20VC InVision Founder Clark Valberg on Why True Leadership is Like Writing, How To Be Truly SelfAware & The Fundamental False Premise of Entrepreneurship



In this engaging conversation on "20 Minutes VC," host Harry Stebbings interviews Clark Valberg, the founder and CEO of InVision, a leading digital product design platform. Valberg discusses his journey from running a digital agency to founding InVision, which has raised over $350 million and boasts a robust portfolio of investments. The discussion delves into the importance of user experience in the digital age, the evolution of design within organizations, and the challenges and benefits of remote work culture. Valberg shares personal insights on leadership development, the impact of becoming a parent, and the importance of celebrating achievements and maintaining work-life balance. Throughout, he emphasizes the need for self-reflection, conflict management with grace, and the value of integrating work and personal life to sustain happiness and productivity.

Summary Notes

Introduction to the Episode

  • Harry Stebbings introduces the podcast episode as one of his favorite Founders Friday episodes.
  • The conversation with the guest was unscripted and candid.
  • The guest is described as a "total rock star."

Hello and welcome back to the 20 minutes vc with me, Harry Stebbings at H. Stebbings 1996 with two B's on Instagram and one is one of my favorite founders Friday episodes we've ever done. I know I say episodes are special.

The quote sets the stage for the episode, highlighting Harry's enthusiasm for the particular Founders Friday episode being discussed.

Guest Introduction: Clark Valberg

  • Clark Valberg is the founder and CEO of Envision, a digital product design platform.
  • Envision has raised over $350 million from prominent investors.
  • Valberg has a background as co-founder of Epicenter Consulting.
  • He is also an angel investor with a portfolio including Algolia, Voiceflow, Unsplash, and Bentobox.
  • Acknowledgement of contributors to the episode's question suggestions.

And so with that, I'm thrilled to welcome Clark Valberg, founder and CEO at Envision, the digital product design platform powering the world's best user experience senses.

The quote introduces Clark Valberg and his credentials, setting him up as a successful entrepreneur and CEO in the tech industry.

Advertising Interlude

  • Harry Stebbings endorses ActiveCampaign, Atom Finance, and Intercom as powerful tools for customer experience automation, investment decisions, and customer engagement, respectively.
  • Each product is described with its unique selling points and offers for listeners.

With their platform, you can create unique customer experiences that attract, nurture and convert leads into customers into repeat customers.

This quote explains the benefits of using ActiveCampaign, emphasizing its role in managing customer experiences throughout the sales funnel.

Clark Valberg's Introduction and Envision's Origin

  • Valberg did not initially intend to start Envision.
  • He ran a digital agency and developed Envision as an internal tool to improve design processes and client communication.
  • The tool was meant to be an "unfair advantage" for the agency, not a commercial product.

The basic idea was, hey, what if instead of going through change orders and writing up these requirements documents and going through the gatekeepers of project management on our client side, what if we could just start designing, start creating user experiences, put those things in front of the breadth and diversity of all the different stakeholders on the client side, and be iterative about this entire process, try to get on their side and build better product.

The quote describes the initial concept behind Envision, which was to streamline the design process and improve collaboration with clients.

Transition to a SaaS Product

  • A developer suggested turning Envision into a SaaS product.
  • At the time, the SaaS model was not as prevalent as it is now.
  • The decision to productize Envision was a leap of faith.

What if we turn this into a SaaS product? Now, Harry, I'm going to give you some context. This is like ten years ago, I had no idea what the heck a SaaS product was.

The quote captures the moment when the idea to transform Envision into a SaaS product was conceived, highlighting the lack of familiarity with the SaaS model at that time.

The Growth of Digital Product Design Inside Organizations

  • Envision's growth coincided with the shift of digital product design from external agencies to internal teams within organizations.
  • This internal development of digital infrastructure was a significant trend that benefited Envision.

There are not only agencies, but also the big change in the world. And I think that the tide that kind of lifted our ship was this transition from the intellectual and design and creative energy around digital product happening outside organizations to it starting to emerge and grow and develop inside those organizations, the maturity of the digital product infrastructure inside of a business as opposed to just in the agency world, does that make sense?

This quote explains how the trend of bringing digital product design in-house within organizations contributed to the success of Envision.

The Myth of the Entrepreneurial Vision

  • Valberg challenges the notion that entrepreneurs need a grand vision from the start.
  • He emphasizes the importance of creating something meaningful and useful, rather than starting with the intent to build a large company.
  • The analogy of surfing is used to describe positioning oneself to catch emerging opportunities.

At no point did I ever say I want to be an entrepreneur. Never. I don't know if that's unfashionable to say that I had an idea that I was excited about seeing real and something that I could actually use and touch and feel and just making something from nothing in the world, that's definitely a deep and innate passion for me, just bringing, giving birth to a thing in the world.

The quote reflects Valberg's perspective on entrepreneurship, where the focus is on creating and realizing an idea rather than aspiring to be an entrepreneur for its own sake.

