HR Debt

You Are Incurring HR Debt

Most startup founders are familiar with the idea of technical debt, whereby poor system design or coding builds problems over time and makes it hard to improve a piece of software. If you don’t clean up and refactor as you build, you’re left with a clunky mess that no one can (or wants to) fix.

The same thing happens if you hack your way through hiring and management.

I call this HR Debt.

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GALA Istanbul 2014

Keynote at GALA Seville, March 24th 2015

GALA is the Globalization and Localization Association. I had a fun time at GALA 2014 in Istanbul meeting hundreds of translation agencies and other interesting people (and even received a free football shirt). This year I’ll be doing a keynote at the next GALA conference in Seville, March 22-25th. The theme is “Embrace Change. Simplify Solutions.” 

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NRT to SFO #sunset #tokyo #unitedairlines

A photo posted by Robert Laing (@robertmlaing) on


The Art of the Simple Blurb

Every week or so, I get asked by a startup founder to make an intro to an investor. Normally these startups are pre-funding, so the founders are inexperienced about talking about their company. So their descriptions of their companies suck, which makes it really hard to make an intro even if they’re working on something interesting.

This advice is mainly for founders looking for investor intros, but probably works for any kind of business development.

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Grammar Snob? It Isn’t So Simple

Mary Rolf‘s post “Why I Stopped Being a Grammar Snob” did the rounds recently. It certainly received some attention at Gengo, given we’re a language company.

The premise of the article is that:

[…] there are two schools of thought when it comes to how we should use language. One is “prescriptive” and it’s backed by grammar snobs and the kind of people who froth at the mouth over the decline of “the King’s English”. The other is “descriptive” and it’s more about accepting that how people use language is how language works. A prescriptivist believes in the idea of standard English and sees mistakes everywhere. A descriptivist sees many englishes, and none of them are standard.


However when it comes to other people I find that what they have to say is more important and interesting than how they say it.

Sounds very hard to disagree with, right? Of course I am more interested in what you say than your choice of spelling. Hurrah! Throw away the dictionary! Silly snobs!

But sorry, life is not so simple.

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Avoiding Negative Value

A few days ago at TC Disrupt, the following conversation took place…

“Who is the VC who is the most full of shit that you’ve ever heard?” Arrington asked.

“I would be offending too many people,” Khosla retorted. “Maybe some percentage that’s substantially larger than 95 percent of VCs add zero value. I would bet that 70-80 percent add negative value to a startup in their advising.”
He said that most VCs “haven’t done shit” to know what to tell startups going through difficult times.

“I don’t know a startup that hasn’t been through tough times,” he said.
He said that founders should listen politely and just do what they want to do anyway.

Does what Khosla said matter? Should it change your behaviour? What does providing value really mean? How can a startup founder see it from the investor’s point of view? Should you really just what you want to do anyway?

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Amazing light coming into SFO

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