"We speak a lot with our CEOs on how you define, and why you want to define, the values.”
Shay Grinfeld, managing partner at Greenfield Partners, speaks to Michael Matias about the importance of defining a company’s values in the early days
Tell me a little about yourself before we get to Greenfield.
I came to investing late in my career. I started my career with long service in the army. Following that, I moved to the US and was leading companies in the stage of finding the product market fit and taking it to market. I spent the next 10 years there getting education, but in parallel, actually building sales teams, marketing in motion, and customer success: understanding all of the stages that are after product market fit. Many people miss that point. There is that next stage, which is product market sales fit. It's actually adjusting your product so it will sell better and you can create a machine that is replicable.
Then I moved to the investment side in a family office and then joined my partner, Yuda, for TPG Growth. Then we established Greenfield Partners.
You're still advising TPG Growth, but this is different. You're understanding that something different needs to happen in the ecosystem between venture and growth. What is that something?
As you look at the journey of a company from the seed round all the way to the IPO, there is that step where you got your first 10 customers, you understand that your product works. Now you need to build a company that can actually absorb much more capital and scale up. That stage is complicated. It's complicated because you can make so many mistakes that will take you 18 months back and it's hard to recover.
Why is it not just flip the switch and do everything but more? What is the complexity?
It's not simple. First of all, it's not simple to find the right people, typically in the US, that will be able to absorb the culture of the company. In the beginning, you were three founders sitting together and then hiring more people in the same office. Suddenly you're hiring people across the ocean.
Then the second one is, what KPIs do I put? How do I know how much I compensate? How do I know what the right goal is to put for the salespeople? How do I train them? You need to really think about it and set the right KPIs and the right mechanism in order to be successful.
How do you actually interact with the companies that may be different than a private equity or a bigger growth fund?
First of all, I'm saying, "I'm here. But if you don't need me, do whatever you want." Before we invest, we try to align on the three, four most important things that you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. I ask the CEO, "Where do you want me to work for you?" I take one assignment that is critical for the company.
The second thing, if the CEO wants, we will put a 30-, 40-page deck that will actually put them against similar companies in his or her category and we'll benchmark the company against the competition. Then the third thing is we'll work very, very closely in thinking together with who do you want to hire and how, and help interview and vet those people, both on the board level and the executive level.
Where are we in terms of the ecosystem today that makes this more relevant than ever?
Ten years ago, companies would hit product market fit and reach one, five, 10 million in sales and they'll get an offer. Many companies were happy to be sold for two, three hundred million, and the investors were happy. We're seeing more and more companies going for the scale stage. That's exciting because, first of all, we have talent that has been there before. We have a much larger ecosystem that can support the scale.
We advocate and we speak a lot with our CEOs on how you define, and why you want to define, the values. In the beginning for CEOs, they are so busy finding product market fit. It sounds ridiculous. But as soon as the organization is reaching 50 or 70 people and above, if you don't do it, you start to see hiccups. So, we strongly recommend you put a pen and paper together and write them down. What do you believe in? What is your product trying to achieve? What are your values? Once it's being defined, it's becoming your north star.
Dilemmas are showing on a day-to-day basis. When you start scaling up and you have a lot of people in your organization, questions are coming. You can't control everything. You are asking people: Does it match our values? It's becoming super, super critical because you want to empower yourself as a CEO and actually bring the people around the world to act like they are you. That's the only way to do it.
It's through those aligned values and through being very intentional about them that then you're able to be more comfortable in releasing that power, right?
I'm a huge believer in that philosophy. Across everything I do, with my kids, with the people around me, I typically like to align on the basic things, and then allow people to act as freely as they can. I hate to micromanage it. I think the CEOs, when they come to that stage, they have to lessen their micromanagement. We know how you have to start, but at a certain point, you have to grow from it, which is critical.
What is Greenfield about?
We do want to be that bridge between venture and growth. But we also want to be very conscious of where we invest. We want to create and invest in companies that overall create positive change in the world. Even though our responsibility toward our LP is first of all to make returns, we do bring that question as part of our investment decision.
In your childhood, what really fascinated you? What really sparked your curiosity?
I was very, very involved in a youth movement when I was young and actually spent the majority of my time after school, every day, in activities to impact society in many ways. It was a very big difference that happened when you actually joined the army, from that activity to another, as involved more in the army. I'm finding myself again in this position, thinking again about what we're doing on a deeper level. For me, it's a full circle from childhood.
What inspires you to continue working so hard after everything that you've done already?
We're lucky to be here and see the amount of innovation and the entrepreneurs that we're seeing on a day-to-day basis. They come with amazing ideas and they come with amazing ability to execute. That's exciting to me. It's actually very inspiring every day to come and listen to those ideas and see how I can help and how I can join the story.
For us as human beings, how do we respect our families and the people around helping us to do what we do? My small inspiration is how to actually project that to the people that I work with.
What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Family-man, leader, and team-player. Maybe team player more than a leader and maybe leadership through team. In many places, I'm trying to actually bring and help people find the right way to go without being too visible in the leadership. My leadership many times comes through asking the right questions and allowing people to actually take themselves to where they want to go.
Michael Matias, Forbes 30 Under 30, is the author of Age is Only an Int: Lessons I Learned as a Young Entrepreneur. He studies Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, while working as a software engineer at Hippo Insurance and as a Senior Associate at J-Ventures. Matias previously served as an officer in the 8200 unit. 20MinuteLeaders is a tech entrepreneurship interview series featuring one-on-one interviews with fascinating founders, innovators and thought leaders sharing their journeys and experiences.
Contributing editors: Michael Matias, Megan Ryan