In the world of startups, a great advisory board is often used to demonstrate to potential investors that you know people who will let you use their name, which in today’s market conditions, probably means you can get a better chance of getting into an incubator/accelerator and might be able to convince some other first time entrepreneurs to join your team.
For the Social Business Software company I am building, it is something entirely different, and more substantive. Yes, my advisory board consists of famous leaders you may know, or if you don’t know, you should. I began to coalesce the board around a specific set of experiences, connections and insights I was seeking to fill in areas where we couldn’t afford to hire or secure full time positions. I set out to fill these specific roles from my network who I already knew would grok the concept and be able to add instant value. It is truly a working advisory board, and thankfully it is nearly complete and moving towards its first formal meeting in the next week or so. While still in the early stages, they have each contributed some form of real value towards the concept development, identified some potential candidates for co-founders and validated the general business plan, agreeing to be part of our journey. Together we are striving to change how people work together and how organizations build more collaborative cultures. Since it’s still in the proverbial stealth mode, that’s all I will say about it for now.
Today, I want to update you and my extended network on the progress to date and acknowledge the amazing members of the advisory board. Each of them have contributed so much already — I am truly grateful for their efforts to date and for their support over the coming year as we begin to grow the company.
- Dave Gray, formerly of Dachis Group, formerly of XPlane, currently and forever a great guy and world leading visual communicator/thinker. He also, together with a former co-founder / life long friend Thomas Vanderwal, wrote the book The Connected Company, which is a large part of a shared vision we have for destroying the current models of the org chart and enabling a more social form of doing business.
- David Armano of Edelman Digital is someone I deeply respect with similar views on the world as Dave Gray and myself, but who has been on the front lines of transforming public relations, traditional marketing and communications strategies with some of the most innovative brands in the world. He is a creative with common sense, and his contributions on the branding, positioning and messaging has helped to point me towards a brand name that will most surely serve as a competitive advantage. I have long admired his ability to simplify the core concepts of social media and social business, enabling others embrace and execute upon it in a practical way. Now I am glad to have those insights and communications skills to help grow our new company.
- Daniela Barbosa, now leading Business Development at First Rain, formerly of Dow Jones and always an industry leader around social, data portability and client centric solutions marketing, understands sales in this new era like few others. She is also a creative thinker, an incredible story teller and a deeply compassionate soul who represents the best in the all too often maligned function of enterprise sales, strategic alliances and business development.
- Bill Sanders, Managing Director of Roebling Strauss is a consumate project manager with deep domain expertise in digital, event production, operations and organizational development. Bill’s addition to the board came serendipitously as we discussed other potential collaborations and he began to speak directly to the problems I am striving to solve. His vast experience with customers in our target market, managing projects and developing innovative solutions to their toughest challenges is one thing, but his operations focus is a perfect complement to my expansive vision, ensuring we focus on getting things done! I couldn’t be more excited about the value he has added to the company so far and our potential for even deeper collaboration in the months and years ahead.
- David Sifry, serial entrepreneur, former CEO of Technorati, founder of numerous other startups, man of integrity and all around great guy provides us the knowledge and experience of having been through multiple startups. His experience and his startup connections are truly invaluable, but he is also a brother from another mother, whose personal counsel transcends the business discussion and whose smile puts everyone at ease. His drive towards a healthier lifestyle is also a personal inspiration for myself and many of our other friends across the startup ecosystem.
- Nate Pagel, serial entrepreneur, product manager, UX leader and possessor of an incredible work ethic is pushing me forward past the occasional blank canvas problem that comes with startups and providing a greater clarity of focus to what we are building and when we are building it. Nate was an early agency guy (like me) who sold to Sapient (unlike me), is the founder of Podaddies and more recently served as the web development (product) manager at Performance Marketing Brands (who own Ebates.com among other properties).
- David Allen, has held technology leadership positions (CTO/CIO/++) at companies such as Visa and i365 (a Seagate company). He has also been a supporter of Social Media Club and many other startups around the valley, providing an engineering perspective that looks beyond the technology to understand the underlying psychology at play in the internal operations and in the end users who the products are built to serve. I’ve been fortunate to share dreams, challenges and opportunities with David for over 8 years now, and have continuously been impressed with his counsel and friendship.
So, to state the obvious, somehow we ended up with 4 David’s. Which in my view of the world is invaluable, because it will make slaying this Goliath of a problem we face in reinventing work that much easier!
More seriously, it is one hell of an advisory board, with deep domain expertise, a deep passion for bringing about the transformation we most want to see in the world, and a deep level of personal trust I have built with each over the past 5-10 years. Most importantly, its not titular or intended to prove that I have connections (you can see that through my social media profiles). It’s intended to ensure the company makes the best decisions, has access to the best networks, is able to gain highly valuable insights, and finds its path towards growth – and exchange of sweat equity for vesting equity.
That said, while I continue to interview potential co-founders for full time roles, I still have 3 specific advisor slots I am seeking to fill.
- An enterpreneur who has taken his company public or sold it in a major transaction
- A senior strategy person for a global corporation
- A senior HR leader for a global corporation
And with these final slots filled, we will have our 10 person, working advisory board, all with the sort of experience, connections and brainpower to make us as succesfull as possible. I couldn’t be happier with this great start. With their support, we will begin to move forward on our product road map, build out the team and get to work in earnest on fixing what is most broken in today’s organizations.
While we’ve only just begun, we’ve also come a long way already. I can hardly contain myself right now, but timing is everything, so when the timing is right in a couple of months I will announce the alpha sign up page and a few months after that the public beta. It’s such an exciting time, to finally be working on what truly makes my heart sing with the confidence that we will be forever changing the nature, structure and operations of organizations the world over, enabling them to empower their employees and to truly become social businesses.
Go forth and pursue your dreams, there is nothing greater in this world… except perhaps being able to do so along with some of the people you most respect in the world who have your back and share your dreams. Thanks to each of you who have joined so far, and to each of you who will be joining over the months ahead!