Taking a company from idea to household name is always difficult. But the past few years presented challenges that caught even the most-seasoned CEOs off guard. After all, there’s not much in the way of a playbook for things like a pandemic, major swings in the global economy, and significant shifts in the employer-employee dynamic.
These—along with more practical topics, such as GTM strategy and product-market fit—were among the issues discussed at our recent Connect/Enterprise event, which brought together top executives from across the a16z network. Below are some edited highlights from this year’s speakers, where they share their experiences launching products, navigating tough times, and generally running 21st century software businesses.
If you want to hear what these speakers and others had to say about the seismic shift that is generative AI and what it means for enterprise startups, you can do that here.
Okta Cofounder and CEO Todd McKinnon spoke with a16z General Partner David Ulevitch about his growth as a leader during sometimes trying times. In this clip, Todd discusses some of the changes Okta has made to get back to normal after a crazy few years.
Here, Todd explains his own personal growth and early changes in his leadership style to be more effective both with the board and with his employees. “I think, even to the culture in Okta today, I can see the reverberations of that switch. It’s pretty open, pretty transparent, pretty team-oriented—bring people in, solve the problem, collaborate.”
Navan Cofounder and CEO Ariel Cohen spoke with a16z General Partner Ben Horowitz about Navan’s continued focus on building new products, even while its primary travel business had all but collapsed due to COVID-19. Here, he shares his thoughts on hiring during rapid growth phases, and learning which employees are in it for the long haul.
On the decision to build out a corporate credit-card and expense product while the pandemic had basically halted business travel: “It goes to intuition, gut feel, but also mission. I think that … if you believe that travel will come back, but nobody needs it right now, you need to ask yourself what people need in the area of what you’re doing.”
Atlassian President Anu Bharadwaj spoke with a16z General Partner Kristina Shen about a number of topics related to product management and building the right things for the right users. In this clip, Anu shares her insights on the launch of Atlassian’s Confluence, which helped propel the company to new heights: “I would say, build [a second product] when you think it’s too early. Because by the time you’re ready to build a second product, it’s already too late.”