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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Startup CEO Online Class with Kauffman Fellows Academy

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tl;dr – If you are a CEO and want to take an amazing online course about being a CEO by Return Path’s Matt Blumberg, sign up for Startup CEO from NovoEd now.

Yesterday, I wrote about Rand Fishkin of Moz falling out of love with the CEO role. Today I read Jason Goldberg of Fab’s great post on his struggles as CEO in 2013 and what he learned from it. This topic is front of mind for me as many of the companies I’m on the board of are growing extremely fast and the demands on the CEOs are significant.

It’s really hard to be a CEO. Becoming a great CEO takes a lot of time, work, focus, coaching, and introspection. I’ve had the privilege of working with some incredible entrepreneurs who, over many years and several companies, became remarkable CEOs. Dick Costolo (Twitter CEO) immediately comes to mind. While I didn’t work with him at Twitter, I was on the board of FeedBurner and worked with him and his three founders (Eric Lunt, Steve Olechowski, and Matt Shobe), who are all still close friends. I learned an amazing amount from each of them, but especially from my time with Dick.

Another great CEO I’ve had the honor to work with is Matt Blumberg who has led Return Path since founding the company in 1999. Matt is a first time CEO and has a fun blog titled Only Once which references the idea that you can only be a first time CEO one time. In a delicious twist, he’s now been a first time CEO for 14 years. While Return Path has had countless twists and turns along the way, Matt has been CEO from inception and presides over a large and significant company that continues to be a leader in a market it helped create.

Fred Wilson, who is on the board of Return Path with me and Matt (along with the FeedBurner board, and the Twitter board) had a frank and insightful post about turning your team three times through the life of the company to meet the different challenges that face a company from its journey from sweat driven startup to massive scale. Often this process of turning the team includes the CEO; other times it doesn’t. In Matt’s case, there have been plenty of team changes along the way, but Matt has demonstrated an impressive ability to scale and adapt himself in the evolving role of a CEO of a rapidly scaling company.

As a result, when Matt started talking to me about writing a book about the role of a Startup CEO, I was super excited. I encouraged and supported this, and it resulted in another book in the Startup Revolution series that I’ve done with Wiley. Matt’s book, Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business, is a must read for any CEO.

Last summer, Matt began exploring doing an online course around the content in Startup CEO. He teamed up with the Kauffman Fellows Academy to put together a course titled Startup CEO, an online class that really drills into the important material of the book. It’s the real deal with hours of video, Q&A that Matt did in front of a live studio audience of NYC startup CEOs, as well as engagement with the teacher through the NovoEd platform.

I’m encouraging all the CEOs in Foundry Group’s portfolio to take the class, and I encourage you to take the class as well.

The class starts on January 20th on the NovoEd platform. You can learn more about it on Matt’s blog post about the Startup CEO course.

Building A Business Operating System

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Matt Blumberg‘s amazing new book Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business is out and shipping. The early reviews are great, including this detailed one from Tech Cocktail.

Matt’s book is already having an impact in my world. At Cheezburger, we just added Scott Moore to the leadership team. Ben Huh, the founder/CEO who I adore and love working with, send out a powerful email about how he’s approaching Cheezburger’s next stage of growth, and how he’s thinking about building the business operating system. He builds off many of the concepts in Matt’s book and told me I was free to blog this for the world to see.

Following is Ben’s email.

——–

Hey Cheezburgers,

After recruiting our new COO & President Scoot Moore, I am shifting one of my major projects to on boarding Scott. I’m kicking off the process of building the business Operating System for Cheezburger. This is a super important item that I am thrilled to get started on.

It’s perfect timing for us. As COO & President, Scott has management responsibility for a huge area of Cheezburger. By building the metrics, communication rhythms, reports, etc. I can really help Scott get a feel for our business and where we stand as we plan for 2014. It’s one part communication, one part feedback process, and one part creating clarity.

A business Operating System is a simple idea:

  • Using the company’s values (of Truth, Excellence, and Happiness)…
  • create a set of consistent rhythm for communications, meetings, procedures and decision-making…
  • which helps align everyone’s goals with the ultimate objectives of the company.

Put in other words: A business OS is how we consistently and clearly communicate, hire, make decisions, etc. that help us do more faster.

In practice, this comes down to some answers to questions like this: (examples)

  • When do we plan for the next year? And who owns the process?
  • How do I measure my performance against my, or my team’s goals?
  • I need another person on my team to help better reach my team’s goals. How do I go about doing that?
  • I’d like to send out a company-wide update on something my team did. How do I do that?
  • How do I know what I am working on aligns with the company’s goals?
  • What metrics do we report company-wide? And why?
  • etc. etc. etc.

It’s an idea I first heard from another Foundry Group CEO, Matt Blumberg. In fact, he’s written a book based on those ideas.

One of the key improvements you should see as a result of this should be more consistency and clarity in communications and processes. This is one of the reasons why I push for a single IT system like Google Drive vs having two, and why I want you to post content for dissemination in our intranet. I hope that the OS will help you see the bigger picture. The opposite of having an effective business OS is a company that is confused due to lack of clarity and unable to move in the same direction together, therefore missing goals and opportunities.

There are 6 key areas that I want to structure the OS around (this will evolve as I work with Scott and the exec team):

  1. Company-wide communications and meetings
  2. Creating, aligning, and sharing goals
  3. Measuring performance against goals and metrics
  4. Establishing cadence, rhythm, and deadlines
  5. Clarity in decision-making process, transparency, and openness
  6. Well-functioning systems and operational processes

For you, the impact will be that I will be talking about almost everything in the context of our Culture/Values, Goals/KPIs/Metrics, and Systems/Processes.

Pre-Order Startup CEO, The Newest Startup Revolution Book

Comments (8)

Pre-orders for the new book Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business by Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, are available now on Amazon. Matt, who writes the awesome blog Only Once (which stands for “you can only be a first time CEO once”) has put a herculean effort into writing an amazing book while running a very large company.

This is the latest book in the Startup Revolution series of books that include Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your CityStartup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur, and Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.

I’ve worked with Matt since 2001 when I joined Fred Wilson and Greg Sands on the board of Return Path. At the time I was an investor in a company called Veripost that was a direct competitor with Return Path. Fred was an investor in Return Path. Each company was about 20 people. The founders knew each other well and were in a brutal competition in a market that didn’t yet exist. They decided they wanted to join forces, Fred and I cut a deal over the phone in 5 minutes, and Greg Sands (at Sutter Hill at the time) led a financing round that set a price for the combined company.

Twelve years later Matt is still Return Path’s CEO. George Bilbrey, one of the Veripost founders, is the President. They are incredible partners and Matt is still a first time CEO, but now running a 400 person company that dominates its market.

The book is broken up into five parts:

  • Part I: Storytelling
  • Part II: Building the Company’s Human Capital
  • Part III: Execution
  • Part IV: Building and Leading a Board of Directors
  • Part V: Managing Yourself So You Can Manage Others

Matt  has the entire outline of Startup CEO up on his blog. As with all books in the Startup Revolution series, it combines practical experience with advice with stories with commentary from other experts.

I think Startup CEO is going to be a must read for any CEO. Do Matt a solid and go pre-order it today.

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