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GOOGLE'S MAIN ISSUE, BUSINESSES GETTING COMPROMISED AND VENTURE CAPITAL

March 2, 2023

S04 - E08

Chris Palmisano and I sit down to talk about a number of topics. We start by discussing his weight loss during COVID, then jump into business. We discuss the state of Google innovation, how his company was compromised, and how GIS is evolving.  Chris and I also discuss how being in venture financing effects his decision-making as a CEO, and how he leads his team.  Now, please meet Chris Palmisano.

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Chris Palmisano

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

Robert Hansen

Chris Palmisano and I sit down to talk about a number of topics. We start by discussing his weight loss during COVID and then jump into business. We discuss the state of Google innovation, how his company was compromised, and how GIS is evolving. Chris and I also discuss how being in venture financing affects his decision-making as a CEO, and how he leads his team.


Now please meet Chris Palmisano. Hello, and welcome to the RSnake Show. Today I have Chris Palmisano. How are you sir?


Chris Palmisano

Doing well. How are you, Robert?


Robert Hansen

I'm doing amazing. Welcome to the studio. Probably should have had you on earlier.


Chris Palmisano

It's a great studio. Thanks for having me. It's good to see you again in person. The world still somewhat believes in not opening up again.


Robert Hansen

I know. It is odd. I feel like I talk to you somewhat regularly. But I haven't seen you in, it’s been a long time.


Chris Palmisano

It's been too long.


Robert Hansen

I agree. Well, first of all, you look great. You've been working out. I can tell. Tell me all about it.


Chris Palmisano

Well coming out of COVID, most people spent most of the time indoors. I turned 40 during COVID. I said on the back end of that, okay, I'm going to really take charge of my health and get back in shape. Get to a really, really good place. I put myself on a bit of a program and went for it. I've got a routine. I think routines are really important. 


Almost every morning, I do something. Whether that's hit the trail.

We got the beautiful Ladybird Lake Trail down here. I don't live far from it. That's a nice feature to have here. Everybody ought to take advantage of it. I tried to. I'll either hit the trail and go for a run or go for a walk. Then a couple of times a week, I'll hit the gym also. I think a big part of staying healthy, getting healthy, maintaining your health, is what you eat. I don't go overboard.


Robert Hansen

What are you eating before that you're not eating now?


Chris Palmisano

I cut out fast food. What I think I really had prior was almost an unhealthy relationship with food. Stress eating or eating out all the time. Not really paying attention to what I was ordering. I found myself weighing more than I should for my frame and my size. I just wanted to do something about it. There's nothing like turning 40 to give you a good kick in the rear to get it in gear. To get things in order if they weren't in order before. I took a little pride in it. I've been hard at it for the last 18 months or so, and maintaining healthy weight.


Robert Hansen

It shows. I’ve noticed it.


Chris Palmisano

Thanks. It's like anything else. If you don't measure it, you might not manage it as well as you could. I've got a scale. Wi-Fi scale. It's connected to about a lifetime subscription to an app that allows me to, lose it if anybody cares, track all the calories and track your weight. I’m pretty religious about it. The technique that I picked up on is you don't have to log in all the time. Why most people fall off the wagon or why they essentially give up on dieting or give up on trying to get back in shape or trying to lose weight, is because the tediousness of it. The discipline that it requires.


What I tell people is do it until you get where you want to be. Then you can stop tracking. Then just monitor your weight. If it's up a little bit, well then track it until it gets back down into the zone that you want to stay at. Into it that way. That way you don't have to do it all the time. Only do it when there's an issue, when there's a problem. That's worked out pretty well for me. I've lost close to 35 pounds. From a peak which I never should have let myself get to that point anyway. But you know, life happens.


Robert Hansen

Well, I never thought you were particularly overweight to begin with.


Chris Palmisano

No. Definitely not too far overweight. But you go to the doctor. They'll tell you anything like you're overweight. Then they weigh you. You get on the scale. You're wearing shoes and clothes. You've got a joke. I told the doctor. I said, “Why don't you let me grab the iPad and put the iPad up to my ear like it's a phone.” I got a jacket on and keys and a bunch of stuff in the pockets. What are we doing here?


Robert Hansen

Same thing happened to me. I was at a doctor a couple of weeks ago. I literally probably had over a pound worth of random crap in my pocket. I'm like, yeah, this isn't accurate. Not including my shoes and jacket and everything else. It was cold that day.


Chris Palmisano

That's your weight. That’s your weight, Robert. You’re like, wait a minute. No, it's not.


Robert Hansen

I know that they mess up because I was at the doctor before that. I probably have about a pound and a half worth of stuff total on my body at the moment. She's like, “Oh, I'll just mark it down a pound and a half.” Now the one nurse did it and the other one didn’t.


Chris Palmisano

Then it looks different. Then there's one other thing that I do every year. In January, I think is a really nice trigger. I'm not a big believer in the New Year's resolution. But you know, if you need to do something, you should do it now. You shouldn't necessarily wait until some magical date in the future. But January is a nice reminder for something new that you need to do or something routine that you need to do.


I use January every year to like, “Okay, it's January. I'm going to go to the doctor, go to the dentist, go to the eye doctor. Check in on all those things. Do it in January and get it over with.” Then you are done for the year. That's something that's worked really, really well for me. I share it with a lot of people. I think several of my friends have said, “Yeah, I do the same thing now.” The clock ticks over the gym


Robert Hansen

It is a New Year's resolution-ish.


Chris Palmisano

I mean, it's not a resolution. You can do it in every year. But January is a nice demarcation line. Something new. Or actually a trigger to start a routine is probably better.


Robert Hansen

I do use New Year's resolutions but I'm not fanatical about it. Before when I was younger, I had nothing close to a SMART goal. Just be happier or something dumb. Now, I actually do. I usually have a little mini-project that I've been waiting on doing. I'm like, this year, I'm just going to finish this project. I've been thinking about it for a while. It's a problem. I just need to get it done. This year. Something you might be interested in.


A friend of a friend had this document that he wrote that basically described how he wanted to be operated. His operating system. How to interact with him. Pretty interesting. At first, I thought it was very pompous and lame. But then I read it. It's really just more like, if you're confused why I'm acting the way I'm acting, it's because I'm expecting you to talk to me in this way. Again, I feel fairly pompous but still interesting. I was like, I wonder what would happen if I wrote a similar document? Except instead of a user guide, it would just be more like, what I am like as a boss.


If I have a bunch of employees or people who dotted line into me, what kind of things do I expect out of them? How do I like things delivered to me as a report. You come up to me, “I want to do blah, blah, blah?” Great. Why? They're like, “Well, I want to.” That, nope. Sorry. You got to give me some data. I need to see why you come up with this thesis. 


Then we can fight about it. Not because I'm trying to get you fired. Not that I'm trying to get rid of you. I'm not trying to tell you you're stupid.

Although you might be. I'm just trying to say that maybe the idea you have could be honed or maybe it's terrible. We should not do it. I ended up writing it more just for myself than anything. It's really interesting to know my own mind a little bit better.  I think a New Year's resolution of just finishing a project was actually useful for me.


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, it can be. Absolutely. You're referring to, I've heard that called a user manual.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. How it came to me was it was a user interface guide. A user guide I think is what it was called. But I really didn't like the connotation of someone using me. It is like how to interface with me. It's like we are two disparate systems trying to communicate together. We don't quite speak the same language. We're trying to figure out each other black box. Here's some commands that actually work on my operating system. Here this might help.


Chris Palmisano

It was somewhat of a popular concept at Google. Some managers would write one. It was called the user manual. As far as I know, one of the senior-most execs had written one that basically said, this is how you best work with me or interact with me. It just makes a ton of sense. If you have some self-awareness, I think it makes a ton of sense.


Robert Hansen

Correct. You actually have to know yourself a little bit. The reason I went down this path is, I noticed, I think some people think I'm a pretty aggressive person in the workplace. I use the Socratic Method. I'm like, the idea is bad. Unless you can tell me why it's good, we probably shouldn't do it. Here's why I think it's bad. Here's all the reasons you could do this better. Blah, blah, blah, blah. People are like, “Wow, that guy hates me.”


I don't hate you. You came up with an interesting idea. It's just not a good idea. It got the conversation going. We've moved past it to a better idea. To me, that's all upside. There's nothing down at all. But I noticed that people were like, wow, that guy. Very intimidated by me probably for a wide variety of reasons. I'm highly placed in the company, a hacker and all this other stuff that they're worried about me. But really, it's just trying to get the best answer. That was my impetus. Maybe it's useful for other people to know that I'm not going to get them fired. This isn't going to their boss.


Chris Palmisano

You practice the Socratic Method. Is that your essentially default style as you're managing people or just working in general?


Robert Hansen

I think so. I think it's effective. I think it works.


Chris Palmisano

Socrates did it.


Robert Hansen

If it's good enough for Socrates. That guy smelled bad and he yelled at people. He is my spirit animal. But I think that the reason I like it is the best idea wins. I've always been about the best idea winning. I don't need to be right. I need someone to be right.


Chris Palmisano

That's well said.


Robert Hansen

You know what I mean? I will beat up your idea until you're right. Or I want you to beat up my idea until you've proven me right or wrong. I don't care which. I prefer to be right. But I'm not going to get in the way. My pride is not going to get in the way. I'm going to go, “Oh, interesting. I think you're right about that. Let me rephrase everything I just said in context of your better idea.” We move forward.


