Tales from the Trenches with Glen Tullman

Posted October 5, 2015 by Devon Leichtman

On Monday, September 28, serial entrepreneur and former Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman spoke at MATTER in the third installment of our Tales from the Trenches series. ContextMedia CEO Rishi Shah interviewed Tullman about his personal drive, current ventures, and business insights. View the entire interview or read our summary below.

Here’s what we learned about Glen:

  • He doesn’t sleep much. “Why would anyone want to sleep when there are so many exciting things to do in life?”
  • He listens to 2-3 e-books per week (at 2x speed because it’s more efficient).
  • He subscribes to 35 magazines, which he scans to look for cross-industry trends.
  • Once, when running a marathon with a business partner, Glen brought a list of topics to discuss. On mile 20 they were still going through the agenda.

For sure there’s something genetic going on here… but in addition to that, Glen spoke about how his mother played a key role in nurturing his drive and entrepreneurial tendencies. To wit: at age 10, Glen had an idea involving solar panels. His mom was so encouraging and supportive that she let him cut a hole in their roof to pursue it. Perhaps not surprising then that he went on to help found SoCore Energy, a successful solar company that produces panels which don’t require any drilling in order to put them on a roof!

We also learned from Glen why he decided to build another startup, Livongo, after leaving Allscripts and focusing for a while on investing activities. One of his sons has diabetes, and once woke up with critically low blood sugar. Within minutes a Livongo specialist monitoring his blood sugar called the younger Tullman, coached him on what to do, and waited on the line ready to dial 911 in case anything went sideways. Tullman survived, and told his father that “it felt so good not to be alone” during the ordeal. Livongo has received venture backing from Kleiner Perkins among other firms, and will develop this platform to help people living with a number of chronic conditions including diabetes.

Glen also spoke about how he thinks about building businesses.

  • On hiring: look for cultural fit, passion, and people who have failed before and know how to recover.
  • On firing: do it quickly not just for the sake of the business, but for the sake of the individual who isn’t growing in a position that’s the wrong fit.
  • On sales: The CEO him/herself must be the company’s top salesperson and evangelist. Salespeople must be consultative and learn what customers want. The best salespeople do the “lonely work” before the call — learning about the organization and point of contact and sending materials in advance.
  • On investing: invest in people, rather than ideas.

Thanks to Glen and Rishi for this terrific conversation, and thanks to ContextMedia and Pritzker Group Venture Capital for underwriting MATTER’s Tales from the Trenches series. Next up: entrepreneur Chris Hill on October 26.