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Meet the Xceptionalists: Peldi Guilizzoni www.balsamiq.com

Kevin Kelly

In my latest book, DO! The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution, I interviewed entrepreneurs from around the world. They are the leaders of some of the most compelling global brands and companies, ranging from one to 3,000 employees, with turnovers from $100,000 to $130 million. I call them the Xceptionalists. They hail from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Bologna, Italy; from Des Moines, Iowa to Galway, Ireland. They run app companies, consultancies, clinics and sprawling technology corporations.
A visit to www.balsamiq.com immediately makes you to want to know more. CEO Giacomo ‘Peldi’ Guilizzoni comes from an average Italian middle class family. At the age of twelve he taught himself computer programming. From zero sales to 150,000 units in 4 years was quite an accomplishment for Balsamiq. While many companies struggled for finance, Balsamiq had a line of VCs waiting but decided to grow organically….
WHAT INSPIRED BALSAMIQ?
“In meetings I liked to sketch things out because I just think that way. At the bottom of the sketch you would always write, ‘Do not erase’ on the board until you got back to take a picture or copy it down. The proposed product … would be a graphical tool that allowed people to sketch user interface for whatever the person wanted, be it a website or a piece of software which could then be shared in real time.”
DOES FEAR COME INTO PLAY?
“Probably the greatest fear I have is that we lose the family feel to our business. We work hard to keep this going with a huge focus on customer service plus only recruiting people to what they describe as their dream job. So now we are a big restaurant on the web with 150,000 customers and sixteen employees. In some respects I work hard to ensure we grow as slowly and as solidly as we can.
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT COMPETITION?
“One thing you should not fear is competition. They only help to raise your game and build a better product. If they are better than you, you deserve to lose.”
THEY SAY WHEN YOU GIVE OUT, YOU GET BACK. THIS APPEARS TO BE A BIG PART OF YOUR STRATEGY?
“We give away our software to around 40 organizations each day. The software mainly goes to non-profit organizations but also to anyone who shows they are doing a good deed.”
WHAT LESSONS WOULD YOU TEACH YOUR CHILD?
“… I would like to help him find his passion because we live at a time when he can monetize it. I of course want to teach him to be a good person, a good citizen, respectful, hardworking and principled. Part of me would love it if he took over from me, but if he wants to be a rock star, that’s fine by me.”
YOUR TAKE ON XCEPTIONAL EXECUTION?
“Build something that (a) it gets talked about a lot and (b) our competitors want to copy because that means we are the thought leaders.”
BALSAMIQ TAKEAWAYS
• No overnight success. Peldi has been programming since the age of 12.
• Go for gold. He wanted to work for Macromedia and went for it on stepping on US soil.
• When he set his start-up goal, circumstances conspired to make it happen – ‘a cosmic thing’ as he said himself.
• The business idea was a solution to an existing problem.
• His major goal was to learn – he had legislated for failure.
• Fear can be healthy and should be respected.
• Recruit people to their dream job.
• Customer service can be your competitive edge in the software market.
• Failure is good as long as you take responsibility and fix the problem.
• Xceptional execution is about infusing character into all of your outputs.
Taken from Kevin Kelly’s new book “Do the pursuit of xceptional execution”
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