Kevin Kern Featured in the SF Business Times – "Preparing for Valleys and Peaks"

| , EVP, Innotas

Last week, Richard Procter from the San Francisco Business Times reached out to do an entrepreneur profile.  Always a pleasure, here is what we discussed.

Originally published in the San Francisco Business Times on October 24, 2014: 

kevin

Kevin Kern

CEO, Innotas

What it does: Portfolio management

HQ: San Francisco

2014 revenue:$14.2 million

Employees: 71

Founded: 2006

Background: Previously a vice president at both Oracle and Tibco

First job: Newspaper boy

Age: 56

Residence: San Francisco

Web site: innotas.com

How’s business: Business is good. We went live and in production of our predictive portfolio as of Sept. 19. I couldn’t be happier. Everyone that we’ve talked to (about the predictive portfolio) was ecstatic. I don’t want to oversell it, but they were very happy that this tool would help them with prioritizing the right work. Anyone we show this to is really impressed.

Are you hiring: Yes, we’re hiring for services, sales, product management and product marketing.

Important skill needed to be a successful entrepreneur: Initially, it’s got to be passion for the product, passion for the market that you serve. If you don’t have that, it’s going to be tough because there’s peaks and valleys for an entrepreneur. If you’re not passionate, VCs will see right through it. The second piece is focus.

Was joining Innotas an easy or hard decision: It was an easy decision because it was something that I felt very passionate about. It was something that I could understand. As a sales vice president and operator at Oracle and Tibco, I had been left at the altar so many times because IT ran out of budget or they didn’t know there were competing projects or something. They ran out of money or that priority suddenly became not important. It happens because the CIO doesn’t have visibility into his resources across the organization. When I came to Innotas, I said, “Here’s a tool that can help CIOs.”

Biggest business strength: Decision making. I believe that you iterate. Searching for perfection creates paralysis, and execution suffers.

Biggest business weakness: Patience. I’m short on chit chat. I want to get down to it. Sometimes people need to feel a little bit more love. If I were to look at how I might improve in some areas, patience.

Biggest worry: Staffing. Hiring the right people, people that fit into our culture and people that are as motivated and as passionate as we are. Secondarily, it would be reach. Getting our product to market first.

What do you wish you had known from Day 1: I wish I had known that the valleys come more frequently in a small company. Peaks are infrequent. If I could look back, I probably would have staffed up in development faster.

Favorite task: Talking to customers.

Least favorite task: Cleaning the cups in the kitchen. We don’t have maid service, and I don’t like a dirty kitchen.

Biggest frustration: Not moving fast enough. Not being where I want to be. Took us four years to triple our revenue, should have been done in two.

Source of support in a business crisis: A group of people. I certainly talk to my board, but generally I’ll gather my senior vice presidents and talk it through. There’s guys at the gym that have been down this road, I’ll talk to them. When I really want to feel good, I go to my mother. She’ll always tell me how great I’m doing. She’ll light up a cigarette and pour me a cocktail.

First choice for new career or venture: I’d like to fly helicopters. Apache helicopters. They’re just cool.

Most-admired entrepreneur or role model: Elon Musk.

Favorite pastimes: Even though it almost killed me, windsurfing, and I stand up paddleboard.

Favorite book: One of the recent books that I read was called “The Wave” by Susan Casey. It goes into how waves are created and the notion that 100-foot waves could never exist.

 

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