Editor’s note: TechWire contributing columnist Steve Rao recently interviewed tech legend John Chambers about trends and opportunities. Chambers also offered what he considers essential points for entrepreneurs in building new companies. Here’s what Chambers had to say.


In your book Connecting the Dots, you mentioned having a Playbook that you can have always relied on when you ran Cisco through good times and downturns.   What should be our Start Up Playbook?

Yes, a playbook for success is important for any start up.   I plays have a few that come to mind.

  1. A Solid CEO:

First and foremost, the CEO of your start up is critically importan for the success of any start up.  A strong leader who can execute on a vision and establish a culture of continuous innovation.  I was so happy that all of the CEOs of the eight companies I had acquired during my tenrue were there when I stepped down as CEO.

  1. What is your Differentiation?

Any start up also has to have a key differentiator from other companies in your market.  It could be the application or technology that you are supporting, the ways you are solving problems for customers, vertical markets, geography, etc. Differentiation and a strong value proposition will enable a start up to get acquire early adopter customers and eventually cross the chasm and achieve market success.

  1. Always Be Customer Driven

Responding to the needs of your customers is also critical, and taking their feedback as you improve your products and services is critically important. At Cisco, we took customer service very seriously and this contributed to much of our success early on.