Book Review: Startup Boards (Second Edition)

I recently finished reading the new second edition of Startup Boards: A Field Guide to Building and Leading an Effective Board of Directors by Brad Feld, Mahendra Ramsinghani, and Matt Blumberg. I loved it. It is a highly useful tome for startup operators and investors alike. I found it to be particularly helpful in preparation for a recent board meeting.

Many startup leaders can relate to the flurry of activity prior to a board meeting; the data collection, the slide preparation, the cross-functional alignment meetings, and the presentation prep itself. The new edition of Startup Boards is packed with useful insights, including board fundamentals (what is a board’s purpose, and what are the roles and responsibilities of members?), steps towards creating inclusive boards, and the overall background on how boards can have a role in important company milestones like fundraising, selling or buying a company, IPOs, or closing down the business.

Startup Boards has great advice for independent or aspiring board directors. As we work towards making boards more diverse and inclusive, this is something our entire industry can benefit from.

As an LGBTQ woman startup executive, this particularly resonates with me, as I am often still the “only” person or one of a handful from a minoritized group at board meetings. Thankfully, things are changing. We all need to work towards making boards more inclusive and effective.

In my book Lead Upwards, I included a chapter for startup leaders on how to prepare for and present at board meetings, including advice from investors, seasoned CEOs, and executives. I’ve previously referenced the first edition of Startup Boards as recommended reading. The new edition is even better and more helpful for aspiring and current startup execs to be successful in their board communication.

Startup Boards is a must-read to understand the “why” behind the board meetings, the board priorities, and the structures that are present at your startup. Highly recommended reading. Get your copy.

Announcing my new book Lead Upwards

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In my new book Lead Upwards: How Startup Joiners Can Impact New Ventures, Build Amazing Careers, and Inspire Great Teams, learn how to maximize your impact and deliver results in a startup leadership role. Get insights into how to prepare for, earn, and succeed in an executive role at a startup company.

The book describes every step on the way to realizing your goals—and the goals of your startup—as you navigate the gap between a management role and the executive team. It covers what to do in your first 90 days, how to build and sustain a healthy team culture, and the art of communicating results to your leadership team and board. You’ll also learn:

  • How to manage the challenges posed by leading a remote, distributed, or hybrid team
  • Management strategies based on inclusive and diverse teambuilding, alignment with business objectives, and inspirational leadership
  • Effective ways to level up your skills and stay current as your company grows

Written for current and aspiring executives at startup firms, Lead Upwards is also a guide for startup board members, founders, funders, and managers seeking a singularly insightful discussion of business leadership. Available now!

Order your copy

Cultivating Psychological Safety On Startup Teams

According to Gill Hasson and Donna Butler in Mental Health And Wellbeing In The Workplace, “People need to feel psychologically safe . . . In a team with high psychological safety, each person feels safe to take risks and be vulnerable around others. They feel comfortable expressing themselves and feel safe that no one will undermine them, embarrass or punish anyone else for bringing up problems and tough issues, for speaking out about concerns, making and/or admitting a mistake, asking a question, asking for help, or offering a new idea.” Psychological safety on teams benefits everyone.

Compassionate Leaders Make People’s Lives Better

“The more you get into leadership, the more opportunities you have to do harm due to your blind spots.” Don’t project your stuff onto your team,” says D&I expert Aubrey Blanche.

Ways you can be a compassionate leader and contribute to a culture of psychological safety include:

