May 012013

Return Path’s Newest Board Member: Jeff Epstein

Return Path’s Newest Board Member: Jeff Epstein

I’ve written before about how much I love my Board. Well, I’m pleased to announce I have a new reason to love it – today, I’m officially welcoming Jeff Epstein to the Return Path Board of Directors. He is joining an all-star cast that includes Greg Sands, Fred Wilson, Brad Feld, Scott Weiss and Scott Petry.

I first met Jeff back in 2000 when, as CFO of DoubleClick, he and DoubleClick CEO Kevin Ryan agreed to invest in Return Path as our first institutional investor, along with Flatiron Partners.  He is one of the few people who have seen the company grow from its infancy to today.  Jeff has been a formal advisor to the company for more than a year, and he recently agreed to join as a director.

Jeff has all the qualities that make for an awesome board member and he’s already been an influential voice with uncommon insight and an impressive background that complements the rest of our board. As CFO of Oracle Jeff helped guide one of the world’s preeminent technology companies. He’s also served as CFO for large private and public companies including DoubleClick, King World Productions, and Neilsen’s Media Measurement and Information Group, and is a member of the boards of Priceline.com, Kaiser Permanente, Shutterstock, and the Management Board of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Jeff is currently a partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and a senior advisor at Oak Hill Capital.

Building and managing a board of directors is one of the key functions of a CEO, and the entire Return Path team benefits from a close relationship with great industry leaders. Jeff’s appointment is a perfect example. He’s steered successful organizations through many of the same decisions and challenges that we’re facing. He evaluates issues from multiple points of view – as a senior executive, as a board member, as an investor. And he’s not quiet. On our board, that’s essential. We’re a group of strong personalities—we challenge ideas, we analyze everything, and our views don’t always have to agree.

I’ve said that one secret to running an effective board is to ask for members’ opinions only when you want them. In Jeff’s case I definitely want them. So, on behalf of the board and the entire team at Return Path, Jeff, welcome!

Nov 092010

Why I Love My Board

Why I Love My Board, Part II

I’ve written a few things about my Board of Directors over the years, some of which I note below.  Part I of this series isn’t particularly useful, though there’s an entertaining link in it to a video of Fred that’s worth looking at if you know or follow him.

Today, we are happy to announce that we are adding a new independent director, Scott Petry, the founder of Postini and now a senior email product leader at Google (read the official press release [here]).  Scott’s a fantastic addition to our already strong Board, and the process of recruiting and adding him has made me reflect a bit on my Board and its strengths and weaknesses, so I thought I’d share a couple of those thoughts here.

I think Return Path has cultivated a very high functioning Board over the years, and I feel very fortunate to have the group that we have.  Here are the top five things I think make our Board special, in no particular order.

  1. We have great individuals on the Board.  Each of our individual Board members — Fred Wilson, Greg Sands, Scott Weiss, Scott Petry, and Brad Feld (now officially an observer), (in addition to me) — could anchor a super strong Board in his own right and have all served on multiple Boards of related companies.  And not only do these guys know their stuff…they do their homework.  They all come to every meeting very well prepared.
  2. The individual Board members are different but have different experiences and personalities that complement each other nicely.  Among the three VCs on the Board, two have operating experience, one as a founder and one in product management.  Among the two industry CEOs, one has more of a business development focus, and the other has deep technical expertise.  Some directors are excitable and a bit knee-jerk, others are more reflective; some are aggressive and others are more conservative; some have extremely colorful metaphors, others are a bit more steeped in traditional pattern recognition.
  3. We have built a great team dynamic that encourages productive conflict.  I assume a lot of rooms full of great directors of different types are so ego-laden that people just talk over each other.  Our group, for whatever reason, doesn’t function that way.  We are engaged and in each others’ faces during meetings, no one is afraid to voice an opinion, and we listen to each other.  Some of this may be the way we spend time together outside of Board rooms, which I wrote about in The Social Aspects of Running a Board. Some is about just making sure to have fun, which I wrote about in The Good, The Board, and The Ugly (Part I, Part II, Part III), I talk about other aspects of running a good Board, including making sure to have fun – that post includes an entertaining picture of now-Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and a few of his friends from his FeedBurner days.
  4. We are deliberate about connecting the Board and the Executive team, and the rest of the company.  We encourage every director to have a direct relationship with every one of my direct reports.  They connect both during and outside of meetings, and they have gotten to know each other well over the years.  This is much more helpful to us than a more traditional “hourglass” structure where all connections go through the CEO.
  5. We run great meetings.  We send out a single, well-organized document several days before the meeting.  Board members do their homework.  We focus on current and future issues more than reporting on historical numbers, and we no longer do any presentations — it’s all discussion (I also wrote about a lot of this here in PowerPointLess).

Welcome to the Return Path family, Scott P – we are delighted to have you on board our Board!

css.php