Alain Benzaken: I think in terms of my career, I’ve been involved in a lot of very successful internet startups. From early in my career, I worked at Priceline. It was really the early days of Priceline.
Alain Benzaken: Priceline was one of three companies that came out of the dot com boom. They were valued over a billion dollars.
Alain Benzaken: I was there very early on, I helped build a lot of core systems and since then, they’ve become, I think, the most successful stock on the New York stock exchange because they just had incredible growth.
Alain Benzaken: We had a lot of challenges early on. It was a crazy dot com boom, we went through craziness. The stock actually went from 160 to 2, so we’re sort of all in a very, very compressed time period. But it was actually, we really built a core product that has stood the stand of time.
Alain Benzaken: So I think that was probably my biggest success early on. Since then, I have also been involved in a bunch of different startups in the New York area, on East Coast.
Alain Benzaken: And the East Coast is a little different than the West Coast. It’s a lot more about the number, it’s not so much about let’s create some cool product and we’ll see if we can eventually monetize it.
Alain Benzaken: So it’s always been a little more challenging to find success stories even in New York area because if you see, it’s much more concerned about actually making money and exiting, and so forth.
Alain Benzaken: So in terms of that, I’ve always been very focused on interesting business models. So I’ve also worked at Buddy Media. I helped that company grow and eventually sold to Salesforce for 800 million dollars, one of the bigger New York city exits.
Alain Benzaken: I helped, at a slightly earlier stage, food52 raised their first angel round, so they’re doing great now. A big success story as well.
Alain Benzaken: And I was at TheLadders, we had a huge success story for a while. We’re doubling in size, we’re getting close to a hundred million in revenue.
Alain Benzaken: So on all these I think I’ve had a pattern of, maybe it’s picking the right companies to choose early on, to know when to come in and seek opportunity because I think a lot of that is important as well.
Alain Benzaken: As a technologist, you kind of have a choice a lot of times of what areas to get into so it’s not just a matter of, executing is important but also you can choose them upfront which of the ones you think have a potential opportunity.
Alain Benzaken: And I’ve made my share of mistakes as well but I think overall, I feel like in my my career, I’ve had some pretty good success stories.
Alain Benzaken: So everyone think leadership is about inspiring people and getting them to achieve more and there’s a large part of that. At the base level, to me, leadership is about influence, about using your influence, knowing how to use influence on maybe it’s one person, even in a lot of way it’s yourself as well.
Alain Benzaken: You need to sort of master that first and then you can apply to other people, and then to a larger group. And it’s really about knowing what the levers are and it’s almost different in every situation.
Alain Benzaken: Every company I’ve been at has been slightly different and every time I come in to a new situation, I try to remember, “Don’t fight like the last war.” And it’s very hard because you remember what you did wrong the last time, you’re like, “I’m not going to do that again.” But it’s always slightly different.
Alain Benzaken: And so, in terms of leading people, the basic things about you need to make decisions quickly. I think it’s important. Giving people the freedom to fail is important.
Alain Benzaken: Just giving them an environment where you want them to excel and to achieve as much as possible and I think that, if you can inspire people that way and really play to their strengths, which again is influence, which is really about understanding people and getting them to achieve more than they even think they can achieve.
Alain Benzaken: You know, I really don’t look at people as part of these are millennials or these are baby boomers, whatever. People are people, they all have the same needs and same sort of value systems that they have created in their heads, and so forth.
Alain Benzaken: So I think understanding them at a more elemental level than just part of generation, I’ve never really subscribed to a theory that I should treat them differently because they’re a part of a generation.
Alain Benzaken: I really try to look at people individually. Yes, there are some Gen X people that do have certain tendencies but in the end, I think it goes deeper than that. I think more understanding, like I said, what they want to achieve in their career and how to help them succeed.
Alain Benzaken: Some people want to succeed because they’re competitive, some people want to succeed they want to prove it to their parents, who knows. Some people wants to succeed because people most people want to succeed.
Alain Benzaken: So you just have to understand people at a more elemental level than just part of a generation. So I’ve never really had challenges so much on that. I’ve tried to say current.
Alain Benzaken: In this industry, it’s a very young industry so it’s important to stay current with the trends and so forth. So I feel like I need to adapt more to that than anything else and that’s kind of what I work on more than anything.