Adam Bryant conducts interviews of senior-level executives that appear in his “Corner Office” column each week in the SundayBusiness section of The New York Times. Here are a few insights provided during an interview of Lars Dalgaard, general partner at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. To read the complete interview, check out other articles, and obtain subscription information, please click here.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/The New York Times
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Were you in leadership roles or doing entrepreneurial things when you were younger?
To a degree. I’m from Denmark originally, but I spent a few years living in England as a teenager. I remember when I was 13, and we were putting on a Christmas show at school. We had to convince people in the neighborhood to come.
A buddy of mine and I had these huge boxes of programs for the show, and we started knocking on people’s doors. Soon after, I walked over to my friend and asked, “Where are we going to get new ones?” His box was full and mine was empty. I had convinced all these people to come to the show. I definitely knew there was something going on in terms of my ability to engage people.
Tell me about your parents.
My mom has this gigantic passion and really deep belief in the magic of human beings. I’ve taken it from her and just exploded it. That’s my biggest value. I just believe that there really is goodness in every human being, and there’s magic, to the point that I’m sometimes naïve about it. But the value of rewarding people and trusting people has come back to me in my life in a karmic way that’s gigantic.
I learned so many things from my dad, but in particular he taught me about ethics and that there is no easy way to get to your goal. You’ve got to be like Lambeau Field in Green Bay and build for bad weather. That’s basically the only way to achieve any type of success.
But you often see with some companies, particularly start-ups, that they’re telling themselves and others a bit of a story, and not being honest about what the real issues are. Instead of taking all that energy and focusing on the core outcomes, they’re just glazing over it and hoping it will be O.K. There is no such thing as a quick fix.
Plus, if the people at the top of companies think they’re controlling the message, they’re not. Everybody in the company knows what’s going on, and they typically know it before management does.
And what about your college years?
I went to college in Denmark, but I ran four businesses on the side.
I created an education course on weekends, six weeks before the college’s big exam, which a lot of students were failing. My program was very hard, like boot camp, but I was able to charge so much that I could pay the best teachers enough to get them to teach the course. It was an insane model.
The dean was angry with me and said, “What are you doing here?” I said, “Who’s got the problem? People aren’t passing your tests and graduating. So if you fix the school, there won’t be any demand for my product.” I was unapologetic about it.
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To read the complete interview as well as Bryant’s interviews of other executives, please click here.
Adam Bryant, deputy national editor of The New York Times, oversees coverage of education issues, military affairs, law, and works with reporters in many of the Times’ domestic bureaus. He also conducts interviews with CEOs and other leaders for Corner Office, a weekly feature in the SundayBusiness section and on nytimes.com that he started in March 2009. In his book, The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons from CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed, (Times Books), he analyzes the broader lessons that emerge from his interviews of hundreds of business leaders. To read an excerpt, please click here. To contact him, please click here.