Chris Palmisano

Well, that's healthy. If you're hiring good people, their job is to come up with great ideas and then to challenge yours. You don't want to be the, what do they say? You don't want to be the smartest guy in the room. If you're the smartest guy in the room, you might want to find a different room. I believe that too. Absolutely.


Robert Hansen

That is actually what this room is. This is me trying to bring in smart people, friends and get them to tell me why I'm an idiot about whatever it is. We have a bunch of stuff I want to talk to you about. But first, I want to talk a little bit. You had an interesting trajectory. You started off as a Marine. You got all the way to being an Executive. Can you give us a little bit about that path that you took?


Chris Palmisano

Sure. I went to college on an ROTC scholarship basically. I knew I wanted to go into the military. I didn't really know the right path and went to see the recruiter. We talked about all the different options. That actually worked out really well for me. I was a senior when 911 happened. Everybody that year, of course, there was I think a book written about the West Point class. I wasn't in the army. But they call it the class that went to war.


Virtually everybody I know that graduated in that timeframe, 2001, 2002, in a lot of ways, almost probably since then went somewhere and did something. Iraq or Afghanistan, or one of the five or six other places that there were things going on around the world. Some on the books. Some off the books. Just about everybody went somewhere and did something. Myself included went to Iraq in 2005. Eventually I made my way out of the service, got married and started a business career.


There's something, I’ll call it a cottage industry, of recruitment firms and specialists that help the military folks land jobs. Whether it's in corporate America or elsewhere. Since then, I have basically been following opportunities and pursuing things that I was interested in or that I was excited about. I've had exposure in several different industries, which has I think been beneficial. You learn. You can see what's happening in one domain and then see if you can apply that at another.


Have some sense of what's happening on a broader scale. Then I did a few things like halfway through, I went back to school. Then on the back end of that went to work at Google. That's actually how I got to Austin. That was a little over 11 years ago. We've been here ever since. Austin has this allure with the technology community. After a while, most people I think get an itch or an inkling. You want to scratch that itch and see what being an entrepreneur or the startup community is all about.


Robert Hansen

Only if you're totally insane. Which apparently you and I are both.


Chris Palmisano

There are days where you're like, what in the world? It is a leap of faith in a lot of ways. I think anybody that denies that is crazy. But you could also argue that anybody that does this is a little bit crazy. But that's a lot of what's here. I also tell people that are thinking about careers and career management. I've done quite a bit of mentoring in that area. There's a couple of strategies. You can go into something like a specific function. Like I'm going to be a finance guy.


In that case, maybe the best place is New York, or San Francisco. Then you follow wherever the company sends you. This is an older, maybe something of a more traditional way of thinking. Or you can plant yourself someplace and say, I'm going to do the best I can with what I have available to me here or with what I can create here. We got to Austin then just decided to stay here. That's something of a forcing function or a binding constraint, if you will, and say, okay, well let's see what we can do over here.


Since then, it's gotten a lot easier to work remotely or work from afar or cut costs down. But it also means, if you're firmly planted someplace, you might not necessarily need to move. But at the same time, you do need to be willing to accept essentially the tradeoffs or the consequences in some cases. You take the good with the bad. I mean, that's just life.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. I know a lot of sales guys who were forced to be at home with their wives for the first time in a long time. How do I get back on the road?


Chris Palmisano

For sure. You almost don't know each other. You're not used to spending that much time together. That can be a real issue. There's some interesting data on the latter half of life. They call it Gray Divorce. 


People retire. Then they're at home together for the first time ever. If one of the or both of the partners have been traveling and working and focused on other things, and building a family, or whatever life path they chose, then they get to this magical date where all of a sudden they're empty nesters.


Kids are out of the house. They've retired from work or maybe they're working less whether deliberately or not. They're sitting across from each other every day. From a relationship perspective, that might require a different set of skills than what you've built over the last however many years. Or you don't even know the person anymore. 


Managing a relationship is a skill. Something that has to be learned and developed over time.


Robert Hansen

Maybe that's one thing that COVID has helped with. A lot of people were forced to be home. This is a trial run for when you're actually in retirement phase. You're home for a year with the person. You're like, “Okay, can we do this? Can we be in this close proximity for months on end and not kill each other? Actually maybe enjoy it?” Find arts and crafts we enjoy doing together.


Chris Palmisano

Learn how to occupy your time or figure out who you want to be next. COVID gave people opportunity to do a lot of that stuff.


Robert Hansen

I'd be curious what you think about this. Once upon a time, I was telling a buddy of mine. I was looking at the birth rates of a year. I said, there's a lull around the timeframe that I was born. I'm between the baby boomers and the next. There's a little bit of a lull in the uptake and birth rate. It's going up, but it was going up slightly less.


Chris Palmisano

Like the xennials?


Robert Hansen

I would be the very tail end of Gen X.  That's how you know. It almost doesn't have a name. it is described as the tail of Gen X. This guy was an up and coming. He was definitely the smartest guy in the room, definitely going to go somewhere. I said, well, the nice part is you're born at a time where you're going to see the baby boomers are all going to retire about this timeframe. 65, 70, around there. You're going to be in your 40s when that happens. You're going to be first in line for executive positions. First in line for board positions.


Cause you're going to have tons and tons of experience. There's really no one above you. It's just a handful of people as a comparative ratio. But then COVID happened. Recently a buddy of mine, he's like, we saw a situation where basically everyone was going to retire. Then all of a sudden no one is going to retire. No one. Everyone went from very risky, possibly going to leave the company to zero risk. They're going to be around forever. A year or so now has passed since then. You think, okay, now they're about to leave?


No, no. Because the economic downturn, they're even more willing to stick it out for ever. If all things had been equal, I think I might have been right. But now we're in this bizarre situation where I'm not sure there is a retirement anymore. Do people retire? I'm not seeing it. When was last time you've been to a retirement party?


Chris Palmisano

Other than for people that are retiring out of the military, I don't know if I've been to a retirement party as an adult. I've read that, I think the statistic is still true, nearly 90% of people retiring from the military turned around and started another job. Or as soon as they can get one they start working again. They don’t retire. I worked in the retirement business for a little while. We helped start a retirement business at one point. I got very interested in the concept. It means different things to different people.


I think the whole concept of retirement is changing. In some cases probably just because it has to. I saw an article very recently that basically said, to your point, that there's a lot of folks that are retired who are thinking about going back to work. This might be just the economy. Might be the inflation. All these factors that are accumulating. At the same time, people might just be looking for something to do.


You can, if done right, get a lot of fulfilment from work. Work might tie into your purpose. There might be things going on in their lives where they say, I've got skills and experience that I want to share. Or there might be a financial need to go back into it. I think the concept of retirement is going to shift. I don't know if I would ever want to retire completely. I would want to do something.


Robert Hansen

I used to think that was a fairly strange or anomalistic thing. But maybe it isn't. Maybe the age of retirement has gone to however long it takes before people just can't work. Which is a much older age than 65.


Chris Palmisano

Now it is. Then the way we work has changed. There's so many different ways to make, this is America. There's probably more than a million ways to make a million bucks. What might look like work to one person might not be someone else's work. The guy sitting poolside with the laptop cranking on a Friday. We can do things now that we haven't been able to do in the past. Technology makes that possible. It's really democratizing everything to include work.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. There's really no reason I couldn't be anywhere in the world to do what I want. Except for this. This is the one thing I have to be in front of people. Which is funny. It locks me in. But my actual day job, I could be anywhere in the world and no one would even notice. Unless I just said, hey, my time zones have changed for some reason. But otherwise, they would have no idea.


Chris Palmisano

There are now lots of companies that are actually completely remote. You can make it work. It's different. It's different than when everybody's in the building together. There's some research and articles emerging on it. One of the primary things that changes is how you have to communicate. Communication actually becomes well just different. 


Your managers and your leaders down to every employee will spend more time communicating than they've probably ever spent, or would have spent if they were all in an office together.


Robert Hansen

I've been working remote on and off for over 20 years. I remember one of my first real jobs. I was just a product manager rather. I think I had five offices. I had three in downtown San Francisco, one in Sunnyvale, and then one in my house. I bounced between these different places. No one knew where I was. I just show up one day and people were like, oh, you're in the office. This office today as opposed to one of the other offices. Or I'm at home today. I’d just be on the phone and messaging people online. It might as well been a full remote job.


But occasionally it made sense because I had an in-person meeting. I just really want to see their face and make sure I knew what was going on and sit down and draw stuff on the whiteboard. This is before whiteboarding apps online were really a thing. I've been used to this thing for basically almost my entire working career practically. Not almost the entire thing. To me this is not a new situation really. But watching everyone react to it.


I was on an Uber the other day. This guy came from Las Vegas or something. Everybody in Las Vegas lives in a little bit of a shoebox. They aren’t these particularly large houses unless you're way outside. He's like, but Austin it seems like everybody's got a big house. Working from home just seems different. It didn't really occur to me until he said it. We happened to be driving by this rows and rows and rows and rows of little McMansions. Mini McMansions.


Probably could fit 20 people in there working full time and it would be perfectly spacious. You would not run into each other at all. I'm like, yeah, I guess it is true. There's enough space in these houses in Texas. I'm sure there's lots of rural America that is similar. You and your spouse and your kids could all be doing their homework or working their day jobs. You'd never see each other unless you wanted to.


