One of the big highlights of my week in the USA was todays lunch with new HP CEO Meg Whitman in the HP Corporate Boardroom with a number of technology companies from New Zealand.
The scale of Meg’s job is mind blowing. HP has over 320,000 staff and does revenue of over $30B a quarter. They have done a number of huge acquisitions and her focus for the near term is to stabilize the company after a traumatic year.
The hour with Meg was a fairly informal Q&A where she covered scale and related a lot of relevant stories as she grew eBay from a small company. It was amusing hearing how she couldn’t buy TradeMe and how she eventually brought PayPal from Peter Theil for $1.5B. Peter has since invested in Xero and Pacific Fibe (as have TradeMe investors) – such is the circle of life of tech companies.
It was also very interesting to hear how HP had gone a bit too virtual. A huge number of employees work from home but if they brought them all back they’d be 85,000 seats short! With a number of big acquistions, like Autonomy in the UK, and significant outside hiring getting the HP culture and values reset is an important challenge for her.
It was clear that HP is an iconic Silicon Valley brand that many people are passionate about preserving.
For a country like New Zealand Meg advised web, web, web as it democratizes the world and provides immediate access to the global market. She also advised to focus on only 3 key things. Like Steve Jobs said, it’s about deciding what not to do.
Meg has political aspirations and she was very concerned about the affect of globalization that has seen manufacturing leave America. The massive reduction in manufacturing jobs has hollowed out middle class America and she was troubled about where that goes. She was very aware that Silicon Valley is a bubble of affluence and only 60 miles away many Americans are struggling.
An hour with Meg got us all thinking big.
Having quality time with the engaging CEO of one of the worlds biggest tech companies was a unique and valuable experience.