Sep 9 2020

Introducing Bolster

As I mentioned earlier this summer, I’ve been working on a new startup the past few months with a group of long-time colleagues from Return Path.  Today, we are officially launching the new company, which is called Bolster.  The official press release is here.

Here’s the business concept.  Bolster is a talent marketplace, but not just any talent marketplace.  We are building a talent marketplace exclusively for what we call on-demand (or freelance) executives and board members.  We are being really picky about curating awesome senior talent.  And we are targeting the marketplace at the CEOs and HR leaders at venture- and PE-backed startups and scaleups.  We’re not a search firm.  We’re not trying to be Catalant or Upwork.  We’re not a job board. 

To keep both sides of the marketplace engaged with us, we are also building out suites of services for both sides – Members and Clients.  For Members, our services will help them manage their careers as independent consultants.  For Clients, our services will help them assess, benchmark and diversify their leadership teams and boards. 

We have a somewhat interesting founding story, which you can read on our website here.  But the key points are this.  I have 7 co-founders, with whom I have worked for a collective 88 years — Andrea Ponchione, Jack Sinclair, Shawn Nussbaum, Cathy Hawley, Ken Takahashi, Jen Goldman, and Nick Badgett.  We have three engineers with whom we’ve worked for several years who have been on board as contractors so far – Kayce Danna, Chris Paynes, and Chris Shealy.  We have four primary investors, who I’ve also known and worked closely with for a collective 77 years — High Alpha and Scott Dorsey (another veteran of the email marketing business), Silicon Valley Bank and Melody Dippold, Union Square Ventures and Fred Wilson, and Costanoa Ventures and Greg Sands.  Pretty much a Dream Team if there ever was one.

So how did our team and I get from Email Deliverability to Executive Talent Marketplace?  

It’s more straightforward than you’d think.  If you know me or Return Path, you know that our company was obsessed with culture, values, people, and leadership development.  You know that we created a cool workforce development nonprofit, Path Forward, to help moms who have taken a career break to care raise kids get back to work.  You know that I wrote a book for startup CEOs and have spent tons of time over the years mentoring and coaching CEOs.  Our team has a passion for helping develop the startup ecosystem, we have a passion for helping people improve and grow their careers and have a positive impact on others, and we have a passion for helping companies have a broad and diverse talent pipeline, especially at the leadership level.  Put all those things together and voila – you get Bolster!

There will be much more to come about Bolster and related topics in the weeks and months to come.  I’ll cross-post anything I write for the Bolster blog here on OnlyOnce, and maybe occasionally a post from someone else.  We have a few opening posts for Bolster that are probably running there today that I’ll post here over the next couple weeks.

If you’re interested in joining Bolster as an executive member or as a client, please go to and sign up – the site is officially live as of today (although many aspects of the business are still in development, in beta, or manual).