Behind the Cloud

The tale of Bazaarvoice, as told through the shirts on our backs (2007-2009) - part two

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, every startup has their t-shirts. But you can tell a lot about a company by the t-shirts they make. And so I would like to continue to take you through our history - and our culture - with the most complete collection of Bazaarvoice t-shirts with the possible exception of my co-founder, Brant Barton.

This is the second in my series, and I'll cover the years 2007-2009 here. The first post covers our first two years in business - 2005-2007.

Michael Osborne, our first global head of sales, and I worked hard on establishing a sales-driven culture. In my opinion, this is very important for a B2B company. Your clients are the ones that pay your bills and you should be obsessive about both selling to and servicing them well. All other functions in the company are in support of that goal. The most successful B2C companies, like Wal-Mart and Amazon, are no different in that they are obsessive about those that also pay their bills - with the only difference being they care most about consumers - versus businesses - as consumers are their key source of revenue. Osborne, as we all called him because his personality is bigger than life, was amazing in this regard and a huge part of the culture that quickly took root. His theme song for us "doing the impossible" in our achievements quarter after quarter became Don't Stop Believing by Journey. The YouTube video below will give you a window into our culture and all of us celebrating at the Alamo Drafthouse, where we held our All-Hands (I talked about why the awesome Alamo in my first post in this series). I took this video right after my talk to close out the day, where I was expressing my deep love for the company and then the Bazaarvoice band brought the house down by playing our theme song. This can only be described as a magical moment as I think you'll agree in watching the video (have you ever seen this type of energy at a company you worked at?).

How to leverage advisors and investors as your extended team

As an entrepreneur, I fostered an unusual communication practice with our investors and advisors. I treated them as I would have wanted to be treated if I were in their shoes. This is the Golden Rule in action.

You need to have empathy for those that you raise money from. They aren't the "man in the arena" (one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt), but they can be very supportive - should you choose to treat them as part of your extended team. They are putting their money (if they are angel investors) - or their investors' money (as is the case for venture capitalists) - into your venture and you should treat that capital as if it were your own. And if it were your own capital ask yourself, "What kind of updates would I want?" My guess is you would want to always know how the business is doing and how you could help the business - and therefore help your investment. Part of the thrill of investing is to see the entrepreneur succeed - both changing their life and many other people's lives in the process. Investors enjoy telling their friends - other investors and family - about the success of your business. The journey is more important than any return they get (although to be clear they don't want to lose either their money or their investors' money). The more they help you, the more they live vicariously through you - and their fingerprints are all over your business. This is called a "helper's high" by my good friend and CEO coach, Kirk Dando (you can read more about Kirk and the value of CEO coaches in my Lucky7 post about the 7 lessons learned on the journey from founder to CEO).

7 lessons learned on the journey from founder to CEO

Two days ago I had the honor of keynoting at the First Round Capital CEO Summit in San Francisco. The event was held at the Jewish Contemporary Museum. During my speech, I promised to put my notes up on my blog and so here they are.

My talk was about the 7 lessons I've learned on the journey from founder to CEO. First Round Capital invested in us when Bazaarvoice was under 10 people; they came in alongside Austin Ventures - where I am now a Venture Partner - in our Series A. First Round has been an incredible partner in our journey from startup to public company. Personally, I think they are the best first round investor in the U.S. with the portfolio to show for it. Josh Kopelman, a fellow Wharton grad, is especially strong and he has helped me many times along the way.

I started off my talk emphasizing that the journey matters most in your transformation from founder to CEO. It is both a beautiful journey and also at times a gut-wrenching one. As Kirk Dando, my CEO coach of four years, says, "the path to heaven goes through the road to hell". This couldn't be more true. You aren't born knowing how to either found a company or be a CEO. You aren't born knowing how emotional this journey can be. But it is a journey that I've cherished and, in my opinion, the most profound journey that one can take in a career. It is a journey that led to me being recognized as Austin's best CEO for the large company category last year. This doesn't mean I have done everything right or that I don't make mistakes (hopefully less of them are repeat mistakes).