Episode 18: Starting and Building High Growth Start-Ups, with Elad Gil, Serial Entrepreneur and Founder of Color

We’re getting close to the holidays and the team at Founder Real Talk wanted to give back to our loyal listeners. We’ve procured 20 copies of the High Growth Handbook, a must read for any founder looking to scale their business, written by the guest of today’s show Elad Gil. If you’d like a signed copy of this book, please email us at FounderRealTalk@ggvc.com with your favorite episode and why. Select the top 20 responses and mail a copy to you. Please include your mailing address.

Keep an eye out for the Founder Real Talk Recommended Reading List, a collection of all the books and resources recommended by past Founder Real Talk guests. You can find that on founderrealtalk.ggvc.com. It’ll make a great list for the holidays. Without further ado. Here’s today’s episode.

Serial entrepreneur and Color founder Elad Gil joins Founder Real Talk to share insights and his experiences in starting and building high growth start-ups. We talk about how a founder’s role changes over time, how to build a team that scales, and what conditions need to be in place for “high growth” to happen. His recent book “High Growth Handbook” is a must-read for any startup founder starting to scale up or hoping to get to that point one day. The book is also highly relevant for executives at high growth startups.

Elad Gil is an entrepreneur, operating executive, and investor or advisor to private companies such as Airbnb, Coinbase, Checkr, Gusto, Instacart, OpenDoor, Pinterest, Square, Stripe, Wish, and others. He co-founded and is the Chairman of Color Genomics, and was its CEO until December 2016. Before that, he was the VP of Corporate Strategy at Twitter, where he also ran various product (Geo, Search) and other operational teams (M&A and corporate development). Elad joined Twitter via the acquisition of Mixer Labs, a company where he was co-founder and CEO. Mixer Labs ran GeoAPI, one of the early developer-centric platform infrastructure products. Elad spent many years at Google, where he started the mobile team and was involved in all aspects of getting that team up and running. He was involved with three acquisitions (including the Android team) and was the original Product Manager for Google Mobile Maps and other key mobile products. Elad received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has degrees in Mathematics and Biology from the University of California, San Diego.

Highlights from the episode:

3:18 What is your definition of “high growth” and what does it look like when a company is in that stage?
5:32 What conditions must be met before a company reaches “high growth?”
7:06 What is the role of a founder/CEO in a high growth situation? How do CEO priorities change as the company scales?
9:03 How should a founder/CEO of a high growth company define “winning?”
10:36 What types of skills does a leader need to develop as the company scales?
12:14 Any tips for time management?
14:20 Is it important to have a chief of staff? What should someone look for in that role?
17:31 Do you think CEO coaches are helpful? Do you think mentors are helpful?
18:28 How do you know when to add a specific executive? Which executives should be priority hires?
19:19 What is the best way to ensure you’re hiring the right person?
22:45 How do you think about the tradeoff between functional expertise and culture fit in hiring for an executive position?
25:03 What is the role of an independent board member? What traits should you be looking for in this role?
27:23 How should a founder think about the process of looking for a CEO?
29:44 When thinking about financings, do you recommend founders accept capital before they reach defined milestones? What are the pros and cons?
32:11 What’s a favorite book or blog you recommend for founders?
32:44 Name a growth stage company you admire and why?
33:42 What piece of advice were you given as an entrepreneur that served you well?

If you have any questions you’d like us to ask our guests, or founders you’d like to hear on this podcast, feel free to email us at founderrealtalk@ggvc.com. If you like what you hear, please rate and review us on the Apple podcast app to help others find this podcast.

GGV Capital is a global venture capital firm that invests in local founders. As a multi-stage, sector-focused firm, GGV focuses on seed-to-growth stage investments across Consumer/New Retail, Social/Digital & Internet, Enterprise/Cloud and Frontier Tech sectors. The firm was founded in 2000 and manages $6.2 billion in capital across 13 funds. Past and present portfolio companies include Affirm, Airbnb, Alibaba, Bitsight, ByteDance (Toutiao), Ctrip, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Gladly, Hello Chuxing, HashiCorp, Houzz, Keep, LingoChamp, Namely, Niu, Nozomi Networks, Opendoor, Peloton, Poshmark, Slack, Square, Wish, Xauto, Xiaohongshu, Yellow, YY, Zhaoyou and more. The firm has offices in Beijing, San Francisco, Shanghai and Silicon Valley. Learn more at ggvc.com, @GGVCapital or GGVCapital on WeChat.