Chris Palmisano

It's totally possible if you have enough space. If you're living in a little apartment or a little condo downtown maybe you can't do that. Or maybe one of you can if there's two of you. If you've got a spacious place, then yeah for sure. We did something where my wife was in the garage or was in a different part of the house. We have a loft where we live in the condo.


Robert Hansen

Were you in the garage?


Chris Palmisano

I worked in the loft. For what she was doing at the time, yeah.


Robert Hansen

Maybe not the last time we talked. Definitely not the last time. A couple of times ago that we met in person. You were working at a company. I think it's called Khorus if memory serves, that was doing some analysis on; I'm going to try to paraphrase it and you can fix it. It was able to identify places in the company that were not performing well or were about to not perform well using some dashboard that rolls up to the executive. Did I paraphrase well?


Chris Palmisano

Yes. You got that right.


Robert Hansen

I really always liked that idea. Because to me, when I look around the company, I have no idea who's working, not working. I have no idea if the company is healthy or not healthy. I don't know if we're going to meet performance objectives or not. I don't know if sales are about to meet their numbers. It's just really difficult as a senior person to look across the entire enterprise and have any sense of what's going on. But that transparency, I think it's just one of those things that can transform your company into completely ineffective to wildly effective.


Chris Palmisano

I totally agree. It's a really, really great concept. Think about it this way. How many departments spend time doing real forecasting? It's typical to have a sales leader.


Robert Hansen

Or maybe marketing.


Chris Palmisano

Maybe. There's that magical sales and marketing alignment. If they're working really well together, which they usually don't, then maybe there is aligned forecast. The key word is alignment. What you want to be able to figure out is, if one department is going to miss, who else is going to miss? What can we do about it? You want to find out as soon as possible. Bad news doesn't get any better with age regardless of the size of the organization. In fact, in smaller companies, one little thing could derail everybody really quickly.


Robert Hansen

Especially in product development, where everyone's expecting the big product launch on the day. Marketing is all ramped up and sales has been hyping it up to customers.


Chris Palmisano

Everything's backed up to that.


Robert Hansen

There's this one guy. He is like, it isn't going to work. Sorry guys.


Chris Palmisano

Then you got somebody in testing. It’s like, hey, if I don't get the code by X date, we're going to miss the ship date. If there's no way to surface that, all the stuff that you just described is going to not occur on the time in which you had anticipated it. You can buy software that can help you with this. You can even go to Khorus. The concept really is what I think is the most fascinating. You basically start out with your mission, your vision, your values, and then your long term goals and short-term goals.


Long-term goals may be a year or a little bit longer. Short-term goals, quarter or maybe there's some other timeframe. May be a good sales department. It could be a sprint if you’re a dev team. It could be a month if you're in a consumer sales motion or you're selling a consumer product. But you want to set those goals on a timeframe that's relevant for the business and for the department.


Just very simply, after these goals have been set, you have the conversation about, if there's something that requires two departments, now you've got a joint goal. There's other terms for goals today. You might have heard them called OKRs, or objectives and key results.


Robert Hansen

Or KPIs.


Chris Palmisano

Then your objectives is going to have some key results tied to it. Other people might call that a Key Performance Indicator or KPI. If I'm not mistaken, the KPI term originally hailed from the scorecard. Other large organizations would call this a scorecard. They know business unit by business unit, what are we measuring? Often it will go way beyond just P&L. Every department will have their goals.


If they're aligned properly, then if you're in one department and there's another department, you guys are working on something similar again, you've now got a joint goal. At the same time where there are dependencies. You just talked about missing a ship date on code or pushing a new release out, or getting new product into the marketplace.


Robert Hansen

Or a vendor that you have a partnership with. Everyone's all super excited about it. It's like, oh, actually, there's all these gotchas in the contract. It's not happening. That nuclear bomb radius is enormous.


Chris Palmisano

You go way down the process with them to find out that they don't have their cyber up to date. Or they have some issue. If you would have discovered that sooner, it could have saved you a bunch of time. Maybe you have got to switch vendors. Anything where you can teach yourself and teach the team or the people to start thinking about the future.


Robert Hansen

Another big example of this that happens quite often is M&A. Everyone is expecting that this company is going to get acquired. Everything's looking good. Right at the very last minute, something pops up. You're like, ooh, we cannot buy this company. It is too dangerous because of X, Y and Z. We found out corporate malfeasance.


We found something weird about their books. Nope, we're not doing this. Meanwhile, everybody internally, all the biz dev teams, all the marketing teams are all spun up about this new major thing. The press releases are basically already written. That's a big red dot on that screen. The blast radius is enormous and affects all these teams.


Chris Palmisano

The big red dot. To explain that, every week, you should go out and forecast or predict how you're going to do with your goals. Red, yellow, green for the end of the time period. Red means there's no way we're going to hit this. We need to figure out what we're going to do. Yellow means we don't know. There's an issue. Here's the issue. We're working on it. Green means we're good to go. We're very likely going to hit the goal at the end of the time period.


You can imagine what impact this has when your whole leadership team and then eventually the whole company is you doing something similar. Conceptually, I love the idea. I always have. We do it in my business with a spreadsheet. You can use Caveman tech. Or you can get really, really sophisticated if you have a much larger organization. It's a really, really interesting process.


But to your point about the M&A stuff. Those fall apart for lots and lots of reasons. In many cases, once you start working on one, everybody takes their eye off the ball. The other day-to-day stuff. If it falls apart at the last minute, I've seen this happen before. Now you're scrambling and you're trying to figure out what to do. That can be extremely stressful.


Robert Hansen

As an executive team, let's say you have a couple 100 people working underneath you. SMB or something. There is no way you're going around and calling all 200 people once a week to see if they're having any blockers or have anything going on. But if I'm looking at a dashboard, and it's all green, except for this little spot or red down here, that is so easy to identify. Hey, what's going on with this team? We're missing a lot of numbers here.


They keep telling us things are going to happen and they don't happen. Do they not have support? Do they not have enough money? Don’t they have enough people? What is causing all these delays? It's so much easier to focus your energy back down to the things that actually are problematic. I really don't know a better way to do it. I can't think of a better way to know at a glance every single person's status across the entire company without something like this.


Chris Palmisano

I don't have a better response. I don't have a better answer for that either. If you think about it, most organizations don't have the maturity to do that. Or they're all using different systems. Today in a large organization, there's probably reams of people. Lots and lots of jobs tied up in building spreadsheets, getting data into a data warehouse and in a tableau or into some reporting dashboard. They're looking at what's going on or in many cases, what's already happened.


It takes a pretty sophisticated organization to really get into predictive analytics. Although today, there's a lot of systems for that. It's much more common today. The one really unique thing Khorus did was it brought the human element into it. Which was, okay now, what do you think? Here's all the dashboarding. You can have all the predictive analytics in the world. Then you overlay the human element and the human perspective on it based on everything else that you know that's not in a system.


Robert Hansen

The only way I could see this being a true detriment is someone at the very bottom of the totem pole might be awfully reluctant to say things are going bad because their manager is going to look bad. That's going to reflect badly on them especially if you have a toxic environment internally. But that's exactly the situation in which, if I saw something going red, I'd immediately be looking at their manager.


Why didn't this manager foresee you needing these things? Why didn't your manager help you before this became a problem? Right there, I'm not saying put them on a pip that second, but I'd be much more inclined to be focusing some energy on that individual. How did that director above them let that happen with that person? That manager was letting this occur. It's a clear ownership chain when such a thing happens.


Chris Palmisano

I would actually encourage you to think a little differently about it. You want people to feel comfortable and safe to say this is red. Because that can happen really, really quickly. Let's say everybody's reporting on a certain day. The manager just might not have had a chance to do anything about it yet, or he might not even know yet. You have to have a protocol. Do you want to tell the manager, this is red? Or we're not going to accomplish this before they put it in the system and then have a chance to do something about it.


Or would you rather go into the system. There's visibility. Then maybe some other department who's tied to that or who is depending on that can also see it or can also hear about it. Having a system to back you up. Scalability, sustainability is really about systems and processes. Having a system for that can actually be really, really helpful.


To your point, what that does is it gives you the opportunity to drill in where the issue is. Maybe it's something that the manager can't solve either or the director, budget, or some change in the marketplace, or some change that's outside of your control. A key team member leaves.


Robert Hansen

I think the budgeting one is an interesting one though. Because this is another way for the executive team to be looking at their entire organization and say, we keep going red here. This keeps happening. Then you talk to the manager. It's like, well that's because we have two guys. Three of them left the company. We used to have five. Now we got two. We're trying to do a lot with a little.


Chris Palmisano

Those two are crazy overworked.


Robert Hansen

They're about to leave because they don't have support. I know that one's looking for sure. I'm pretty sure I heard that guy talking at the water cooler about leaving. Time to start hiring right now. You can see it in advance. Way in advance. Okay, we started getting a lot of yellows. 


Now we are starting to get a lot more red. That team has a history of having performance problems. Is it budget? That's a really great way to define. We're not just making this up over here. Our budget is far too small for what you're asking us to do.


Chris Palmisano

Or they just might have had goals that were stretch. Stretch goals. The key thing with stretch goals is, what are you going to do if people don't hit them? You want essentially a culture that can basically catch them. Because that can become a problem over time.


