April 2, 2020

State of Colorado COVID-19 Innovation Response Team, Part IV – Replacing Myself, Days 7-9

(This is the fourth post in a series documenting the work I did in Colorado on the Governor’s COVID-19 Innovation Response Team – IRT.  Other posts in order are 1, 2, and 3.) Monday, March 23, Day 7 Wellness screening – put hot cup of coffee against my temples – now finally the thermometer works (although I can’t say that it gives me a high degree of comfort that I have figured out a workaround!) Furious execution and still backlog is growing no matter how much I do – thank goodness team is growing.  Never seen this before – work coming in faster than I can process it, and I am a fast processer. Inbox clean when I go to bed, up to 75 when I wake up, never slows down Private sector explosion – this guy can print 3D swabs – but are they compliant?  This guy has an idea for cleansing PPE, this guy can do 3D printing of Ventilator replacement parts, etc.  How to corral? Corporate Volunteer form is up – 225 entries in the first 12 hours – WOW Congressmen and Senators – people contact them, so they want to help, they want to make news, […]


April 1, 2020

State of Colorado COVID-19 Innovation Response Team, Part III – Hitting Our Stride, Days 4-6

(This is the third post in a series documenting the work I did in Colorado on the Governor’s COVID-19 Innovation Response Team – IRT.  First two posts are here and here.) Friday, March 20, Day 4 Morning pilates going pretty well, a good daily routine here Wellness Screening on the way in for the first time.  Uniformed National Guard guys taking temperature on surface of face/temples.  Can’t get it to work – takes 6x Leadership and prioritization of important over urgent – staff the team Strategic National Stockpile failure – they send us 60,000 masks and Colorado is using 68,000/day.  […]


March 31, 2020

State of Colorado COVID-19 Innovation Response Team, Part II – Getting Started, Days 1-3

(This is the second post in a series documenting the work I did in Colorado on the Governor’s COVID-19 Innovation Response Team – IRT.  Introductory post is here.) Tuesday, March 17, Day 1 Extended stay hotel does not have a gym.  Hopefully there is one at work Walking into office for the first time.  We are in a government building in a random town just south of Denver that houses the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.  These are the teams who are on point for emergency response in Colorado when there […]


March 30, 2020

State of Colorado COVID-19 Innovation Response Team, Part I – A Different Kind of Startup

(This is going to be an interesting week.  I expect in a couple days, a group of friends and former Return Path colleagues and I are going to officially start a new company once initial funding closes.  I will write about that down the road, but first, this message brought to you by COVID-19.) I just returned from spending an intense two weeks in Denver.  On March 15, my long-time friend and Board member Brad Feld called me with an interesting idea.  His friend, Colorado Governor Jared Polis (who I’d met a briefly couple times over the years), had an […]


December 5, 2019

What Job is Your Customer Hiring You to Do?

My friend George, one of our co-founders at Return Path (according to him, the best looking of the three), has a wonderful and simple framing question for thinking about product strategy:  what job is your customer hiring you to do?  I am increasingly turning to that question as I work with our team on developing a new strategy for my new company, LRN. Even though LRN is in a different space, solving different problems for different buyers, I am finding George’s wisdom as relevant as ever, maybe even more so since I am still learning the new context. Why is […]


October 17, 2019

The Nachos Don’t Have Enough Beef in Them!

(This is an excerpt from Chapter 23 of Startup CEO, “Collecting Data,” in which I write about the importance of observing and learning from customers and friends of the firm, as well as employees.) Here’s a story for you that happened 10+ years ago. I’m sitting at the bar of Sam Snead’s Tavern in Port St. Lucie, Florida, having dinner solo while I wait for my friend Karl to arrive. I ask the bartender where he’s from, since he has an accent. Nice conversation about how life is rough in Belfast and thank goodness for the American dream. I ask […]


October 3, 2019

First Days

As I mentioned last week, I just started a new chapter of my career journey as CEO of LRN, a SaaS company based in New York City that provides ethics and compliance education software while advising companies on shaping values-based leadership, cultures and governance as sources of competitive advantage. That’s all good and well, but Tuesday morning, I was also a new employee walking into his office on the first day of a new job. The last time I’d done that was when I started at MovieFone in 1995 (the first day of starting one’s own company doesn’t count!). During […]


May 1, 2019

OnlyOnce, Part XX

I realize I haven’t posted much lately.  As you may know, the title of this blog, OnlyOnce, comes from a blog post written by my friend and board member Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures entitled You Are Only a First-Time CEO Once, which he wrote back in 2003 or 2004.  That inspired me to create a blog for entrepreneurs and leaders.  I’ve written close to 1,000 posts over the years, and the book became the impetus for a book that another friend and board member Brad Feld from Foundry Group encouraged me to write and helped me get published […]


July 26, 2018

Sometimes a Good Loss is Better than a Bad Win

I just said this to a fellow little league coach, and it’s certainly true for baseball.  I’ve coached games with sloppy and/or blowout wins in the past.  You take the W and move on, but it’s hard to say “good game” at the end of it and feel like you played a good game.  And I’ve coached games where we played our hearts out and made amazing plays on offense and defense…and just came up short by a run.  You are sad about the L, but at least you left it all out on the field. Is that statement true […]


December 1, 2017

Knowing When to Ask for Help in Your Startup

I had a great networking meeting yesterday along with Tami Forman, the CEO of our non-profit affiliate Path Forward, and Joanne Wilson, my board co-chair.  It was a meeting that Joanne set up that the three of us had been talking about for over a year.  Joanne made a great comment as we were debriefing in the elevator after the meeting that is the foundation of this post.  Tami and I shaped her comment into this metaphor: Finding wood to help start a fire is different from pouring gasoline on a fire As an entrepreneur, you need to constantly be […]


November 16, 2017

Deals are not done until they are done

We were excited to close the sale of our Consumer Insights business last week to Edison, as I blogged about last week on the Return Path blog.  But it brought back to mind the great Yogi Berra quote that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” We’ve done lots of deals over our 18 year existence.  Something like 12 or 13 acquisitions and 5 spin-offs or divestitures.  And a very large number of equity and debt financings. We’ve also had four deals that didn’t get done.  One was an acquisition we were going to make that we pulled away from during due […]