a colleague of mine started a discussion on our yammer network about our winter investment festival being too focused on innovations for our firm and not focused enough on innovations for our clients.

If we are going to devote seed money, shouldn’t we be seeding future lines of business?

the following is my reply, slightly edited for clarity. it got a handful of likes in a short amount of time and figured it was worth sharing outside the network as well:


if you look at silicon valley or just the large tech industry in general (cause there are still a few very well known primetime players in seattle) you’ll see that there’s a war raging. companies like google, amazon, apple, microsoft, and i think you’re starting to see yahoo! again in that mix, are in an arms race to provide the best possible employee experience that they can.

why spend a ton of money on large corporate campuses with professional chefs working in large cafeterias? why provide on-site health and dental and child care? why include bonuses and equity as part of an employee’s yearly compensation? why buy cell phones for every employee and pay for their wireless bill? why do any of those things that don’t help the bottom line? that stuff is expensive!!

why? because every one of those companies realizes that if they have the best people working for them they can provide the best products and services to their customers.

if you ask me, it’s not the company’s job to be customer focused–that lies with the individual people. the company’s job is to be employee-centric and ensure that the people they hire and retain are the best possible people for the job; that they grow those people to be leaders of not just their own company but leave to create their own start-ups to become competitors or partners; and that they provide every tool they can to give their people an advantage over the competition.

i understand your point, certainly, and it’s very valid given what i just mentioned above–that customers need to be the individual’s focus, not the company’s–but i think it’s wrong to assume that something that’s internally focused is not “good” for the company.