Robert Hansen

Absolutely. I saw this article the other day. I immediately thought we would have to talk about this. It was super, super interesting. I pulled out a couple of quotes because I just thought this thing was fantastic. Super interesting. This guy, I'm going to probably butcher his name. I apologize to him ahead of time because this is not a slight on him.


I may not be able to pronounce the name. I think it is Praveen Seshadri. Apparently, he used to run a company. It was acquired by Google. Then he just recently left Google. He was on the lockup for three years and then he bailed. He wrote this basically on the way out the door. I'm not going to read the whole thing. Just these couple clips.


First quote, ‘Google has 175,000+ capable and well compensated employees who get very little done quarter over quarter, year over year. Like mice they are trapped in a maze of approvals, launch processes, legal reviews, performance reviews, executive reviews, documents, meetings, bug reports, triage, OKRs, H1 plans followed by H2 plans, all hands summits, inevitable rewards. The mice are regularly fed their ‘cheese’, promotions, bonuses, fancy food, fancier perks. Despite many wanting to experience personal satisfaction and impact from their work, the system trains them to quell these inappropriate desires and learn what it actually means to be googly. Just don't rock the boat’. 

Talk about stabbing you in the heart.


Chris Palmisano

It's a heck of a critique.


Robert Hansen

There's more. I got to take this in pieces. What is your take on that?


Chris Palmisano

I would ask Socratically. What company of that size really doesn't sound like that? Those things creep in over time. I think it's really, really difficult to keep them out. To me that sounds like somebody who is coming from a startup where he was probably running the show too.


Robert Hansen

I think he was the CEO.


Chris Palmisano

Then drops into this enormous organization. He didn't start a startup on accident. He didn’t build his own business on accident. He did that on purpose. Then he ended up inside of a very, one of the largest organizations in the world and one of the most profitable, and saw really the difference between the two. That's a pretty big leap. It is a pretty big leap. It's a pretty scathing critique. You could ask, is that just the normal course of business for all companies of that size?


Or we have so many people that are so smart, and so capable. What is likely to happen? Because they're all super competitive. Probably mostly type A. All trying to do the best they can and bumping into each other. That to me sounds almost what you would expect from a founder who sold a company into a very large organization, sat there for several years, and probably went from being able to make decisions on the fly, and now having to deal with all that bureaucracy. Because that's what that is. That's a lot of bureaucracy.


Robert Hansen

Sure is. Along the same. ‘If this were an algorithm, we’d call it the most cautious wins.’ In this case, I agree with Google's stance on this if that was indeed an intentional policy. Let's not say it's not. Because there's so much to lose if you screw it up. You're talking about billions of dollars a year in potential profit that could go out the window if you change a piece of JavaScript to do something slightly different on the homepage.


Not minor delta there. Having those peer reviews and really making sure everything's done correctly. It has a point. There's a real upside to doing it that way. But at the same time, it also seems like that's really hindering a certain type of person. Maybe that type of person doesn't belong inside Google.


Chris Palmisano

Or maybe not at this point. At one point, I haven't looked recently, but they were a trillion dollar valuation. A trillion dollar corporation. I don't have the first clue about how to run something that large. Do you? Sure we’ve got ideas. But that's a very large organization. It's like being the President of the United States. How does anybody actually do that job and do that job really well? I think it's a difficult, difficult situation.


But they have a different view on risk at that size. That's my understanding. It's a different view on risk. There's certain, probably umpteen levels of control that have to be in place. For a long time, they were buoyed by just having, may be the most elegant and the most beautiful business model ever in the ads machine. You hear that traffic acquisition costs are up. Or they're competing in cloud with Amazon and Microsoft.


These are not two competitors that are going to lay down. You've got to think, at that level, how do you keep things pushing towards taking the right risks, while at the same time managing the rest of the organization to not take too much risk? Or if something doesn't go right that they're still going to be able to perform and hit all those expectations? If you think about the list of stakeholders, it's nearly everyone alive that has access to the internet is using Google. Or any of these other really, really large companies. Microsoft.


Robert Hansen

I mean, they all are, whether they know it or not.


Chris Palmisano

Then investors. Of course investors and markets put a lot of pressure on boards, and CEOs, and 175,000 employees, then how many 10s of millions of customers across all of the business units. That is a lot of people.


Robert Hansen

But this is, I think, the detriment in all of this. ‘There's always going to be someone uncomfortable enough to want to do nothing.’ That's that pocket veto. That's that one person who's going to throw up some red flag. It doesn't matter how tiny that red flag is. Like, oh, that might sound bad if we do blah, blah, blah. All of a sudden, it takes virtually no effort to stop the machine. That is very dangerous. That's the killer for me right there. How do you do that? How do you get around people who are just, their whole point in life is to add bureaucracy to stop doing work?


Chris Palmisano

If I had the answer to that I'd be running the biggest consulting firm in the world. I think that's hard. There's probably a few things that you can consider. Try to balance out who's on the team, what the personalities are and what their personality styles are. You can do personality tests. The big five, for example, might be a great way.


It’s something super stone-cold simple to start with. If everybody looks exactly the same, or has exactly the same personality style, then they're all going to make decisions probably the same way. Even big companies need help with this stuff. You might want to make sure that that team got some diverse thinking or got some diverse personality styles.


Robert Hansen

I'm not sure if diversity in this particular case is actually going to solve that problem.


Chris Palmisano

Thinking. Diversity in thought.


Robert Hansen

I understand what you mean. But if you have truly diverse thought, you are always going to have the one person who's ultra-lazy and say, oh, we probably shouldn't do it. Because some random reason I just came up with it. It seems like you need a specific kind of person who owns the gate for that thing, whatever you're developing or trying to push out the door. That person has to have some risk tolerance, some sense of, there's got to be an upside to doing what we're doing.


Chris Palmisano

Or potentially having a person that's accountable for the delivery. That can make a decision to push or make a decision over the rest of the team or the committee. Sometimes doing too many things by committee just slows things down. Nothing gets done.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. Next quote. ‘There are documents that explicitly and proudly deride heroism and assert that not only should product teams not encourage heroes, they should actively dissuade them.’ Next quote. ‘In this system, nothing is worth fighting for.’ I think you're right though. I think a lot of big companies end up looking like this. This isn't unique to them.


They might be especially bad in the heroism comment. Because frankly, heroes often save the day. That is usually why they're called heroes. Now, it would be better if we had a process in place to stop this thing from needing to be heroically saved. But also, some of the coolest tech is something that was out of someone's garage. They just power through it one night. They created something awesome. Now we have some awesome new app. Facebook for instance. More or less a project by a couple of heroes in the basement. Garage. Dorm room. Then a garage. Amazon was a garage.


That was pretty scathing. Here is one comment on how you might try to fix this. I thought it was interesting was you should switch instead of this model into a value creation model. To be, ‘Who did I create value for today?’ Stopping things from happening does not create value. It just stops things. You've raised value which is nice. But you didn't create any value by that action. How can you switch everything, all this entire monolithic, massive, mega corporation into a value creation engine for mankind, for individual people who are buying ads? I thought that was compelling.


Chris Palmisano

Extremely compelling. That goes back to the mission and values. Probably starting with values and then working back to what am I doing on a day-to-day basis. Realigning what I'm doing or what a team is doing or what they're focused on to adding value somehow.


Robert Hansen

It comes back full circle to khorus. One of the OKRs that could be on the thing for everybody at the bottom is, one of the questions is, how are you creating value this week for whoever your customer is? Whether it's an internal customer or an extra customer. Whatever we're talking about. How are you doing that? Give me one example of one of those things you're doing this week.


Just getting people thinking every single week, maybe I should build that thing for them. This would actually really help them if I could produce this one extra whatever. Or maybe I'm not going to be able to do it in a week. But I'll be able to work on it this week and make a little progress every week. Because if you're not doing that, what are you doing?


Chris Palmisano

Well think about all the different ways to add value. You can make something better, faster, cheaper, improve an experience, increase the conversion rate, faster. Get back to the basics in every role. Even if you're in a shared service, your customers and other internal department, are they better, faster, lighter? Whatever the right answer is for that team.


Measuring or at least being able to discuss what adds value. What's valuable to them? It's different for each team. But having a good understanding of what that other team does, which you can develop by having goals together. Or join goals. That can actually move the needle.


Robert Hansen

I've been dancing around this thought for a long time. I just never came up with it myself. Good on this guy, Praveen. But I always used to say back in the eBay days, is this good for the business? Whatever we're doing. I don't care what decision is being made. Just, is it positive for the business? We could be in a drop down, drag out fight about some mini feature.

I'm like, I don't care. Am I right or wrong? It doesn't actually matter. What matters is, is it good for the business or not. Then through that one lens, it made everything much clearer. People would get less angry. They're like, okay. All right. I see why you're saying that is better for the company. It may suck for me. I'm going to have to do a bunch of work but it is much better for the company if we do X. Well, then that's the right answer.


Chris Palmisano

Then could you point to something that was unifying for the whole company. There was something on the wall that you could point to that said, here's the goal. Or this is where we're going.


Robert Hansen

I think it depended on the case. I don't think it was uniform. But you can tell. Hey, I'm going to need you to do all this annoying busy work. That sucks. This is annoying busy work. You only have to do it once. Once we're done with it, I know it sucks, then we'll have this new feature. This feature is amazing. We know these customers want it and we know it could help conversions over here.


