Brad Smith, Intuit: entrepreneurship in a large company

A conversation with Intuit CEO Brad Smith and Eric Ries: The Relevance of Entrepreneurship at Intuit. Brad had a number of really awesome lines, which unfortunately came off as a bit too rehearsed, so much so, that it made me wonder if there are many Intuit engineer that have a real opportunity to innovate as entrepreneurs. I still felt that he had a lot of good things to say, and I wish more big company CEOs would talk like this.

“Entrepreneurship is the heartbeat of the company. We have 8000 entrepreneurs: our employees.”
“Everyday we work very hard to rage against the machine. Big company culture will kill innovation” (via @jbollinger)

Corporate government can’t impose more than 3 rules
We don’t ask questions, we watch
Innovation is born out of constraint
A team must be able to be fed by two pizzas
Keep teams small and iterate quickly
We suffer a rich man’s disease. Innovation is borne out of constraints
The problem with big companies is with the managers, who are too used to playing Caesar.
As a leader, it is not the answers you have or the questions you have — asking the right questions at the right time in a startup team is the most important thing as a leader
Setup  an environment of experimentation
Ultimately what led Intuit to success was exposing their stuff to customers early
Double down on the stuff that  works
The culture of experiments beats the culture of powerpoint and articulation
The two most dangerous words in business are “sounds good”
Managers remove roadblocks
“Build just in time not just in case” - don’t build a multi-generational platform that will change the world
Create the environment, and let the small teams figure it out to attain success

For a new product, Brad considered it a big success to have two groups of customers: raging advocates and pissed off people
Big  companies put processes in the way of innovation. It’s not about  spreadsheets, and processes, and planning, but that’s what managers do.
The worst management philosophy is that of a genius with a thousand helpers. You have to hire people who are working closely with the customer to solve a problem you would never have solved.

Brad described a “reverse acquisition” where they acquire a company and put the new guy in charge. For example, the Mint entrepreneur took over a division that included Mint and Quicken.

Q: How to overcome internal resistance? internal employees feeling like they lost to a competitor that is bought.
A: If we didn’t invent it ourselves, it doesn’t mean we failed
Learn from startups or bring them onboard

“The greatest minds closest to the customer develop the great ideas”

Hire entrepreneurial engineers: engineers who are in love with the outcome of the science, NOT JUST the technical stuff. You have to find someone who loves watching and learning from customers

Horizon planning
- Existing business groups increase market share, increase word-of-mouth

Q: Do you plan to put more of Quickbooks online and what are your plans for growing to other countries?
A: Connected services companies are 60% of revenue
Desktop products aren’t growing

60/30/10 revenue distribution
60% to horizon 1 products, 30% to the teenagers, 10% to new projects

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