Palantir Alum Kris Duggan Set Aside an Entire Year to Champion Entrepreneurs

by | Feb 14, 2019 | Business Feature

Among founders who measure results (and failures) in 15-minute increments, optimization is all the rage these days. So why is Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kris Duggan willingly giving up an entire year to champion the next generation of tech entrepreneurs?

In his telling, it’s time to give back. “Starting a company is extraordinarily hard,” he wrote in a blog post announcing his ‘100 conversations’ initiative. “If I can even provide a little bit of help, even as a sounding board, it may ease some of the challenge in building your own business.”

Paying it forward

By Duggan’s own count, he’s about three-quarters of the way to his goal, with a big holiday push shaping up to get over the finish line. Each conversation lasts 45 minutes and addresses topics of greatest concern to the founder. There’s no time for follow-up, unfortunately: as Duggan wrote, “I am not looking for advising roles or anything beyond our initial call.”

Duggan, a Palantir Technologies alum with multiple successful exits under his belt, doesn’t really need to rack up any additional advisory work. He’s done plenty of it during a nearly two-decade career in the Valley. Indeed, advice from people like him usually comes at a premium; veteran entrepreneurs and investors typically receive a healthy slice of equity for their time and talent.

Duggan, on the other hand, is conspicuously refusing compensation for his advice. All he asks is that founders post detailed comments about their calls on his blog — the bare minimum they can do to pay it forward, one suspects.

Plenty to talk about

Duggan and his founder friends have plenty to talk about. In recent conversations, he’s talked founders through:

  • The agonizing choice between two equally promising verticals
  • Optimizing marketing messaging for target audience segments
  • Managing board members and investors, including unruly types who seem to exist solely to make trouble
  • Preparing for a Series A

Duggan’s B2B sales background makes him a formidable resource for founders targeting midsize and enterprise firms, and the bulk of his interlocutors have self-selected accordingly. But his approach maps onto virtually any portfolio, at least in theory. Veteran entrepreneurs who’ve spent their careers entirely in the B2C or B2B self-service spaces can just as easily devote their own versions of Duggan’s ‘100 conversations’ initiative to serving founder populations comprised solely of younger, brighter-eyed versions of themselves.

What’s in store in 2019?

Duggan’s ‘100 conversations’ year is a sabbatical in all but name.

That it’s so rare for a successful founder and investor to devote many hours of precious time to championing less experienced founders — to perform duties for he’s normally compensated quite handsomely essentially on a pro bono basis — is both cause for celebration (in that Duggan is doing The Right Thing here) and reflection (in that this type of low-stakes giving back should be far more common).

Here’s to hoping that Duggan inspires fellow Silicon Valley vets to launch their own answers to his ‘100 conversations’ initiative — however those might look. In the meantime, we can probably forgive Duggan for turning his attention closer to home in 2019, as he gears up for the public launch of a healthtech startup to which he’s alluded in cryptic terms these past months.

Who knows? Maybe Duggan’s gleaned an idea or two from his entrepreneurial interlocutors. Talk about paying it forward.

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