Picking a Democratic Candidate like a Republican


So the Dems are coming to Austin. Yay! My friend and social media guru, Mike Chapman, is keeping me up to date on all the get-togethers and rallys. The Obama crew is holding a shindig tonight, and Hillary is recruiting for supporters in San Antonio. I’m going to try to make the Obama meetup, but not sure yet about San Antonio. It’s about 2 hours away. We’ll see.

I’d like to dive deeper on picking a candidate, since I haven’t decided. It occurred to me that I’m picking a candidate for President similar to how a VC makes an investment decision. Apart from most other criteria, the issue of executive leadership is one of the most critical factors for investors. I’m a big fan of Marc Andreessen’s blog. Here’s what Marc has to say about the Executive component of the VC approval process:

“For the purposes of this post, definitions: An executive is a leader — someone who runs a function within the company and has primary responsibility for an organization within the company that will contribute to the company’s success or failure. The difference between an executive and a manager is that the executive has a higher degree of latitude to organize, make decisions, and execute within her function than a manager. The manager may ask what the right thing to do is; the executive should know.The general theory of executives, like managers, is, per Andy Grove: the output of an executive is the output of her organization. Therefore, the primary task of an executive is to maximize the output of her organization. However, in a startup, a successful executive must accomplish three other critical tasks simultaneously:

  • Build her organization — typically when an executive arrives or is promoted into her role at a startup, she isn’t there to be a caretaker; rather she must build her organization, often from scratch. This is a sharp difference from many big company executives, who can spend their entire careers running organizations other people built — often years or decades earlier.
  • Be a primary individual contributor — a startup executive must “roll up her sleeves” and produce output herself. There are no shortage of critical things to be done at a startup, and an executive who cannot personally produce while simultaneously building and running her organization typically will not last long. Again, this is a sharp difference from many big companies, where executives often serve more as administrators and bureaucrats.
  • Be a team player — a startup executive must take personal responsibility for her relationships with her peers and people throughout the startup, in all functions and at all levels. Big companies can often tolerate internal rivalries and warfare; startups cannot.”

Although I’m moved (sometimes to tears) by Obama’s speeches, I need to know he has the executive profile I need to feel secure for a “yes” decision for Presidential candidate. Has he demonstrated he can lead, not just inspire? Does he pass the Andreessen sniff test for executive leadership? After eight years of the Bush Administration, I’m inclined to see the U.S. as a “startup.” So much work ahead to restore our name on the international scene, to “fix” our social programs, take a realistic crack at designing a health care solution for Americans, jump-starting an economic recovery, and oh, the terrorist thing, etc. To me, I see us at the very beginning of all these efforts. I want a strong, hands-on executive who is engaged and has demonstrated an ability to deliver. Call me, um, the “C” word– conservative– but IMHO, it’s a reasonable exercise at this juncture of the American renewal.

UPDATE: 3/3/2008 Marc Andreessen posted today on Barack Obama. He spent an hour and a half with him, asking him directly some of the questions I was alluding to on this post. Obama has turned me around over the past few weeks. Watching his speech here in Austin was probably the clincher.