Yes, it sucks for you. I'm not disputing that. I don't care though. What is good for the business. That's the thing we all have to care about. Same thing with me. I would do horrible, awful busy work once, but then I know there was some upside for the company. I ate my own dog food in that regard. But I never really thought about it as value creation. That eluded me. I liked that a lot.


Chris Palmisano

He brought up a really interesting concept with that.


Robert Hansen

We're going to switch topics a little bit. You were involved in a company at one point that got compromised. Which I thought was interesting for a number of reasons. But maybe it's better if you just tell the story. How did you find out you were compromised? What was that process?


Chris Palmisano

One of the team members came in and said, hey, something has happened. We've been compromised. The CTO actually. Immediately your heart sinks. You're like, oh, what do I do? I had never gone through that before. Not personally. You immediately start thinking the worst. 


But we took action as quickly as we could. I think you were one of the phone calls that I made. That was figuring out what to do next. What to do first. It's a difficult thing to go through.


Robert Hansen

I don't remember for sure. Did you actually use an insurance policy?


Chris Palmisano

We did. We had insurance.


Robert Hansen

What was that process like?


Chris Palmisano

You call the insurance company. You say, "Hey, look, something's happened. I need to open a claim." And depending on the policy, my key takeaway is this happens so frequently, the insurance companies have this down to a science. You open the claim, just like you would have an auto collision. The insurance companies have a plethora of service providers lined up ready to go.


So if you've got to send out mailers, they've got a vendor for that. If you've got to send filing reports or compliance reports to state agencies or federal agencies, or anyone involved, they've got a vendor for that, or a law firm ready to go.


They literally had everything that you needed, essentially, at the ready. You just work through that. You pick the vendor. You work through the process, and then you do what you got to do to do the right thing, take care of your customers, secure your systems, and get everything back to normal.


Robert Hansen

That's interesting. The money that they pay you back, does that primarily cover those vendors? Or does it also cover other types of cleanup costs? Did you find that you ended up spending more money on cleanup versus these vendors or vice versa? What was your spend like?


Chris Palmisano

I don't recall all of the details, but they have negotiated rates. Just like insurance companies, they have negotiated rates to provide these services.


Robert Hansen

So you knew ahead of time?


Chris Palmisano

So you find out very quickly. Ours wasn't as substantial as some of these big ones that you see on TV, like Equifax or something like that. I imagine those, it seems like they just discover more and more and more over time. So, I would imagine for those larger organizations, the cost keeps spiraling, even with insurance policies because there are all kinds of other things that have to happen internally.


You've got coordination costs, time, lost effort. I imagine as much as they would try to keep everybody focused on everything else that the business has to do, there's still going to be some spillover plus brand impact. If you've publicly traded, maybe your stock takes a hit, who knows?


Robert Hansen

I have found, generally speaking, for those traders out there, that you'll see about a 10% or less decline in stock for about 10 days, and then you'll recover. Yes, it always hits a little bit and then always recovers.


Chris Palmisano

That sounds like the markets have adjusted and they know how to process that new information, which gets reflected in the security price right away.


Robert Hansen

I was surprised it was so short-lived. The reason I started looking at this was the TJX compromise. They were publicly traded, so it was a little bit easier. I remember talking to people on the ground who actually shop at TGX. I do not. I know nothing about that store whatsoever. And everyone was like, "I'm never going to use my credit card there again." I'm like, "That's a good thing for TJX."


They didn't say they weren't going to shop there. They said that we weren't going to use their credit card. And that just means they've made a whole bunch more money. They don't have to pay those fees for credit card processing. I'm like, they are going to make a ton of money actually on this.


Chris Palmisano

What other way are they going to pay? Everybody pays with a credit card or a debit card.


Robert Hansen

These are, I would say, not poor people, but people who are struggling. So, then they'll pay in cash and that's good for TJX. They still have their low-cost apparel for these struggling families and they are now making 12% more, which is fantastic. Then I started researching it more, and I realized there are other things.


They have a thing that they sent out about credit monitoring. It's one free year of credit monitoring. But that's actually a referral program. A lot of people will say, "I'm just going to keep it rolling. I'm just going to keep getting this credit reporting going."


If that happens, you're actually paying now and now TJX gets a cut of that. So they make money on it. Then I was talking to some Black Hat SEOs about this. I'm like, "It seems like what you'd actually want to do is you'd want to have one page where you describe exactly what happened." And there's a very specific process for doing that.


Chris Palmisano

Like an incident report?


Robert Hansen 

Yeah, but also a mia culpa, and here's what to do about it. Here's why it's never going to happen again. There are some very specific things you need to have in there. Then you point everyone in the world at this thing. So all these blogs are commenting about it, everybody is commenting on it.


You leave it there for six months and then you redirect it to your homepage. Now you have all these backlinks pointed to your homepage, without a tiny bit of link equity missing. I started going through all these little things you could do to turn it from a loss to a major winner. And now I'm not convinced that getting breached is a bad thing at all. Like, there's no such thing as bad publicity.


Chris Palmisano

Well, that's true. Publicity is publicity these days. There are a lot of examples of people who, for whatever reason, society builds up because we almost don't even care anymore.


Robert Hansen

It's so prevalent now that it's kind of shrugs like, oh, another one got compromised.


Chris Palmisano

Sure. It seems like it's now par for the course. It's not a matter of if it happens, it's when it happens, and then how prepared are you for it? That's no excuse not to be as disciplined and as diligent as possible, and to do your certifications and your audits and your penetration testing, and use all the latest and the greatest technology, at least that you can afford. But yes, it happens with alarming frequency. You tell me and you tell us this is just the way the world is now. Does it get worse?


Robert Hansen

Oh, it's going to get worse, but for interesting reasons. The first thing that happens is the CEO freaks out, absolutely loses his mind because he thinks he's going to get fired or thinks the company is going to explode. He just doesn't understand. They don't understand the business mechanics of what's happening.  They really don't want anyone to know about it. But of course, they have to do it; California disclosure laws, for instance, and GDPR.


It occurred to me one thing that they could do, you could build a service that is the most spammy, unbelievably messy email gateway. One that is sending out Viagra spam 24/7, it's from a botnet, it's definitely going to get blocked everywhere. Then send your disclosures through that. They end up in everyone's spam box instead of their inbox.


So yes, you have done the disclosure, but no one knows about it except for the handful of people who are super paranoid and look through their spam. And even they, who cares? They're probably just going to write an article about it and give you a backlink.


Chris Palmisano

That doesn't sound like the most ethical way to handle it.


Robert Hansen

That is nothing about ethics. I went down the rabbit hole of trying to figure out the way to best monetize the downside of getting hacked. I think you can make an entire upside with very little downside at all.


Chris Palmisano

So SEO.


Robert Hansen

Yeah, Search Engine Optimization. Were there any cultural shifts after you guys got compromised or anything internally that changed?


Chris Palmisano

Some processes had to change? It's an opportunity, if you look at it that way, to double down on security best practices, and make sure that everybody's doing the right thing, and that you have the right tools, and they have the right process, and that you're working with somebody like you. Even at a small company, it's important to have somebody at the ready, or somebody on speed dial that you can get a hold of.


We had gone through different SOC certifications. It's a certification program that tests all your policies and procedures and your systems. That was really helpful from then on. We stayed on the case. We reported it to the FBI. Eventually, they found the guys.


Robert Hansen

Did they?


Chris Palmisano

They were in Indonesia. The Indonesian National Police came here and took testimony from us.


Robert Hansen

Are they in jail?



Chris Palmisano

Well, that's where the story drops off. They didn't tell us what happened after that. I sat there with the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas and an FBI agent and the Indonesian National Police and explained what happened, and what was the impact. In this particular case, the offenders had done quite a bit of this. We had just gotten caught up in it.


Robert Hansen

Interesting. You were just one of the many. That's really fascinating. Going back for a second, you were talking about the ethics of being involved in this. A lot of what I do is thought experiments. I spend a lot of time not thinking about the positive or negative ethics of anything, just what's possible.


Now, you can draw circles around the ethics later, but you have to know what's possible first. I could build some crazy robot that destroys the Earth. You can? Okay, is that ethical? Probably not. So, we can draw a circle, not ethical, but it's still possible. Now we agree it's possible and not ethical. So, who would do it? Here's the list of unethical people who might actually try to accomplish that task.


I think it's important. Sometimes I sound like a bad guy when I'm talking like that. But what's really happening is I'm just letting my brain relax and say, what could have happened? What is the most extreme version of this conversation? Where would you take it with the logical extremes? Because from there, you can get back to okay, what's most likely? And then back to, okay, what's ethical? You are now a CEO. Please tell us about your company.


Chris Palmisano

The company is called iamGIS. It's a geographic or geospatial information system application. We help small and mid-sized municipalities with asset management. Think about it, they have tax dollars, and they have funds from various sources where they're providing services to constituents and to the community, whether that's water power, utilities, etc. And they have equipment for that. So water lines, water valves, manholes, absolutely everything that's in their inventory.


They often have both state, local, and maybe federal requirements, or even from the EPA to do asset management so they can better provide services and stretch the tax dollar, and make sure that all those assets are used appropriately to do things like preventative maintenance checks and services, and to make sure that all those assets are working well. At the end of the day, they're there providing...


Robert Hansen

Asset in this case would be like a manhole cover?


Chris Palmisano

A manhole cover, a waterline, or the water treatment facility. A road is an asset, a stop sign is an asset, their fleet of vehicles are assets. Everything that they're using to provide you with services. If it's a utility company, they've got all kinds of stuff.


