Six Quick Questions: Randy Komisar

Randy Komisar, who penned the bestseller “The Monk and the Riddle,” is back in bookstores this month with “Getting to Plan B.”

The book, which he co-authored with London Business School Professor John Mullins, argues that most entrepreneurs find success not by sticking with their original business plans, but by tweaking them, or even overhauling them, based on feedback from the marketplace.

Editor in Chief Lawrence Aragon caught up with Komisar, who is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

Q: KP is pretty secretive about its strategy, but you wrote a book that any entrepreneur can read. Why?

A: Well, I don’t tell them our KP secrets. I tell them how to better run their innovation process. It incorporates many of the things we’ve learned as a firm and that I’ve learned as an entrepreneur about how best to run an early venture to make sure it reaches its full potential.

Q: Did you ask any of your partners to give you feedback?

A: I did. I had John Doerr take a look. He read the entire book cover to cover in draft form and gave me some interesting feedback on most of the chapters.

Q: Your book is targeted at entrepreneurs, but will VCs also find it useful?

A: Yes. One of the most important reasons that I wrote the book was to create a better dialogue between entrepreneurs and institutional investors. I think [VCs] often forget that they are part of the innovation process and think about themselves more as governance investors.

Q: Twitter seems like a good example of succeeding with Plan B, since it started out as a podcasting company named Odeo.

A: Absolutely. We looked at Odeo and passed. We didn’t believe in that original model. On the other hand, I wish I was working with those entrepreneurs, because they’ve done a great job. It really goes to show that if you invest in a team that is well-versed in the getting-to-Plan-B process you can feel a lot more comfortable betting on great talent.

Q: What’s wrong with the current process?

A: The problem you get with getting to Plan B in the current business model-driven process is that you don’t begin the process until Plan A has failed. What John Mullins and I are suggesting in this book is a completely different process. Which is to say, it’s not about Plan A. It’s about how we actually move from Plan A with empirical evidence from the marketplace toward the highest potential.

Q: The premise of your book seems counterintuitive, since so many entrepreneurs start companies based on a ‘great idea.’

A: It is counterintuitive. It’s getting them to think as a scientist would think. A good scientist has a strong hypothesis that they need to prove, but they understand the questions that they need to ask and the metrics that are going to determine whether it’s right or wrong. And they are open to the results of that experimentation. I’m asking entrepreneurs to think the same way. I’m asking entrepreneurs not to give up their passion for an idea or concept, but to think about it in a more fluid fashion.