Category

Entrepreneurship

Book Short: New to the Canon of Great CEO Books

Please go put Decide and Conquer: 44 Decisions that will Make or Break All Leaders by David Siegel on your reading list, or buy it. David’s book is up there on my list with Ben Horowitz’s The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It’s a totally different kind of book than Startup CEO, and in some ways a much better one in that there’s a great through-line or storyline, as David shares his leadership framework in the context of his journey of getting hired to replace founder Scott Heiferman as Meetup’s CEO after its acquisition by WeWork, including some juicy interactions with Adam Neumann, through the trials and tribulations of WeWork as a parent company, through COVID and its impact on…

How to Get Credit for Non-Salary Benefits: The Total Rewards Statement

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about some innovations we’d made in People practices around basic benefits. But that post raised questions for me like “Why do you spend money on things like that when all people care about is their salary? When they get poached by another company, all they think of it the headline number of their base compensation, unless they’re in sales and think about their OTE.” While that is hard to entirely argue against, one thing you can do as you layer in more and more benefits on top of base salary, you can, without too much trouble, produce annual “Total Rewards Statements” for everyone on your team. We did this at Return Path for several…

Book Short: Intentionality in Life

I haven’t done short book summaries in a LONG time, but I’ll try to start adding that back into the mix as I read interesting and relevant books. Here’s one to add to your list: One Life to Lead, by Russell Benaroya. I was recently connected to Russell by a mutual friend, TA McCann at Pioneer Square Labs. TA had a sense Russell and I would hit it off, and we did. Russell is a multi-time founder/CEO, a Coach, and an author, so we have a lot in common. One Life to Lead is an excellent book. First, it is short and easy to get through. Unlike a lot of business books, it doesn’t go on too long or contain…

Open Expense Policy

I wrote a post the other day about innovating employee benefits practices, and I realized I’d never documented a couple other ways in which we have always tried to innovate People practices. Here’s one of them: the Open Expense Policy, which I wrote about in the second edition of Startup CEO in a new chapter on Authentic Leadership when talking about the problem of the “Say-Do” gap.  Here’s what I wrote: I’ll give you an example that just drove me nuts early in my career here, though there are others in the book.  I worked for a company that had an expense policy – one of those old school policies that included things like “you can spend up to $10 on a…

7 Habits of Highly Effective Boards

(This blog post was first published as an article in Entrepreneur Magazine on April 15.) Creating strong boards can help propel a board forward. Weak and ineffective boards hold a company back. As a CEO, one of the most important (yet overlooked) tools in the playbook is building and leading a board of directors. Throughout my 20+ years of entrepreneurship, I’ve led four companies (including Bolster, where I’m a co-founder and CEO today) and served on eight boards. I’ve learned that strong boards can help propel a company forward and I’ve also witnessed how weak and ineffective boards can hold companies back. Mediocre or mismanaged advice, plus lack of accountability, can do long-term damage to a business as well. Drawing from personal experience and anecdotes from…

Innovating People Practices Through Benefits

Sometimes the work we do as CEOs, leaders, management teams is glamorous, and sometimes it’s not. But it all matters. One thing we tried to do at Bolster this past year is to really amp up employee benefits. The war for talent is real. The Great Resignation is real. Sometimes startups like ours have natural advantages in terms of attracting and retaining talent such as being made up of letting people in on the ground floor of something, having small teams so individual impact is easy to see, being mission-driven and full of creativity and purpose, and having equity to give that could be very valuable over time. But sometimes startups like ours have natural disadvantages around recruiting like having…

Introducing Bolster Prime and Bolster Ventures (and their back story)

This is another big week for us at Bolster. On the heels of the announcement we made last month about our Series B financing, we are now announcing the launch of a new program called Bolster Prime and a new venture capital fund called Bolster Ventures. These are important steps in Bolster’s evolution and in the fulfillment of our mission, what we call internally our “Big Idea,” which is to empower the innovation economy.   The roots of Bolster Prime and Bolster Ventures pre-date the founding of Bolster. In our prior lives, the Bolster founders worked together to scale up a business called Return Path and also  worked as advisors and mentors to numerous early stage founders and startups. One of…

The Blackjack Table

I lived one of my favorite metaphors last week as we announced the closing of Bolster’s Series B financing and had our first post-round Board meeting, and I realized I’ve never blogged about it before: that raising rounds of financing is like having a good night at the blackjack table. When I go to Vegas or AC — and admittedly I haven’t done that in several years — I usually start playing Blackjack at the $5 table. It’s lightweight entertainment, low stakes, good way to warm up and remind myself how to play. If I start winning and accumulating a bigger pile of chips, I move to the $10 table. Rinse and repeat, to the $25 table and the $50…

I’m Having a Blast at Bolster — Here’s Why

Someone asked me the other day how things are going at Bolster, the new company I started along with a bunch of long-time colleagues from Return Path last year. My visceral answer was “I’m having a blast!”  I thought about it more after and came up with five reasons why.  First, I am working with a hand-picked group of people. My co-founders, I’ve worked with for an average of 15 years – we know and trust each other tremendously. And for the most part, the same is true about our cap table. Almost everyone else at the company is also someone multiple of us have known or worked with for years. That may not last forever, but it makes things…

Startup Boards eBook: How to Build Your Board

Over the past several months, I’ve published two series of posts on the Bolster blog about Boards. The first series is designed to help CEOs better understand how to build, diversify, and scale their boards of directors. I’ll write about the second one next week. Both series of posts will feature in the second edition of Startup Boards, a book originally published in 2014 by Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani. The second edition, which is also co-authored by me, will be out late this year or early next year. As I’ve gone about building our business at Bolster, including leading several dozen board searches for companies of all sizes and stages from pre-revenue to public, I’ve noticed that there are…

Lessons from the Pandemic: a Mid-Mortem

It feels like it may be a bit premature to write a post with this title here in the summer of 2021. Even as vaccines are rolling out fairly quickly, the combination of the Delta mutation of the COVID-19 virus and a bizarrely large anti-vaccine movement in the US, plus slower vaccine roll-outs in other parts of the world, are causing yet another spike in infections.  However, I read Michael Lewis’s The Premonition last week, a bit of a “mid-mortem” on the Pandemic, and it got me thinking about what lessons we as a society have learned in these past 18 months, and how they can be applied to entrepreneurs and startups. I am particularly drawing on the few weeks…