Robert Hansen

So this is not just municipalities, it's also potentially a utility.


Chris Palmisano

A utility. A lot of utilities are provided by municipalities. So if you go into small towns, there might just be the municipal office with the Director of Public Works and they're providing everything. If you think about it, they have assets that they need to manage as well.


There are solutions in the marketplace for this, but a lot of them are very big and very expensive. Smaller, mid-sized municipalities have a different budget profile. So it's an opportunity for us to provide them with a value-added service/application that allows them to accomplish their objectives and allows them to better manage their assets and provide services to their communities.


Robert Hansen

Do you have the same kind of overlays that, say, an Esri would have?


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, very much. They're now the largest company in the space.


Robert Hansen

They are? I didn't know that. I used to work with Esri many moons ago in the context of trying to provide crime overlays on top of realtor.com data. You could basically say, Well, there's a certain amount of crime in this area. You probably don't want to put your kid in school there. Maybe this other school is a better choice.


And the National Association of Realtors hated this idea. They hated it because they thought, well, no one's ever going to be able to sell houses in this area. It just shows you what they think about the general public. But just even that, and there are a lot of other types of overlays, was so fascinating to play with.


Chris Palmisano

For very advanced users and very advanced use cases, we call that data fusion, where you're mashing up data from a couple of different places to then go and do something predictive or something super advanced. The space that we play in is essentially the early phase of the digital transformation.


A lot of small-town America still runs off of paper or very early software systems. So that's an opportunity for us to bring in a more robust modern application, and help them in their digital journey.


Robert Hansen

I thought that there probably wouldn't be that many use cases for GIS when I was first thinking about this. But then I went to this one website. I think the title of it was "1000 different things you can do with GIS data," or something like that. I scrolled, and it just kept scrolling. And I'm like, Oh, they're serious. It literally is 1,000 things long.


Agriculture is one massive section. Then there's the geospatial type of things, another massive section. Weather in Antarctica; massive section. What are some exciting use cases that you've come up with That you think would be compelling to talk about?


Chris Palmisano

The primary one is being able to take a city or a town from paper maps into a completely digital experience, where they have all of their assets for the various departments on the map. And they're using that for work orders and for administration.


I like to describe this as a journey. So phase one, they're going digital, or moving from an old system into a modern application, getting all the assets into the system, and then being able to actually manage them, use the database, produce their reports, handle compliance, and reporting. And then in phase two, it starts to integrate into their workflow. So we work orders, and now we can upload different documents. It starts to streamline the entire experience and the entire use for them. That's where we start to see a major impact.


Robert Hansen

I've always been curious about roads in particular, but why cities and states are not putting more strict contracts in place with their road vendors and saying, "Well, we're seeing degradation here, here, and here on these road types. You need to guarantee this for 13 years, and any degradation over that time period is on your dime."


So you're going to have to have some massive escrow in place to handle this amount of not complying or going out of business at the very end of the contract or something. I mean, there's a way to have roads that don't have holes in them. We just don't seem to be doing any of those things.


Chris Palmisano

I think it depends on where you are. And then it's probably a budget issue.


Robert Hansen

I've lived in a number of cities. It's everywhere. Maybe not in Beverly Hills, but everywhere else.


Chris Palmisano

It's more than likely a budget issue. And then thinking back to the conversation we were having earlier, how do you do city planning? And then how do we do contracting? What's the source of funds? Where is it all coming from? And getting something on paper to commit to like a decade or more, that's a tall order.


Robert Hansen

Yeah, but it seems like the only way we're going to have better roads. To me, this seems extremely simple. But maybe I'm just not thinking through the complexity within maybe the budgeting cycles. Well, we can't handle anything more than four years out because that's where our budgeting cycle ends. So we don't care if the roads have holes in them in four years. Or, I'm out of the office in four years anyway, so what does it matter?


Chris Palmisano

Unless they're private, you're dealing with election cycles and politicians and the whole nine yards and everything that comes with that. I remember seeing an interview with the governor of Pennsylvania, and he said, "We're going to fix so many 1000 roads and bridges this year. And the good news is, and next year, we're going to fix 5,000. We have 7000 to fix." So the problem is much larger than most people can really grasp or realize.


Robert Hansen

We had things like these massive innovations like Google Maps. Terravision I think was possibly the original. We're still figuring out whether they were the original ones or not. I think that court case will end up soon, we'll figure out who it is. We had things like Street View. I think that was a pretty massive innovation in GIS overlay data.


Where do you think things are going from here? What is the next big innovation beyond here?


Chris Palmisano

I think we'll start to see more of the artificial intelligence find its way into different GIS applications and anything that's even close to it Then this proliferation of mapping and geo capabilities. Almost every app now has or could find a way to use a map for something. It's just going to become commonplace in virtually every application that you're using. There'll be some sort of mapping capability.


I think we'll get GPS everywhere and any app can access it if you give it access. So there's going to be a lot of new ways of using a map and using geo data to go about your daily life.


From a business perspective, it enables all kinds of new data capabilities and potentially data insights about your business, about customers that weren't there before. With new capabilities comes new opportunities. Remember, before we had GPS, or when it was just a military technology? Look at where we are now. The world has changed dramatically and we're never going back. Our lives are all way better for it.


I think the proliferation of mapping and geo data everywhere is where we're headed, for sure. Then the data fusion will continue to advance and you being able to do more advanced analytics and forecasting, modeling things of that nature. And then fueled by now artificial intelligence. Every day, it seems like there's another new AI tool popping up. This new wave of AI is actually very different than the stuff that we saw floating around Austin five to seven years ago.


Robert Hansen

I thought Waze was another interesting one. Data Fusion. And the way I understood partly that came to be was, they had some agreement with a company called Land Sonar. I believe this is how this happened. Please, correct me if I'm wrong in the comments.


But effectively, what they did is everybody's cell phone as they were traveling down the highway was beaconing two different base stations. And if they noticed everybody's going slow on the highway, there's probably a traffic jam. Then it turned into this massive sort of app that we all know and love and now it's everywhere. Now you have it on any mapping app that has any direction capabilities.


I think the future of that is even more interesting, being able to accurately predict. It's one of those things where, when people say, define something that's like magic, or define something that would be next to impossible to get to the point where you could build it if society had to restart. They have all these versions of the same question. To my mind, they're all really the same question.


Really, the ability to go from one place in the country to another place in the country down to the minute and the map being correct, the amount of things that had to go right for that system to work the way that you expect it to work is enormous. It's truly enormous. That's really the power of GIS or one of the many things you can do with GIS. And without it, I mean, you're old enough to remember paper maps. You were in the military.


Chris Palmisano

We used to print them from Mapquest and put them in the car. How often did you stop at a gas station and ask for directions? Now I just send them to the phone.


Robert Hansen

The difference between then and now is so amazingly large. I think we forget how useful that technology has been. Kids these days simply don't even have the skill to know how to even read a map. How do I know which way is north? They're helpless, and yet it's one of those critical things we had to have in the car. Otherwise, when you were lost, what are you going to do? No payphone in sight, no cell phones.


Chris Palmisano

If you think about it, it's beyond just maps and GIS. The cloud and digital telephony and over-the-air data, the cell networks and mobile networks and the invention of the iPhone and the smartphones, Android devices, Google, satellites and GPS, which was almost all government funded. Even the internet stems from DARPA.


To use an old Google phrase, we stand on the shoulders of giants. That was a common phrase used there. These were technologies that the government had put money into for a very long period of time.


Robert Hansen

I got to think there's a pretty strong use case for AR in particular, and also possibly VR, to some extent. Some of the examples I've seen out of oil and gas, although this is wildly under NDA so I've never actually seen it myself. But the way I understand it is you can go into a room, put on these goggles, and now you're underneath the crust of the Earth.


You can see the fractures and you can turn them around in three-dimensional space and see the best possible options for doing things and gloves and moving it and expanding it and whatever. Okay, here's a fissure here, and here's the best possible path to get down here, which is a three-dimensional space.


Most people when they're looking at the crust, it's like a side view. But really, it's a three-dimensional object. You have to understand like, this is obviously shale here, this is some other minerals here. It's not going to work very well if we mined here. That's a level of GIS that I think most people don't really fully grok; three-dimensional views.


Chris Palmisano

I'm unaware of that. That's amazing that they're going to be able to do that. I mean, there are different technologies for looking down into the ground and seeing what's beneath the surface. These technologies are technologies until there's an application that's useful.


Oil and gas; that makes a lot of sense. Then you can figure out where to more effectively drill or not drill or use some other extraction technology or technique. That's pretty amazing.


Robert Hansen

A similar use case was a military one that I heard. It was understanding the different types of salinity in the ocean and underwater rivers and understanding where kelp beds, or mass migrations of fish or other boats on the surface. And there's a three- dimensional, constantly evolving set of objects.


This GIS is not a fixed thing in time. It's not like, Okay, we have a snapshot of the ocean, we're good. It's constantly evolving. There are underwater earthquakes and whatever. So things are constantly shifting. The currents are moving things along.


Fukushima, for instance. Now there are radioactive isotopes going through the water. Here's where they are. We have these massive gyres in the middle of the ocean. All these things are useful to know if you're underwater and trying to be very stealthy. If you have a radiation leak, you might want to do a radiation source that you could get away with it.


