2019 is here! Since Great North Labs is a proponent of iterating based on data-driven feedback, it’s time for a look at the best-performing content from 2018. What captured people’s interest? What is the Great North community interested in?
- Facebook controversy. Rob Weber’s post about Sheryl Sandberg and the importance of “integrators” titled, of course, “Sheryl Sandberg and the Importance of Integrators“,is the top post of the year. The Facebook COO faced a lot of criticism in the past year, and Mark Zuckerberg, the Woz to Sandberg’s Jobs, found himself testifying before Congress this past April for 10 hours. Facebook has come under increasing scrutiny in the wake of data breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and public interest remains high as the 68% of Americans who use Facebook grapple with the implications of data insecurity.
- The Internet of Things. Pradip Madan’s white paper on the third generation of IoT and the industrial internet is well-researched and thought-provoking, with input by Great North Labs advisors at Protolabs and Misty Robotics. Pradip makes the case that we are uniquely situated in the upper Midwest to originate the next wave of tech-enabled disruption in IoT in “IoT 3.0“.
- Venture capital investing. Pradip Madan writes about VC as an investment class is his white paper, “Where to Invest in the Midwest: Venture Across Asset Classes“. He examines the benefits of venture investing as an asset class even during a down cycle, and how funds can provide protection from multi-year downturns. Pradip also enumerates the unique advantages that Midwest venture funds offer.
- The Midwest tech ecosystem. “Putting the ‘Silicon’ in Silicon Lakes”, by Great North Labs Managing Partners, Rob Weber, Ryan Weber, and Pradip Madan, enumerates the key ingredients required to create an innovation hub like Silicon Valley that fosters growth and startups. It is part mission statement, part love letter, and all about the opportunity present in the upper Midwest.
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Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook in 2008, when Facebook was very small. She was instrumental in its meteoric growth into the global giant it is today. Many people are trying to put blame on her and downplay her work now, but her role and contributions over the years should be celebrated. She was a successful ‘integrator’ at Facebook, working with Mark Zuckerberg.
The EOS (Entrepreneur Operating System) blog defines an integrator as “…the person who is the tie-breaker for the leadership team, is the glue for the organization, holds everything together, beats the drum (provides cadence), is accountable for the P&L results, executes the business plan, holds the Leadership Team accountable, and is the steady force in the organization. The Integrator also creates organizational clarity, communication, and consistency; typically (but not always) operates more on logic; drives results; forces resolution, focus, team unity, prioritization and follow-through; is the filter for all of the Visionary’s ideas; harmoniously integrates the Leadership Team; and helps to remove obstacles and barriers.”
There is a history of visionary founders combining forces with integrators in Silicon Valley at hugely successful companies like:
• Sergey Brin & Larry Page with Eric Schmidt at Google
• Steve Wozniak with Steve Jobs at Apple
• Gordon Moore and Bob Noyce with Andy Grove at Intel.
This is not just a Silicon Valley phenomenon. Local Minnesota examples include:
• Justin Kaufenberg with Brian Bell at SportsEngine
• Ben Cattor with Alex Ware at Foodsby
And I speak from my own experience. Ryan Weber and I co-founded NativeX, and brought Andy Johnson on board as integrator when we grew. It was a difficult decision, but the right one. You can read about in this article I wrote for Wired.
Integrators can be instrumental in carrying companies forward by collaborating with the founders at the right time. A company can be started by ‘singular’ founders, and carried forward beyond 50-100 employees by ‘integrators’. This is why singular CEOs of more mature companies often have integrator COOs beside them. The reverse order does not always work; as remarkable as integrators are, integrators may not be successful founders. Could Eric Schmidt have founded Google? Could Sheryl Sandberg have founded Facebook? You decide!
But don’t forget to also ask yourself, could Zuckerberg have grown Facebook into the global success it is today, without the talented integrator Sheryl Sandberg?