Market Timing Risk

  • Speaker C expresses concern about market timing risk, which involves carrying companies for longer than anticipated.
  • Speaker D responds by discussing the complexity of investment strategy, which involves assessing the timing, capital, and potential size of the wave (market opportunity).

"I'm always, as an investor, fearful of market timing risk where you have to carry companies for years and years longer than one anticipated."

This quote highlights Speaker C's fear of market timing risk in investment, emphasizing the challenge of predicting how long support for a company may be needed.

"It's a question of timing and capital and what you're putting the capital into and the bet on how big the wave will eventually be."

Speaker D's quote emphasizes that investment strategy involves multiple factors, including timing, capital allocation, and the anticipated market growth.

Investment in Change

  • Speaker D differentiates between investing in trying to change the market/world and harvesting an emerging change with significant economic impact.
  • The discussion revolves around the rationale for investing large amounts of capital and the potential for returns based on market changes.

"It's not the change you make in the world, it's the change you chase in the world."

This quote suggests that the focus of investment should be on pursuing significant changes in the market rather than solely creating change.

Capital Efficiency and Market Maturity

  • Speaker D talks about capital efficiency in the context of a mature market, with references to SaaS metrics, rules of x, and magic numbers.
  • The importance of understanding when and where to focus on capital efficiency, particularly when dealing with a developed market, is highlighted.

"You have to understand where you have to put capital efficiency into context, right?"

Speaker D implies that capital efficiency must be considered in relation to the market's stage of development.

Customer Experience as a Competitive Edge

  • Speaker D emphasizes the importance of customer experience and how it has become central in a screen-centric world.
  • The concept that the best customer experience wins in every category is discussed, highlighting the intuitive nature of consumer choice.

"The best customer experience in every category wins."

This quote underscores the idea that superior customer experience is key to success in any market sector.

Personal Growth as a CEO

  • Speaker D reflects on personal growth, avoiding the emphasis on single moments of success or failure, and instead focusing on continuous improvement.
  • The concept of tracing organizational problems to personal character flaws is introduced, with a focus on self-awareness and humility.

"Awareness is a moment to moment obligation and opportunity."

Speaker D's quote conveys the idea that personal growth and awareness are ongoing processes, not just one-time events.

Character Flaws and Leadership

  • Speaker D discusses the common character flaw of being a people pleaser and the challenge of finding a comfortable approach to conflict.
  • The importance of finding one's own leadership voice and style is emphasized to handle difficult situations effectively.

"Leadership is like writing. Every writer has to find their voice."

This quote draws a parallel between leadership and writing, suggesting that finding one's unique leadership style is crucial for effective management.

Recognizing Daily Inflection Points

  • Speaker D advises on the importance of being present and recognizing daily inflection points that contribute to personal and professional growth.
  • The conversation touches on the challenge of staying present amidst the demanding process of building a company.

"How do you remain present enough to really recognize those daily moments that one should acknowledge and appreciate and learn from?"

Speaker C's question emphasizes the need to stay mindful of the small yet significant moments that occur daily and contribute to growth and learning.

Personal Reflection and Consciousness

  • Importance of spending time alone for personal reflection.
  • "Unformed gut feelings" section on to-do list to capture undeveloped thoughts and concerns.
  • Reflecting on these feelings leads to personal change, action items, or identifying what others need to do.
  • This practice embodies consciousness by extracting value from raw experiences and emotions.

You got to spend a little time alone. Every day could be prescriptive and say, hey, you should go off and you should really think and reflect on your day for half an hour a day. An hour a day.

This quote emphasizes the necessity of dedicating time to solitude and reflection as a daily practice to process one's experiences and thoughts.

I have my to do list. A section at the top of my to do list called unformed gut feelings.

Clark Valberg shares his personal method of noting down unstructured thoughts and emotions, indicating a systemized approach to dealing with them productively.

From Ideas to Implementation

  • Transitioning from unformed feelings to actionable tasks.
  • Utilizing personal and company principles as a framework to process and act on these feelings.
  • The process involves aligning gut feelings with principles and converting them into specific actions.

Well, so the hope is that everything that goes from the unformed gut feelings then moves into a task at some point, a task or a self reflection or some supportive principles.

Clark Valberg discusses the progression from vague intuitions to concrete tasks or reflections, guided by personal and organizational principles.

You want to go from your heart to your head to your hands, ultimately, in that order.

The quote outlines the desired flow of processing emotions and thoughts into physical actions, highlighting the sequence from emotional response to intellectual analysis to practical execution.

Celebrating Achievements

  • The significance of acknowledging and celebrating professional milestones.
  • Personal anecdote about learning to appreciate achievements from a mentor named Larry.
  • Importance of deliberate gratitude practices and rituals to maintain energy and avoid burnout.

If you don't stop and appreciate the good things you have, you don't deserve them.