Chris Palmisano

This is why you can say GIS is all around you. It could be in every corner of the Earth. And 70% of the world is covered in water. That opens up some pretty interesting research questions. Then from a military perspective, that data would be incredibly important. Imagine if you're in a submarine or a navy, and you're patrolling the seas. You're doing that to protect shipping lines. Now you can see how all this stuff actually starts to really come together.


What did it for me was, we're a mission-driven and a mission-based company. Our mission is to help small and mid-sized municipalities better manage their assets. They provide water and electricity and other extremely important services to their communities. That's what makes this stuff so important. It's helping to provide life.


Robert Hansen

I remember one more use case that's probably worth talking about. I was at NASA Goddard Flight Center. They were describing overhead views and long-term snapshots. These are decades of snapshots of Iran, overflights. They were Iran had grown over at least two decades. One snapshot was every year, let's say so it's kind of slowly building.

And you could see the farms slowly turning into villages, slowly turning into a city, and it's expanding. Tehran is just growing and growing and growing. You could see the whole thing happening on a time-lapse. It was really useful.


And they said, in the beginning, it was all just arid land. It was mostly brown color. You could tell it was covered in weeds. Not quite the desert, but slightly more vegetation than the desert. I think it's called Baha'i Desert or something.


By the end, the entire thing was green. The entirety of the entire map was green. And they said, the only way for them to get that much water on land, they can't get it from the ocean because the salinity is too high and they don't have enough processing plants to get that much water. So they have to be going subterranean. They have to be going for this ancient water underneath the soil. The problem is we've done a bunch of analysis on that, and they're not going to have enough. They're going to run out.


The only country in the world that has the plants necessary to desalinate enough water for them to survive for how much their population has grown is Israel. So there's going to be some interesting conflict there at some point or some massive humanitarian thing that has to happen at some point, to feed all of those people or have them use those crops because they're probably going to die if you don't do it. That's something you cannot just do from the ground. You have to be many miles above the Earth and looking down.


This is about your miscibility things. Like, if you go out to Austin right now or Travis, it's pretty low. Much lower than when I got here 16 years ago. That's something you could easily say, "Look, I can tell without doing any extra work that you're utilizing this water faster than you're replenishing it. You need to start doing water conservation way earlier. Not 10 years from now. Put ordinances in place now. Put low water drip in place instead of sprinkler systems."


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, conservation is a big part of what you can do with GIS. It helps enable all kinds of programs and initiatives. It gives you the data and you need the data to do just about anything. So having a good system in place is as important for that.


Robert Hansen

You're also a partner at NextGen VP? Is that still correct?


Chris Palmisano

Yeah. It is called a venture partner, so I don't work full-time for them. What that means is if I see an interesting deal or an interesting opportunity, then I can refer it to them. They've been around for several years now. I think they're on fund three.


I got involved with them pretty early, several jobs ago, great group of people. They've got a vast network of people who can bring a deal to them. They'll evaluate it and take a look at it. Venture Partners can serve on investment committees, invest in the fund or invest in a deal. I've heard maybe they've been involved in portfolio companies, but it's just a great network and another way to look at venture capital.


Robert Hansen

What are you looking for in an entrepreneur now that you are an entrepreneur?


Chris Palmisano

Well, what's fair is fair. I've done some entrepreneurial things, but I didn't start this company. I got hired to be CEO of this company. I want to give credit to Tony Shriner who was the founder.


Look, these things are hard. Building a business from scratch is really hard. What you're looking for is somebody who's really motivated, and has really thought this through, even though no plan survives first contact. Do they have the ability to recruit people or investors in a team?


There are all kinds of other frameworks that you can look at, but what's the product that they're putting forth? What problem is it really trying to solve individually?


Robert Hansen

Do they have to have done it before, for instance? I've heard some mixed feelings on that particular issue.


Chris Palmisano

Look, there's some data out there. Some research papers show that serial entrepreneurs or somebody who's done it before a second-time founder have a slightly better rate of success. And you can debate how you're going to measure success. But some people just have that X factor, whatever it is. And if you can get a sense for that, then that could be part of your investment thesis or not.


Robert Hansen

Anything about their personality? Do they have to be salesmen? To me, it's like if you can't sell me your product, why am I going to put a bunch of money into you knowing that you're not going to be able to sell the next person either?


Chris Palmisano

The way I think about that is there's a set of skills that have to exist. And if it's not with one person, it's got to be with someone else on the team. There's a couple of interesting books on this. One of them, we think about who is going to be the integrator, and then who's going to be the visionary?


Is there somebody on the team that's visionary and thinking about what the future is going to look like, what the product is going to look like, or how the problem is going to get solved? Then the integrator is somebody who's able to bring the other skills to the table, to manage the business. Because at the end of the day, that's what it is. It's a business and you're trying to manage a business.


Robert Hansen

What about founders as CEOs? You're obviously the CEO who took over for the founder. I've heard a lot of negative feelings about founders who remain in the CEO seat. But you also have the Zuckerberg’s of the world and the Bezos of the world. So clearly, it can work.


Is it your impression that you should get rid of the founder and replace them pretty quickly? Or do you want the innovation there for a long time?


Chris Palmisano

I think every case is unique because every person is unique. You have to evaluate it on a case-by-case basis. There's no hard and fast rule for any of this, at least not from my perspective, or not from anything I've seen. So if you have somebody like Zuck, he's such a statistical anomaly. He took it the whole way, from a dorm room. He's still running the show.


In other cases, you might have a founder who wants to move on to do something else, or might be burned out, or might be self-aware and say, "There's someone else better to do this." And that's okay, too. I think you want to look at this on a case-by-case basis and make the best determination you can.


Robert Hansen

How do you break it to him? How do you say, "It's time"?


Chris Palmisano

I've never had to do that.


Robert Hansen

I feel like I've had to do it a couple of times. It's a rough conversation. Usually, it's more about what's good for the company.


Chris Palmisano

I'm not a venture capitalist. That's not in my remit, if you will.


Robert Hansen

Has it informed you being a CEO and how you act as a CEO?


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, I'm new to this. But I do believe that you want to be as self-aware as you can and be aware of your strengths. Then get good people around you and support you and can work with you in the areas where someone else might be bringing more expertise to the table or where someone else's opinion would be better or more valuable.


Robert Hansen

And now fundraising. Now that you're on both sides of the fence, you get to see deal flow and how deals get made. But you're also, I'm assuming eventually, going to have to raise a round or something unless it's just doing famously well and bootstrapped on its own.  How do you think about fundraising? What's the magical point to do it and what do you think about it?


Chris Palmisano

The business that I'm in today is owned by an investment firm. So, the first step would be working with the investment firm on working capital. But if I was out as a regular entrepreneur or building something from scratch or even I had a previous company, fundraising is hard. But it's an important part of the process and you work through it.


You start out with your vision and where you're trying to go and try to identify who the right partners are. You build your pitch deck and you do your roadshow. You hit the road, and you pitch. You work through this process, just like it's a sales process. It's very much a funnel.


Robert Hansen

I like the way you think about that. I've said that before to people. I think it's closer, if I had to use an exact analogy, to BizDev. It's almost exactly like BizDev, it's just that BizDev is getting money for your company.


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, instead of selling the product. But you have to be able to communicate the vision for the product as well. That's an extremely important part of it. And there are standard pitch decks and templates out there for how to get started with this. But just like anything else,  there's no substitute for doing the work.


Some people are going to be really great at fundraising, just like some people are really great at sales, and some people might not be. We did it as a team. That's something that everybody's experienced, I think, is going to be different.


Robert Hansen

Any magic that this kind of company tends to have an easier go of it, if you have this makeup, size, or this kind of team?


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, I think serial entrepreneurs are probably better at this. They've done it before. They've seen the movie. They have some relationships in place. If they've got a good track record, people are going to line up to invest in them if they've got a good track record or if they've done it before.


I think serial entrepreneurs probably have a better shot at it. But there's no shortage of first-time founders that are out doing it too and figuring it out. Of course, now we're in a very difficult fundraising environment from the data that I have seen.


Robert Hansen

What would your advice be to somebody who's just entering the market and trying to get funding now compared to a year ago?


Chris Palmisano

Deals are still getting done. Companies are still raising money. I think today, it's going to depend very much on what it is you're doing and whether it's considered a really hot space. Then being laser-focused on who you're going after. Is it something that they invest in? Is there some relationship that you can leverage to get in front of someone?

Give it your best shot and be open to learning and dealing with the highs and lows of the process, just like any sales or BD process.


Robert Hansen

How much of your time do you think an average CEO should be fundraising, given the fact that they're probably going to have to get their next round and the next round? Is it half their time? Is it a third of the time? What would you say?


Chris Palmisano

During the fundraising process, the CEO is probably spending the vast majority of their time on that. And they still have to run the business. Hopefully, they've got somebody else that can help them with that. Or they're able to wrap the process up pretty quickly run a tight process, get in, get out, get what they need.


I've seen, or I've heard stories of founders or CEOs spending all of their time or almost all of their time fundraising. That can be a real challenge while they're trying to build the business at the same time.


Robert Hansen

How do you manage a team if you are not there at all?


Chris Palmisano

None of this is easy.


Robert Hansen

The Austin market, in particular, has always been a little bit lagging from the investment out of Silicon Valley, even New York. Do you see that changing over time? Or is it going to stay weaker compared to the other two?