  • Process your own emotions, including anxiety and anger, before reacting. This includes not impulsively sending heated communications to your team, but rather sitting with your strong emotions and then communicating.
  • Understand your biases and practice respect for people’s individuality. Be aware of your own biases and work hard to check them so that you don’t inadvertently discriminate or create a hostile work environment. Everyone has biases. We all have to learn how to recognize them and not perpetuate discriminatory behavior.
  • When you make a mistake or misstep in a situation with a team member, own it and make a plan to improve. Don’t expect others to make you feel better about your mistake. For example, if you make a comment that offends someone based on identity, commit to improving and don’t make the issue about the other person.
  • Encourage your team to seek appropriate support. If something happens that violates an employee’s rights or boundaries, do not dismiss their concerns. Encourage team members to get help from HR or People Ops and be willing to help them seek those resources. In this vein, leaders often go into “hero” mode and try to solve all problems. You have limits, and you are not their therapist. Accepting this is both annoying for people who love to think they have ultimate control, and also highly freeing because it lets you be a part of the solution while knowing you’re not the only (or best) resource to resolve issues in most cases.
  • Understand that your team’s health and wellness comes above work, always. Don’t expect your team to put their wellbeing ahead of the company’s needs. Be aware that people will go through periods where they need more time off or flexibility. As long as they’re accomplishing their goals, do not fault them or cause them to feel guilty and pressure them to put their own wellbeing on hold for the company’s sake.
  • Be compassionate towards yourself. Do your own inner work with a coach, spiritual advisor, or therapist to understand your needs and communication style better so you can learn better how to work with others’ needs and styles.

Final Thoughts

Emotional maturity and compassionate leadership make a difference in people’s lives. You don’t need to be a healthcare worker or a teacher to have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing and personal development.

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This post is adapted from my forthcoming book, Lead Upwards: How Startup Joiners Can Impact New Ventures, Build Amazing Careers, and Inspire Great Teams (Wiley, 2022). Pre-order your copy today.

Introducing my next book: Lead Upwards

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It’s an honor to officially introduce my next book, Lead Upwards: How Startup Joiners Can Impact New Ventures, Build Amazing Careers, and Inspire Great Teams, which will be published by Wiley in Spring 2022.

In Lead Upwards, readers will learn how to maximize impact and results in a startup leadership role. The book describes every step on the way to realizing your goals—and the goals of your startup—as you navigate the gap between a management role and the executive team. Learn what to do in your first 90 days, how to build and sustain a healthy team culture, and the art of communicating results to your leadership team and board.

You’ll also learn:

  • How to manage the challenges posed by leading a remote, distributed, or hybrid team
  • Management strategies based on inclusive and diverse teambuilding, alignment with business objectives, and inspirational leadership
  • Effective ways to level up your skills and stay current as your company grows

Written for current and aspiring execs and leaders at startups, Lead Upwards is also a guide for startup board members, founders, funders, and managers seeking an insightful discussion of business leadership. Available May 2022.

Pre-order your copy

Join Us For Boulder Startup Week 2021

While it seems like both a lifetime and no time at all since the first all-virtual Boulder Startup Week in 2020, I am excited to share that I have the privilege of being the marketing track captain for Boulder Startup Week 2021. It is an honor to support the vibrant Boulder startup ecosystem, especially during a time that has been challenging for so many. The theme this year is resilience, and our spotlight marketing event will focus on the role that marketing plays in driving revenue for today’s cloud companies.

Boulder Startup Week 2021 Event: Marketing = Revenue

A panel of marketing leaders from the startup ecosystem including Carly Brantz, CMO of DigitalOcean, Cate Lochead, CMO of JumpCloud, Lizelle van Vuuren, CMO of Undock, Olivia Omega, Strategist at Wallace Marketing Group, and I will discuss the topic of how marketing contributes to pipeline and revenue. This event is aimed at those who want to align marketing, sales, product, and customer success teams, understand how to take a revenue marketing approach and the role that data and account-based marketing play in successful go-to-market programs.

Watch the recording

Introducing Intricately’s New Podcast Selling In The Cloud

Selling in the Cloud Intricately Podcast, hosted by Michael Pollack and Sarah E. Brown

I’m excited to share the launch of Selling in the Cloud, a new podcast I co-host with Intricately CEO and co-founder Michael Pollack dedicated to the business of cloud sales and marketing.

Our first episodes feature marketing legend and Crossing the Chasm author Geoffrey Moore, and Carly Brantz, CMO of DigitalOcean. Stay tuned for more episodes with cloud leaders discussing the ins and outs of selling in the cloud.

