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John Sculley Says It's All About Ideas and The Team

John Sculley, former CEO of Apple and former president of PepsiCo, says “Get the right people on the bus and get them in the right seats.  Collective skills are required for entrepreneurial success.”

Sculley opened the 6th annual Babson Forum on Entrepreneurship and Innovation opened with a keynote address to a full house of mostly MBAs.

He began by explaining his background and how he got where he is – and where he has been – from PepsiCo where he helped launch the first 64 oz. plastic soda bottle that got them into the Wal-Mart and Kmart department stores, to Apple Computer when personal computers were new and Silicon Valley was unknown in the east, to wireless technology companies as a venture capitalist. He is currently venture partner with Rho Ventures. At each of these companies, the key to his success was looking at industry changes and seeing them as opportunities.

To find entrepreneurial venture opportunities Sculley suggests:

  • Look for opportunity systemically. If it's a big problem, it may be a big opportunity.
  • Look at industry changes and find a niche to innovate in; change is ALWAYS coming. Industry disruption can be an opportunity to create whole new markets.
  • Opportunities lie in simplifying complexities (e.g. innovation in financial industry – inventory, supply chain of financial services).
  • Small companies only grow when they innovate!
  • Be a risk taker. If you're not experiencing some failure you're not taking enough risk. Be an optimist; but know you will fail sometimes…
  • You don't need to be a great manager, but you need a good management team – ideas are what it's about
  • No one does it alone, it takes a great team. Collective skills are required!
  • Look for the things in your current experience that you bring to the table/team and build on them.
  • 'Plan A' must have great people and great ideas.
  • Always have a 'Plan B' – but go to it only if EVERYTHING goes wrong.
  • Have fun being an entrepreneur!