Chris Palmisano

My understanding is that it's getting much better. There are new firms here. There's more money here now and there's a lot of new people here. I think part of what's still happening is we're still figuring out who's even here now. So you want to be on the ground and connected to the community of entrepreneurs and innovators just to get the lay of the land.


There are newsletters and databases and organizations around town that you can connect with or subscribe to and find out who's here. But a lot of this is still done through introductions. It's done through networking, and through good old fashion building relationships, and finding out who's here. I think is a great take place though it's depending on how you look at it.


From my perspective, the technology community has grown pretty substantially. There are now satellite offices here for many large organizations. Everybody's got a presence here now. And when they go through things like layoffs, where do those people go? They stay here. A lot of them will stay here and hopefully look for a startup here in town, or look for an opportune opportunity here in Austin. That could be really great for startups and for the community here in Austin.


Robert Hansen

When I was fundraising this last time, I barely even thought about Austin. I know a couple of firms, I just bypassed them entirely and spent all my time up in the Santa Clara area. Sand Hill Road is what I meant to say. I think Austin Ventures was an interesting tipping point in Austin's history, where it was obviously the big boy in the block. He was obviously killing it and way ahead of everybody else.


The way I understand it is it got so big, a lot of the venture partners were like, "I can bring in an enormous deal and it will not move the needle at all." From their perspective, it was actually better to leave and start their own funds. So it ended up being a seedling for a lot of other funds. I think that was, at least as far as I can tell, the big tipping point for now we probably got 50 VCs in town or something.


Chris Palmisano

One started out and then spawned or branched to all these other firms that are here now. I think that's necessary. Now, imagine if this happens again. Let's say, there are 50, and partners eventually separate and go start their own firms. Several years from now, hopefully, you've got 150 firms here. Then you've got a much larger community and a much larger pool of money to put into opportunities.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. I'm excited to see what happens. I don't currently need money for anything but I'm always curious to see what the deal flow looks like in Austin, and how the talent is working, how they're getting financed in general. A lot of these people are still bootstrapping, which I think is interesting. The longer you can hang on, the better. '


So it's fun to watch companies struggle at the beginning. Then all of a sudden, they're like, "We're too big, we've got to go to that next level." That's a fun one.


I know leadership means a lot to you, in particular, and how you manage your team. We talked a lot about having some top-down view of all these organizations. Do you have any feelings on, how should I lead a company? How should I walk in and get things done? Is it with the stick or the carrot? What's your leadership style? How would you characterize that?


Chris Palmisano

I think my style is goal and results-oriented. I look at my role as that of the facilitator, and the CEO has specific responsibilities.


Robert Hansen

You're the referee? Are they fighting in your office now?


Chris Palmisano

No, we're mostly virtual. No, that's not us at all. The CEO has got responsibility: managing performance, setting the vision, owning the culture, and then working with the rest of the team to bring out the best in them and to achieve whatever objectives you've set out and to really realize your mission, and to pursue your mission.


Robert Hansen

Do you think the mission is an important thing in a company? Should you always have a mission?


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, I think you should have a mission. Even if you're just doing exploratory things like some other startup, just getting off the ground. They have some reason they're coming together to do whatever it is they're doing, even if it's just one person. What problem is it that you're trying to solve? Then your mission becomes solving that problem. Or maybe solving that problem at scale, or seeing if that's a real problem to solve.


That might be the first step in the process. Hey, I have a hypothesis about this problem. I'm going to go out and test it now. I'm going to go out and see if this is really a problem. If it's a problem, how many people does it impact? How many organizations or companies does it impact? Is it a real big problem? If it's a big problem, you've got a big opportunity. Then that could be your mission, to figure that out at that stage.


Robert Hansen

I have definitely gone down that rabbit hole. Like, I'm pretty sure this idea is going to work. A buddy of mine is like, "Is there a way to find the hidden funds, like the elephant fund, for instance, these massive mega funds that have like 43% returns or something?" But only billionaires are in them. I'm like, "Maybe I've got some data I can try to figure out."


I went through and I created this model. I found this whole bunch of companies that didn't want anyone to know they existed and were definitely funds and were operational. I took this very high-end trader, one of the best in the world. I'm like, "So what am I looking at here? Is this good data?" He's like, "Robert, you did not find what you think you found. These are a whole bunch of drug dealers and terrorists. This should go to the government immediately. This is not a trading strategy."


So much for that business idea.


Chris Palmisano

Where were you poking around?


Robert Hansen

All over the place? That's the kind of thing where you're like, is this thesis real? You have to vet it and you have to find smarter people than you who know what they're looking at to make sure that you're not crazy. Or maybe this idea was a good one, you just found something other than what you thought you found.


Chris Palmisano

There are a number of techniques for it, but there's no one-size-fits-all answer for whether or not it's going to work. Given that context, I think you want to go figure out whether or not enough people or organizations, or companies have the problem. And if they have the problem, how big is the marketplace? If it's a really large addressable market, then you've got an opportunity.


Or if it's a growing market or it's a growing industry, that's a good sign. That means people are going to be spending money in that domain or in that industry. And that's a good indication. It's one of the questions your investors are going to ask. What's the size of the total addressable market/serviceable market? You want to be able to talk through that and answer those questions.


Robert Hansen

Back to your leadership. Let's say you have a conflict. Somebody comes in, they have opinion A, and another person comes in and they have opinion B. I use the Socratic method. How do you sort through that?


Chris Palmisano

Yeah, very similar. You want to engage with each employee to find out what their position is. Then if we can't come to a consensus, someone has to be the decision-maker and sort out issues among the team. If it's a small organization like ours, that might that might fall to me depending on who it is. So, someone has to make a decision at the end of the day.


Robert Hansen

That is one of the major reasons I tell people. If you're going to build a company with a partner, don't split it down the middle 50/50. Give someone 51%. I don't care how you figure out who that person is. That's not relevant. But someone has to make that final decision. Someone has to be able to say, "We're going to sell this company five years too early." The other person is like, "No, we can make so much money." "No, we're doing it. This is a better decision in the long term. We've got to do it."


Because if you're in a stalemate and neither can get anywhere, you're going to end up with so much conflict. I do really like the idea of empowering people to make their own decisions.


Chris Palmisano

Wherever possible, you want to delegate, and then let your team do what your team does. They have expertise in that specific area for a reason. You trust them to make the right choices and make the right decisions. Some of them will be right and some of them won't, but you'll work as a team to figure it out.


And then if you're able to, if you've got a little system or process, then you can see ahead of time where things aren't going right and hopefully get out ahead of it. We should call it managing the future.


Robert Hansen

Yeah. Getting ahead of these massive problems because you have enough people and enough expertise to say, "Here's what's going on here. Here's where we're going."


Chris Palmisano

Or the teams that are working together. I don't think it's necessarily a function of how many people. If they have the right visibility and the right tools, and they know what's going on, then they can surface where there's going to be a problem.


Robert Hansen

How do you deal with the marketing and sales conflict? You mentioned it and this is a common topic on this podcast. Sales hates marketing; marketing thinks sales is not putting things into Salesforce correctly. They just cannot get along.


Chris Palmisano

You've got to have a good mix between the head of sales and the head of marketing. You want them to get along, you want them to work well together, but to be able to have the psychological safety and the ability to push back against one another where necessary, without it becoming detrimental.


Robert Hansen

How do you know that they're doing their job?


Chris Palmisano

Just like any other role, you might look at service-level agreements or obligations internally. Are the two teams working well together? Have they agreed on how we're going to measure things?


Robert Hansen

That's interesting. I don't hear people talking about that. Mostly it's like, "Here's what we're doing. Here's your data. You're welcome." And when this data is all messed up, and this isn't helpful at all, this is tracking something I don't care about.


Chris Palmisano

Then have open dialogue and standard definitions about what things mean. And what's in the dashboard? Do you define a marketing-qualified lead in the same way? What's the feedback loop? There has to be some sort of feedback loop to both of them so that they're on the same page so they're working together.


Robert Hansen

I really like that. I've not heard sales come up with a whole lot of great answers. It's mostly just give us more money. Just get rid of marketing, we'll do it ourselves. It's just not the right answer.


Chris Palmisano

Probably not today. No, the world's changed considerably. And both functions are absolutely critical. I don't know how you get by without them.


Robert Hansen

I don't either, although I had a very good sales guy on the podcast a little bit ago, called Kephart. He said, "Well, basically, I have to be able to sell around the product's deficiencies. That's my job. Because if it worked perfectly, you wouldn't need me."


What that seems to me is that the better we get at product development, the less I'm going to need sales, to the point where I don't need them at all. Then you get into companies and business models where there is no support line, there are no people, and it's completely automated. You swipe a credit card, and you get access and it's off to the races. Like, I don't remember the last time I talked with an AWS representative. They just swipe a credit card and now you have access to servers. I think there is something to that.


Chris Palmisano

I've heard it said that marketing is there when the product is not perfect, and then sales is there when marketing is not perfect. You can keep going down the line. So build a great product and hopefully, you'll need less of both.


Robert Hansen

Yeah, probably. Where can people find out more about your company and get hold of you?


Chris Palmisano

We are at iamgis.com or iamgis.net. And then I am on LinkedIn, it's the best place to find me, Chris Palmisano.


Robert Hansen

Excellent. Well, thank you so much for doing this. This has been great.


Chris Palmisano

Thank you for having me.

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