To listen, head on over to iTunesSpotify or your podcast platform of choice. If you feel inspired, please do leave us a review, and join the conversation on Twitter at #sellinginthecloud

Join Us For Boulder Startup Week 2020

Life has changed a lot in the past few months. In personal news, I moved back to Boulder late last year, and am thrilled to share I recently started a new role as the head of marketing at Intricately, the leading provider of product adoption, usage, and spend intelligence for cloud sales and marketing teams.

While this is a time of hardship for so many in our community in Boulder and beyond, I’m inspired by the resilience of the Boulder Startup Week team, who have been working hard to ensure the success of this year’s online-only festival. A special shout-out to Ben Travis, who runs the Boulder Marketing Meetup, and Rendl Clark, Director of Boulder Startup Week, for their amazing organizing efforts!

I’m looking forward to hosting two events (all-remote!) during this year’s Boulder Startup Week:

BSW ’20 Panel discussion: How To Grow Your Startup Marketing Career 

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A panel of marketing leaders from the startup ecosystem (Rachel BeiselSimone Johnson, and Victoria Stitt, MBA. ) will discuss the topic of how marketers can level up and achieve their goals along their startup career path. Watch the Recording

BSW ’20 Film Screening: Chasing Unicorns (“Ükssarvik”) 

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One of the most successful Estonian movies of 2019, Chasing Unicorns is a semi-satirical narrative feature about a female founder trying to make it a male-dominated tech world, from Estonia to Silicon Valley. RSVP to join us

Why an Estonian startup film? After traveling to Tallinn, Estonia in February, I was inspired by Estonia’s thriving startup ecosystem, including their innovative e-residency program. After watching the satirical Estonian startup film Chasing Unicorns, I reached out to the filmmakers Tõnu Hiielaid and Rain Rannu about the possibility of sharing the film with our Boulder startup community. Several months later, we’re partnering to host a virtual film screening during this year’s BSW. While Tallinn and Boulder are distant, I’m grateful for this opportunity to connect our startup communities through the film.

Looking forward to seeing folks (virtually) at BSW! For those interested, consider supporting Colorado’s COVID Relief Fund.

January 2019 Update: Book Launch, Podcasts, Reviews, Events & More

In October 2018, I published my first book, Power to the Startup People: How To Grow Your Startup Career When You’re Not The Founder.

Here is a recap of recent podcast interviews, press, reviews, and events related to the book.

Launched Power to the Startup People at Techstars in Boulder

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We launched the book at Techstars Boulder with a lively panel discussion about startup careers featuring:

  • Andrea Guendelman, Founder, BeVisible Latinx
  • Erin Rand, COO, Atipica
  • Analiese Brown, Director of Talent & Culture, CampMinder
  • Josh Ashton, Head of People Operations, GutCheck

Thank you to the panelists, Techstars’ Julie Penner and Hannah Davis, who helped organize the event, and to everyone who joined us at the launch.

Featured in Feld Thoughts Post By Brad Feld

VC and Techstars co-founder Brad Feld has been an amazing supporter along my startup journey (as well as the journeys of countless others), including helping me launch Flatirons LGBTQ Tech Meetup in Boulder, CO back in 2014. I’m honored by both Brad’s official book endorsement (check it out on Amazon) and by his generous feature of Power to the Startup People in a recent blog post on Feld Thoughts.

Brad Feld reviews Sarah E. Brown book Power to the Startup People

Read Brad Feld’s Power to the Startup People review

Power to the Startup People Featured in Helping Sells Radio Episode with Bill Cushard

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I enjoyed discussing Power to the Startup People on Helping Sells Radio with my epic beloved former podcast co-host Bill Cushard. Bill is a fantastic interviewer (and a friend) so this was particularly fun to do.  Listen to the episode

Featured in Investor Connect Podcast Interview with Hall Martin

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This is one of my favorite podcast interviews I’ve ever done. Thank you to Hall Martin for featuring Power to the Startup People on his podcast Investor Connect. In this episode, we discuss the following topics from the book:

  • How does someone from a large corporation re-adjust quickly to the startup world
  • What do you look for when you join a startup?
  • What do you negotiate up front when you join a startup?
  • When is the best time to join a startup?
  • When is the best time to leave a startup?