This powerful quote from Clark Valberg's mentor, Larry, underscores the importance of pausing to recognize one's accomplishments and the necessity of gratitude.

I make it a ritual. I make celebrating good things a ritual.

Clark Valberg reveals his approach to celebrating successes, which involves intentional rituals, indicating the effort required to appreciate achievements that do not come naturally to him.

Work-Life Integration

  • Balancing work and personal life through integration and separation.
  • Implementing "date days" with a significant other to maintain a strong relationship.
  • Experimenting with remote work to facilitate family time in different locations.

So I think that it has to be very binary. There's two different modes. You have work life integration, and you have work life, let's call them separations.

Clark Valberg explains his binary approach to managing work and personal life, suggesting that both integration and separation are necessary for balance.

So in the middle of the day, like on a Tuesday, at like, 02:00 p.m. I will block my calendar.

The quote illustrates a practical example of work-life integration, where Clark Valberg schedules time during a typical workday to prioritize his relationship with his wife.

Diversity in Silicon Valley

  • Acknowledgment of the need for increased diversity in the tech industry.
  • Recognizes the challenge and expresses a lack of concrete solutions.

Definitely the question of diversity. This is obviously a massive challenge, not one that I have a ton of great ideas on.

Clark Valberg identifies diversity as a significant issue in Silicon Valley and tech, admitting the complexity of the problem and his own limitations in addressing it.

Remote Work and Business Location

  • Being open to building a business outside major tech hubs due to remote work.
  • Remote work requires consideration beyond traditional business locations.

how to fix fundamentally, but I think that the remote work thing, like being open to building a business that's outside of the closed quarters of the major tech hubs, is something that you should definitely consider.

This quote highlights the importance of considering remote work as a viable option for setting up a business, suggesting that physical location in major tech hubs is not the only path to success.

Challenges of Remote Work

  • Overcoming candidates' fear that remote work may change their life for the worse.
  • Convincing candidates about the normalcy and benefits of remote work is challenging.
  • Personal references from experienced remote workers are useful for reassurance.

The fear that you get from candidates about it changing their life for the worse.

This quote encapsulates the primary concern candidates have about remote work affecting their lifestyle negatively.

Enhancing Remote Work Experience

  • Companies provide funds to improve personal workspaces for remote employees.
  • In-person company events focus on building culture and personal connections rather than work.
  • Socializing in person helps refine the mental model employees have of their colleagues, enhancing remote collaboration.

We also give $500. So what we do is so we realize that people need to get together every now and then.

This quote explains the company's approach to supporting remote employees by funding their home office setup and organizing annual in-person events to strengthen team bonds.

Remote Work and Enterprise Sales

  • Misconceptions about remote work hindering enterprise sales and marketing.
  • Deliberate systems and processes are essential for communication and alignment in remote teams.
  • Large companies require structured practices and technology systems to operate effectively, regardless of being remote or in-person.

Yes, it works. There's an idea. We have these little allegories in our mind of how communication spreads.

This quote challenges the notion that remote work is incompatible with enterprise sales, emphasizing the need for intentional communication strategies.

Perspectives on Success

  • Success is subjective and personal, not necessarily tied to fame or status.
  • Overcoming personal weaknesses and balancing rational and emotional intelligence are indicators of success.
  • Avoiding the idolization of celebrity or corporate figures in defining success.

The successful person is the person who overcomes their own weaknesses.

This quote offers a personal definition of success, focusing on self-improvement and balance rather than external recognition.

Impact of Parenthood on Work

  • Having children profoundly changes one's value system and priorities.
  • Parenthood provides perspective and can enhance the appreciation for remote work due to family proximity.
  • The experience of becoming a parent is unique and transformative.

The full stack of your internal value system indefinitely and profoundly in a way that you can never, ever couldn't possibly explain to somebody who doesn't have kids.

This quote reflects on the deep and indescribable impact that having children has on an individual's values and life perspective.

Future of Envision

  • Focusing on short-term goals rather than long-term predictions.
  • Envision aims to become a public company and an operating system for digital product design.
  • Recognizing the need for hard work and humility to achieve company goals.

I think that there'll be a public company that lives in the space of the operating system of digital product design.

This quote outlines the speaker's vision for Envision's future, aspiring to significant growth and industry influence while acknowledging the journey ahead.

Acknowledgements and Support

  • Expressing gratitude to Clark for his candid participation in the podcast.
  • Encouraging engagement with behind-the-scenes content on social media.

My extreme pleasure, Harry, good to see you.

This quote concludes the conversation on a positive note, with mutual appreciation for the discussion and the opportunity to share insights.

Marketing and Customer Experience Tools

  • Activecampaign and Atom Finance are highlighted for their customer experience and financial research tools.
  • Intercom is praised for enhancing customer interactions on websites.

Activecampaign is the first customer experience automation platform, helping you provide personalized and optimized customer experiences.

This quote promotes Activecampaign as a valuable tool for businesses looking to improve their customer engagement through automation.

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