look at the calendar. So this market research is really important. And I don't think Apple did that. I don't think anybody else did that. So that was a good example. Another case where we really didn't make any work at all, let's take for example in Graffiti, which is the text entry thing I designed for iPalm. And I said we need to have text entry. You can't have a computer without text entry. And I said there's again we have to solve this problem, there must be a solution. And people trying the regular handwriting recognition and didn't work and I think was never going to work. And so I said, that's not the solution. So then I made this sort of intuitive leap. I said look, people don't mind learning how to use a keyboard. It's really hard to use a keyboard, think about the 101 keys for 26 letters. And then you have to sit there for months learning how to type and so people do this. It's crazy. So why can't I give something they have to learn and it only takes 15 minutes. Why won't they learn that? Everyone said, "Oh, you're nuts, whose going to learn how to do this, it was crazy and all." We did research, we talked, we had interviews, we did scoops. So this is the stupidest idea I ever heard. I said we're going to do it anyway. Because my intuition said it didn't matter what people thought. It's what they do and obviously they do this. They learn things. They like to learn things and as long as it works they're happy with it. And forget that there's a sort of foreseen power on that Computers are supposed to adapt to the user and not the other way around. That's a bunch of baloney. People love tools. They love to learn how to use tools as long as the tools are going to be persistent and not too difficult to learn. They love it. So you got to know, I don't an answer how to know when to pick market research and when to pick your intuition. But you got to do a bit of both - it's not one or the other.

Lecture 18
Work/Life Balance
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Work/Life Balance

Hawkins discusses the balance between work and personal life. He mentions how different people will have differing balance cycles throughout various stages of their life. In this clip, Jeff shares a personal anecdote about balance in his own life.
Lecture 19
Hawkins: What I Wish I'd Learned in College
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Hawkins: What I Wish I'd Learned in College

Hawkins talks about basic corporate, structural, and employee issues that entrepreneurs often don't learn in class. For example, entrepreneurs should be well-versed in many areas, such as legal, financial, and human resources issues.




Transcript



Well, that's the question. The question is, "Is there anything I wish I had learned in college? Or that my employees learned in college?" Yeah, that is a really good question. First of all, I don't think everyone has learned this. But if you're trying to do something that entrepreneurs do, you have to have a very broad education. You have to know a little bit about everything. You can't be just as special as to do something. You have to know finance. You have to know legal. You have to know the employee issues. You have to know a lot of stuff. And I guess one of the things that really surprise me is how little they teach you about finance in general, when I went into an engineering school. I'm not sure but I shouldn't say this but maybe even in a business school maybe won't teach you enough about it. I'm not sure. But you know this is so many things about the way the world works, about how things are structured. That seems to be a huge number of things that have to do with corporate issues, financing issues, and structure and legal issues that just aren't taught. It just doesn't seem like they're taught. Maybe that's not true and maybe I just wasn't exposed to it. But I feel I didn't have access to it when I went to college about basics. How many parents don't teach their kids how to balance a checkbook, right? A lot and they've figure out in the wrong later. Well, there's a basic things about business which they don't. I didn't have a chance to learn when I was in engineering school. And I probably would have if they were presented in a good fashion. But I think it such sort of a broad thing. And now the thing is I had to learn a lot was a lot of legal stuff. The nature of really natural paths and the real process you go through in dealing with them in litigation and so on. I'm not sure how while you could teach it in advance. Because it's always more relevant when you're there and someone just sued you. But there are a lot of things like that. Another thing I think would be useful. Something I learned from Donna is really about employee issues as well. I'll give you a lesson that she told me. It goes back in integrity thing which mentioned earlier. When you're starting a business and you're hiring people, you tend not to focus on the issues of pay skills and creating a Human Resources Employee Guidelines and things like this. When I hired Donna I had like 10 employees. And the first thing she comes in she says, "All right, we need to get a Human Resources Policy right away. We have to have a stock and salaries things right away." What are you talking about? What we're working really hard here. We just start this company, why we had to worry about this stuff? She's only got a lay of foundation right away. Because what happens you have is discrepancies and problems and they get really faster. And then when the company gets bigger, there are always problems. And so she was absolutely right. And also, she told me that when you think about compensation between people, you should always imagine that everybody knows everything. So if you're trying to figure out how much to pay employee X and how much to pay employee Y. Assume that they know. And they assumed you have to justify to them into their face. And that you should never get in a situation where because someone for whatever reason that do you have this inequity there. Because you know you shouldn't get in that position. So there are things like that which I thought were sort of general lessons that you should just know. And somehow maybe you could teach them, I don't know. I don't know if you could or not.

Lecture 20
Establish Strong Human Resources Early On
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Establish Strong Human Resources Early On

When starting a business one tends not to focus on employee issues. Hawkins stesses the importance of laying a strong foundation of human resources from the very beginning. He shares ideas that he feels make sound human resource policies. When you are thinking of compensation between people, he says, you should always imagine that everyone knows everything.




Transcript



Another thing that would be useful, something I learned from Donna, is really about employee issues as well. I give you a lesson that she told me this goes back to the integrity thing which was mentioned earlier. That when you're starting a business and you are hiring people you tend not to focus on the issues of pay scales and creating human resources, employee guidelines and things like these. When I heard Donna had 10 employees and the first thing she came in and she says, "All right we need to get a human resources policy right away. We have to have a stock and salary thing right away, blah, blah, blah." What are you talking about? We are all working really hard here and we just started this company why would we have to worry about this stuff? She's only got to lay the foundation right away because what happens you have these discrepancies and problems and they get really faster and when that company gets bigger it has all these problems. And so she was absolutely right and also she told me that when you think about compensation between people, you should always imagine that everybody knows everything. So if you try to figure out how much employer pay employee X and how much employer pay employee Y, assume that they know and they assume that you have to justify to them to their face. And that you should never get into a situation where because someone for whatever reason you got this inequity there, because you shouldn't get in that position. So those things like that which I thought were generally lessons that you should just know and somehow maybe you could teach him. I don't know.

Lecture 21
Product Development: Importance of Customers and Testing
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Product Development: Importance of Customers and Testing

I never had a technology company, says Hawkins. He believes that products come out of product marketing people who really love and understand products. He asks his employees to use competitor products to learn something from them. The focus should be on what people want and what they need, rather than only on technology.To build a successful product one has to innovate continuously, focusing on what people do and not what they say. And if you build a product, use the thing yourself.
Lecture 22
Portable Technologies
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Portable Technologies

Hawkins talks on the importance and inevitability of portablity. With portability comes small size, low cost, simplicity and the need for less power. With wireless networks on their way to becoming very inexpensive, Hawkins envisions a T1 line with high horse power and large memory in the pocket! The need for portability will make the item in your pocket the center of your universe, he says. He notes that there will be obstacles, but believes that this shift is inevitable.