Interview: Cynthia Kocialski

Cynthia Kocialski is the founder of three companies – two fabless semiconductor and one software company. In the past 15 years, she has been involved in dozens of start-ups and has served on various advisory boards. These companies have collectively returned billions of dollars to investors. Cynthia has worked with established companies to bring start-up techniques and technologies to corporations desiring to process improvement and efficiency.

Prior to her work in the start-up community, Cynthia has held a wide range of technical, marketing, and management positions at major corporations. At IBM, Cynthia began with financial software to facilitate the tracking of sales and inventory for international operations. She later moved into development and engineering management working of scientific workstations. Finally, Cynthia transitioned into technical marketing and strategic planning role for graphics and digital video components for personal computers. At Matrox, Cynthia was the general manager, overseeing the R&D area of digital video and image processing product lines, Cynthia graduated of the University of Rochester with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and applied statistics. She also has graduate degrees from the University of Virginia in both electrical engineering and systems engineering.

Cynthia is the author of Startup from the Ground Up: Practical Insights for Transforming an Idea into a Business.

Enjoy this interview.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how long have you been writing?

I was born in Buffalo, and I have lived in New York City, Washington, D.C., Miami and San Francisco.

My first love was computers and technology gadgets. I am a computer engineer and software programmer by training. After college, I went to work for IBM, where I worked in three different locations on three completely different product lines. Next, I worked for a mid-sized company and then downsized even further to start-ups. And that’s where I found my true passion of working with early stage start-up companies.

Tell us about your latest book. What do you hope readers take away from it?

Startup from the Ground Up shows readers how to think about transforming a product idea into an early stage company. It’s not enough to have a great product. You can only go so far with an idea. The product is like the heart of a company and just like a person, what makes human beings is far more than our hearts. Entrepreneurs often focus too much, and sometimes even exclusively, on the product and neglect the rest of the company. This book talks about this everything else.

I hope readers discover how to think about launching a company, not what to think or what to do about their specific situation. Every product idea and business around it is unique, and what worked yesterday may not work in the business world today. Entrepreneurs need to think about the deliberate creation of the start-up and its business, as much as they think about the deliberate creation of the product with all its bells and whistles.

Share some of your writing goals. What’s next for you?

My goal is to continue to write, to build a loyal readership, and to provide my audience with the latest information, trends, and practical advice about how to launch and grow companies.

What’s the most interesting book you’ve ever read?

The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade.

Favorite authors?

Harry Beckwith, Malcolm Gladwell, Thomas Friedman, Seth Godin, C.J. Sansom, James Mitchner.

Book you’re currently reading?

The 1% Windfall: How Successful Companies Use Price to Profit and Grow by Rafi Mohammed.

Any type of writing ritual you have?

I write early in the morning. I often wake up in the wee hours of the morning around 3 am with a thought and start writing. I write my best up until about noon, and after lunch the words just don’t seem to come to me anymore.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how did you get past it? If not, why not?

Yes, there are times when the words just don’t seem to flow. I have the most difficulty writing in the late afternoon and the evening. If I can’t write in the morning, then I try brainstorming ideas, perhaps writing short sentences or phrases that I think should be included.
Sometimes I head off to a business meeting at one of the entrepreneurial organization I am involved with – meeting and chatting with people in the industry can often get my thoughts jumpstarted.

In your opinion, what’s the measure of a successful writer?

I write about a niche non-fiction topic. But above all, it would be helping or being a part of future start-ups that bring the next great product into the market place.

A measure of success brings to mind a way to access progress – quantitative statistics and tracking of those values. I would measure it by a growing number of people and organizations that want to hear or read about what I have to say, who want to engage in further discussions, and who implement some of the ideas that I present.

Advice for other writers?

The writing of the book is the easiest part. It’s what the writer knows and it’s a tangible activity. The editing and publication process will seem much too long – mostly because the writer will be anxious to move forward. The hardest part of being an author is the marketing and promotion.

Where can we learn more about you?

I write the Start-up Entrepreneurs’ blog and maintain a Facebook fan page.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Nothing helps solidify and clarify your thinking then to have to explain it to another person. You can’t just ramble and hold your audience’s attention. Writing has always helped me think better. It helps me organize my thoughts in a more meaningful way. This simply makes one be a better you.

Most entrepreneurs don’t achieve their drams because they don’t think about what they are doing; they expect to follow a step-by-step recipe. But every entrepreneur can be successful.

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