The brief excerpt below is from the book; 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs Thriving in Uncertain Times. The award winning 300 page book includes exclusive interviews with over 50 successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries.
Dan Ganousis a serial entrepreneur and CEO for hire
Dan joined AccelChip in 2001. Based in San Jose, AccelChip was best known in
the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) industry for creating the first
synthesis tool of the MATLABR programming language for IC design. AccelChip
employed 21 people before being sold to Xilinx in 2006. Dan has been
instrumental in 13 other startups and offers himself as a CEO for hire,
offering sweat equity for the right opportunity.
Q: What was the genesis of the idea?
A: The technology was developed at Northwestern University and was licensed
to AccelChip through the Northwestern Technology Transfer Office. In the
end, the university benefited financially from the sale of AccelChip and
today AccelChip serves as a showcase ‘success story’ that they strive for in
other technology transfers.
Q: What is the vision of the company and the community you serve? Did the
problem or need come first?
A: To speed the development of research to production is the ultimate goal
of EDA (Electronic Design Automation). It’s all about bridging technology to
an end product. AccelChip was established to monetize intellectual property
that the university owned. A problem definitely existed – what was needed
was advanced research which ultimately came from the university.
Q: Is there anything you have learned that could have helped you in the
A: Some valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way: Don’t hire sales and
marketing people before the product is truly ready; big money makes good
people do bad things (greed); never keep the existing management of a
company you take over (or are asked to run) because “a fish rots from the
head first”; the geography you select to start your business will limit your
access to investment capital.
Q: Are there one or two things you can attribute your success to? Luck,
timing, someone who helped you?
A: Networking has been huge. I am grateful to have access to so many
powerful people. The most important thing I can share in becoming an
effective leader is that you have to have nerves of steel. In the face of
those you lead, no matter what is going on with the company, you have to
maintain a strong image. There are times it will get really tough, but above
all, strive to maintain your composure. Don’t let your employees sense any
weakness or you limit what they can achieve. The times when the company is
at it’s lowest is when you will need to be most creative and maintain your
cool. Any doubt needs to be left at the door of your office – never, ever
let your fears be known.
Q: Can you recommend any training or resources such as books, classes, or
websites? Do you recommend an MBA?
A: I don’t feel an MBA is important. You should put your time into building
relationships. Find people who are 10-15 years older than you and network
with them, learn from them and see them as your mentors. You will make many
mistakes along the way, learn from them. What you learn in a classroom
likely won’t help in a startup. Never stop learning from people and your