‘Start Up from the Ground Up’: Interview with Cynthia Kocialski

Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three companies – two fabless semiconductor and one software company.  In the past 15 years, she has been involved in dozens of start-ups and has served on various advisory boards. These companies have collectively returned billions of dollars to investors. Cynthia has worked with established companies to bring start-up techniques and technologies to corporations desiring to process improvement and efficiency.

Prior to her work in the start-up community, Cynthia has held a wide range of technical, marketing, and management positions at major corporations. At IBM, Cynthia began with financial software to facilitate the tracking of sales and inventory for international operations. She later moved into development and engineering management working of scientific workstations. Finally, Cynthia transitioned into technical marketing and strategic planning role for graphics and digital video components for personal computers. At Matrox, Cynthia was the general manager, overseeing the R&D area of digital video and image processing product lines,

Cynthia graduated of the University of Rochester with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and applied statistics. She also has graduate degrees from the University of Virginia in both electrical engineering and systems engineering.

She also writes the popular Start-up Entrepreneurs’ Blog and has written many articles on emerging technologies.

Her latest book is Start Up from the Ground Up: Practical Insights for Entrepreneurs.

You can visit her website at www.cynthiakocialski.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Cynthia. Can you tell us what your latest book, Startup from the Ground Up, is all about?

This is a nonfiction business book. It shows readers how to think about transforming a product idea into an early stage company. It’s not enough to have a great product. Entrepreneurs can only go so far with an idea. The product is like the heart of a company and just like a person, what makes human beings is far more than our hearts. Entrepreneurs often focus too much, and sometimes even exclusively, on the product and neglect the rest of the company. Entrepreneurs ignore the business factors needed to bring that product into the market. This book talks about this everything else that entrepreneurs need to consider.

Q: How did you come up with the idea?

I’ve been writing the Start-up Entrepreneurs’ blog.  I noticed the trend was in popular posts focused on how to start a company, and not so much the operational aspects of a start-up. The most popular posts are either about finding funding or getting customers to speak with a start-up. But still I didn’t have a firm notion of what to write, what would help the first time entrepreneur the most.  As I was sitting in an investors meeting sponsored by a foreign government, I found most everyone being distracted because none of the start-ups had put their presentation together in the informal standard referred to as the slide deck. And then I had it, the book would follow this format.

Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

I have personal experience with beginning a start-up and so I have quite a bit of first-hand knowledge of the topic. I’ve witnessed the day-to-day operations and growths of many start-ups and have participated in them from the inside out.  But despite the fact that I’ve seen dozens of companies, others in Silicon Valley have seen thousands of start-ups flare up and flame up, and even a few skyrocket to the ultimate success.  I’ve spoke with venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs, and various consultants who provide services to start-ups.

Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?

Start-ups are not about the product. An entrepreneur needs to deliberately build a company like they consciously define and create the product.

Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?

Cornering a potential customer at an event is another way to get them to speak with you. Smaller events are better. The restroom marketing approach is a clever way to meet your potential customers. Here’s how a B2B enterprise software start-up did it. The marketing person bought the list of attendees for a small conference prior to the event date. He cross referenced the list to their potential customers, memorized the list of names, and staked out the restroom area at the conference. As people left the restrooms, he noted the name on their conference name tags, and approached those on his target list. The marketing person knew the person would have at least a few minutes to speak with him as the customer was walking from the restroom area back to the conference area where the programs were being held. In fact, this is how he first met their first big customer.

Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today?  How did you do it?

I self-published my book. I spoke with authors, some who had self-published and some who had used a publisher. I asked their opinions about how to publish. I can remember asking a published author what a publisher did for him and his response was “Not much really.” When I probed about marketing and promotion, the published authors told me you had to do much of this yourself.  So I made the decision to self-publish because I couldn’t see what the value add was for a publisher.

Once I had the outline of book, the writing was the easy part. The editing and publication process seemed much too long – mostly because I was anxious to move forward. The hard part is the marketing and promotion.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

My day is a mix of writing, attending meetings, participate in conference calls, evening networking events for entrepreneurs and investors, attending to my two daughters, and occasionally I am able to fit some exercise in.

I try to write in the early morning. I often wake up in the wee hours of the morning and start typing my thoughts in on my laptop.  I simply can’t write on pen and paper. I’ve been using computers for most of my life, and the words only flow when I am at the keyboard.

I spend time with my kids after school, but most evenings I’m am networking, at an investors’ meeting, or the like.

Q: What’s next for you?

I would like to write another book, perhaps one that showcases the entire start-up ecosystems and how it all functions.  I love start-ups and all the great new products they bring to market. Since I am so passionate about start-ups, I will continue to be heavily involved n the start-up community.

In the technology industry, there been speculation and discussions about augmented reality books.  I want to try writing one of these for my next book, where the written word is coupled with the different digital technologies to enhance what’s written.

1 Comment

Filed under Author Interviews

One response to “‘Start Up from the Ground Up’: Interview with Cynthia Kocialski

  1. Ms. Kocialski founded three tech companies including Vesta Corporation and SLI. A great woman and I am one of her admirer. Glad you had posted your interview with her.

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