Exclusive Interview with Derek Lidow – CEO, Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur


Derek Lidow is an accomplished CEO and innovator. He sold his last startup for $100 million. His novel approaches to research and analysis have improved companies as diverse as Samsung, Goldman Sachs, and IBM.

He is also the author of the book Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises.

Today, Derek remains on a mission to empower founders and students with the confidence and skills they need to succeed. He teaches Entrepreneurial Leadership the Design Thinking curriculum at Princeton.

What do you love about what you do?

I get to teach incredibly smart students how to go out into the world and have a big impact.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Near business death experience, I started iSuppli in 1999, then we hit the .com bubble followed by business stopping after  9/11, the restructuring of the electronics industry from 04-06, then in 08 the Lehman Brother collapse.

But my largest crisis was when we were still a startup and my headline customer who we were sourcing parts for called me on a Friday afternoon to let me know that they provided us all the wrong information, that meant that we had to throw out the last 5 months of work and start over with the deadline less then a month away.

On top of that they said if we don’t have these parts for them by the end of the month, they won’t be able to meet their financial projections that they made to their shareholders and they will blame me, which would completely destroy our companies reputation.

What is your biggest weakness?

I can overcomplicate things, I am highly quantitatively driven, I want to know how things work in detail, that can be boring to a lot of people.

You have accomplished a lot, what do you consider you biggest strength?

I am great at working with a lot of people simultaneously, so I can empathize with a lot of people and have them work together with all of us.

What is the best lesson you learned from a mistake:

I graduated with a PHD in applied physics from Stanford, I went to go work in the tech world and thought I was hot shit.

I was amazed that people didn’t want to listen to me, even though I had all the facts and knew everything. It shocked me that the real world doesn’t run based on facts or whoknows the most, The real world is all about getting people to want to help you and getting people to help you is in return making sure you help them. That took me 10 years to figure that out.

What do you love about what you do?

I get to teach incredibly smart students how to go out into the world and have a big impact.

Advice to creative people?
It’s all about the skills, not talent or what you were born with, it’s about getting good at skills which will almost always require finding a good mentor or coach.

It’s not about figuring out and solving everything yourself, be open and learn and things happen much easier.

How do you define happiness?

There are 2 types of happiness. Hedonic happiness is the happiness that your perceive in your prefrontal cortex, like when you are hungry and want a good meal, you eat it, enjoy, and thats it.

Then there is eudaemonic, that is the sense of well being, the sense that you understand yourself and are happy with how you are acting in relationship to what your inner brain is wanting you to be. That sense of happiness is located in the back part of your brain, it’s hard to define what satisfies it, you only know it when you get there or after 10 years of therapy.

It’s the sense of knowing that you are where you need to be, that probably the most important type of happiness you can have.

What book are you currently reading?

I am finishing writing my second book which will be out at the end of this year. It exposes the myths about entrepreneurship by describing role models.

So I am reading a whole lot of sources, one book I reference a lot is Sam Walton’s Made in America.
In one line how would you define the fundamental principle of entrepreneurship?

An entrepreneur knows how to make other people happy and ask for money in return.

What is the best piece of advice you have every received?

It’s not reality that counts its perception.

 

 

To connect with Derek you can visit his website dereklidow.com/


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