“Take your stuff,” Carlos the HR VP said to me after he asked me to leave the boardroom where the company’s operations meeting was taking place.
I picked up my stuff, and I started walking out of the conference room. There were twenty sets of eyes trained on me including the CEO’s eyes.
I instantly knew what was happening: I was being fired in a very public way.
Actually, it turned out I was being laid off, but when you’re a reduction in force of one it’s safe to say you’ve been fired.
I went home that Friday afternoon, and I thought about what I wanted to do next. I honestly didn’t know what I wanted except to work with really good people.
So I reached out to my network, and I sent them a short note saying, “I’m available.”
A lot people reached out to me about various job opportunities. None of the opportunities were really that exciting. They were just jobs.
I’d had enough jobs already in my career, and I really didn’t want another. It was still unclear to me what I did want.
So I kept networking.
The managing partner of a VC fund based in San Francisco asked me to spend the day with him and his team. I assumed we would be talking about opportunities within their portfolio companies, so I did some research about where I would fit best.
It became instantaneously clear when I got there that Mike, the managing partner of the VC fund, had something different in mind. Mike said, after we exchanged pleasantries, “We have an idea we want to discuss with you.
“We are interested in incubating an Analog Semiconductor company (my specialty). Would you be interested in working with us as an EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence)?”
My poker face dropped instantly. It was replaced with a big smile on my face. I instantly realized that starting a company was exactly what I wanted to do.
I of course said yes. Mike then said I would need to meet with the rest of the partners that weren’t there, and that included their semiconductor expert Dave.
I still remember meeting Dave for coffee at Coupa Cafe in Palo Alto on a Friday night. We hit it off instantly.
I met with the other partners, and then I was good to go. I started building my company as an EIR.
You know it’s time to start a company when you feel the time is right.
I know that’s a vague answer, but let me explain further. I’d been thinking about starting a company in this space for years.
The problem was that the timing just wasn’t right, and I knew it. The key component to building a successful Analog IC company is finding not good, but great Analog IC design engineers.
These great engineers are hard to find, and the best engineers were looked up with lucrative pay packages that including healthy bonuses and stock options.
However, things were changing in the Analog industry when Mike asked me start a company. The growth of the best companies in the industry (Maxim and Linear Technology) had stagnated, especially Maxim.
These companies were vulnerable to losing their engineering talent for the first time in years. I had an advantage because I had worked at Maxim, and I had solid relationships with many of the best engineers.
That’s why when Mike asked me to become an EIR I just knew this was the best chance I would ever have to do what I always wanted to do. There was no hesitation at that moment. I didn’t need to say, “let me think about it.” I just knew.
The timing to start a company is never perfect.
There would never be a better time from a talent standpoint to start a company. So with a solid founding team in place, I started raising money.
We were trying to raise $11M (we ended up raising $12M), and we found our first investor within one month of starting.
We had a “half filled” term sheet (meaning we needed another investor to close the round) by Early April. Then the sky fell in.
The Great Recession started hitting in late spring. Suddenly finding that second investor, which is usually easier than finding the first investor, became really difficult.
We found our second investor in the late summer. However, our first investor didn’t want to work with the second investor.
It was going to be a cold, long winter I thought. I was right.
We finally found our second investor one year later. 63 VCs had passed on investing in us by then.
However my conviction for the building the company never changed. I just knew I had to keep going forward until we either got funded or we had exhausted all possible funding sources.
For more read: www.brettjfox.com/what-ar...