Listen to the episode

Featured in the People Stack Podcast with Jennifer Bunk

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I also discussed Power to the Startup People on the People Stack podcast with Jen Bunk. We talked about how you can contribute to a startup when you aren’t a founder, the challenges of transitioning between phases of a company and the power of mindset and more.

Listen to the episode

Featured at Lesbians Who Tech All Gender Book Club at Udemy in SF

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In December, Lesbians Who Tech + Allies featured adrienne maree brown’s Emergent Strategy and my book Power to the Startup People at the recent All Gender Book Club hosted at Udemy SF. It was a dream come true to talk about startup careers with the amazing LWT community–thank you to group leader Dom Brassey for organizing and to Udemy for hosting.

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Photo cred: Kersh Branz

Featured at Lesbians Who Tech + Allies All Gender Book Club East Bay

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Lesbians Who Tech + Allies will be hosting another All Gender Book Club featuring Power to the Startup People and adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism in Oakland on Tues., April 2nd, 2019. RSVP to join us 

Thank you for reading!

Power to the Startup People: How To Grow Your Career When You're Not the Founder by Sarah E. Brown

If you would like me to come talk about Power to the Startup People: How To Grow Your Startup Career When You’re Not The Founder at your organization, please feel free to drop a line via email to sarahbrownmarketing [at] gmail.com.

P.S. In other non-book news, BuildingConnected is now part of the Autodesk family and I’ve become co-organizer of San Francisco Bay Area Vegans In Technology Meetup.

Wishing everyone a peaceful and meaningful start to 2019. – Sarah 

Introducing my new book Power to the Startup People: How To Grow Your Startup Career When You’re Not The Founder

Power to the Startup People: How to Grow Your Startup Career When You're Not the Founder

I’m thrilled to share that my new book Power to the Startup People: How to Grow Your Startup Career When You’re Not The Founder launches today! This book has been two years in the making and would not have been possible without the incredible help and support of so many of my friends, family, and members of our startup community.

In today’s tech startup world, career paths are nonlinear. A startup career can be rewarding, but it often can be challenging and confusing. While a ton of proverbial ink has been spilled on how to “crush it” as a founder or startup leader, there’s very little in the way of guidance for how employees can hack our own careers. If we’re lucky, we find mentors who have had careers we admire. But we may never find these people. Or, if we do, it may be too late, or their expertise in the particular area with which we need help may be limited.

Entrepreneurs get the lion’s share of glory, but much of the work is done by us: the contributors, the team. This book was born out of my desire to find answers to my own questions about how to have the best startup career possible, while ideally avoiding some pitfalls that, unfortunately, are hard to foresee unless you have a direct mentor relationship with someone who has experienced a similar situation.

I wrote this book from the vantage point of being a startup employee who wants to navigate my career as successfully as possible, while enjoying the journey along the way. While this book is not by any means exhaustive, it will hopefully help readers make more sense of the world of tech startups and make better decisions about their careers along the way.

I have a greater purpose for sharing this information. I truly believe that we, the startup people, hold the power of the tech industry in our hands. By taking command of our own startup careers, we will make a greater impact at the companies that are shaping our future. As the world grapples with questions about the nature of technology in our lives, with concerns about privacy and data and our looming automated economy, we, the employees who make this ecosystem work, will have to decide which companies deserve our time, sweat, and tears. My goal for publishing this book is to give us more choices and more power to shape our own destiny, so that we can in turn enrich the tech ecosystem with our talents. Power to the startup people!

Order now on Amazon

Thank you for reading! I look forward to hearing what you think of the book. If you enjoy the book and find it to be helpful, please leave a review on Amazon–it truly helps. Thank you! Sarah

 

Talking Tech Diversity & Inclusion In The Bay Area And Boulder On Boulder Tech Cast Podcast

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I recently enjoyed chatting B2B SaaS, Customer Success, BuildingConnected, the origin story of Flatirons Tech, and tech diversity & inclusion in the Bay Area and Boulder on the Boulder Tech Cast podcast. This episode was recorded during Boulder Startup Week 2018 at Dojo4.

Listen to the episode