When it comes to the Silicon Valley, there are two titans that make all the decisions: CTOs and venture capitalists. At least one newly minted VC finds that being a CTO is quite similar to being an investor.
Steve Herrod was VMware’s founding technologist, having developed the virtualization technology behind the company while at Stanford. He has spent the last two years working as a venture capitalist and managing director at General Catalyst.
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The crux of the similarities comes from the fact that both jobs are heavily focused on having strong opinions on technology, and betting heavily on which tech will win in the long term.
“I got into venture capital after realizing the CTO job can be pretty similar to the VC job,” said Herrod. “You have to have pretty strong viewpoints and opinions on where the world is heading. We acquired 20 companies while I was at VMware, so you learn how to evaluate companies and how to integrate them. Once you’ve invested, a big part of the CTO job is to influence without direct ownership. Helping people get to the right answer is something you do as a board member quite a bit.”
There is one giant difference between the two roles, however. “CTOs say yes to everything. VCs have to say no a lot,” said Herrod.
So just what lessons has he learned from his time at VMware, and how does he apply them to investing?
“I realized very early on that infrastructure itself is a huge spending area, and it’s really just a means to running apps,” he said. “I got very interested over the last four or five years, not just in DevOps, but in general how can all the infrastructure move faster? How do you get it to allow apps to move out faster?