FounderForward Bootcamp + Five Mistakes All Start-Ups Make

FounderForward Bootcamp + Five Mistakes All Start-Ups Make


This past week, we had a blast running our FounderForward bootcamp at Soho House WeHo. Thanks so much to all the amazing founders and executives who attended our two-part series “Culture, Team & Leadership”. And a big thank you to our host for having us and writing the below article summing up what we are all about.

Article appeared in HouseSeven — Soho House’s members publication, posted July 12 2017. Written by Lesley McKenzie

Ask Robyn Ward to pinpoint the most common factor behind struggling or failing businesses in the tech world, and the answer is clear. ‘Nine times out of 10, it had to do with poor leadership, poor hiring, poor communication, poor culture — all of which are human elements,’ says the coach and consultant who’s spent two decades in the startup space, on both the operating and investment sides.

‘Uber is the poster child for this. I am on a mission to get founders and founding teams to understand the value of leadership coaching and intentionally designing and cultivating culture and employee experience from the earliest stages.’

It’s why Ward launched FounderForward, a startup consultancy & coaching business that targets the tech sphere. ‘I get to spend my days empowering and enabling people to reach their goals and realize their dreams,’ says Ward, who also teaches a class on entrepreneurship at University of Southern California, and consulted on the Apple show Planet of the Apps.

‘There are more entrepreneurs than ever before and many of these folks who are starting companies and getting funded have little to no work experience,’ explains the former head of new media ventures at United Talent Agency.

‘They have never hired, managed or led teams. So much focus is put on things like product, customer acquisition, customer experience, etc. that often the people elements of growing a company get overlooked.’

This month, Ward is hosting a Founders’ Bootcamp workshop with General Assembly, the educational training tool for the digital age, at Soho House West Hollywood (part one took place yesterday; part two is happening July 18). Here, the tech-world vet shares five of the mistakes she sees startup founders making regularly. Silicon Beach, take note.

1. Chasing Shiny Objects
It is easy to get distracted when exciting and unexpected opportunities come your way or when your board, advisors, team, etc. are constantly sharing new ideas for the business. To be successful, founders must stay disciplined and laser-focused on their goals and vision.
2. Hiring Fast, Firing Slow
Getting the right people on the bus in the right seats is essential. Founders tend to rush into filling roles and then are slow to fire as they think someone doing the work is better than no one. Hiring slow and firing fast will save lots of times, money and headaches.
3. Not Understanding Culture
Too many tech founders think that snacks in the kitchen and beer on Fridays mean they have a great culture. They confuse cool perks with culture. Culture is the DNA or foundation of the company. It is also a direct reflection of the Founder so the Founder must walk the talk and live the values of the company.
4. Lacking Empathy
Poor leaders rank very low in emotional intelligence, which, amongst other things, means they aren’t self-aware and empathetic. However, good leaders understand it is not their job to bring out the best in their employees, but to create the conditions for their employees to bring out the best in themselves.
5. Not Taking Care of Themselves
Founders love to talk about how little sleep they get and how exhausted they are. This is not impressive. As the founder of the company, it is your job to take care of yourself. Self-care makes you more creative and productive. It is a marathon and not a sprint, your job is to make sure you are peak performance for the long haul.

Words Lesley McKenzie

10 Takeaways From My Day in Prison

10 Takeaways From My Day in Prison

Featured Personal Development Uncategorized

Yesterday I went to prison…

I spent the day at a women’s prison with Defy Ventures for their Business Coaching Day. Along with a powerful and warm-hearted group of women (and a few good men), I provided live coaching/feedback to underdog aspiring entrepreneurs in prison to help empower them to transform their lives.

Spending the day with 100 female prisoners (most were mothers, some had been in gangs, one had an MBA from my alma mater and another was a 74 year old who signed up for the program to work on a business idea), re-enforced the following:

1) We are all more similar than different. Our hearts all beat from the same place.
2) We should not be defined by our past. We have all made mistakes.
3) We must forgive ourselves and others to heal and live in peace.
4) We must never ever give up hope.
5) We must learn to be as gentle and compassionate with ourselves as we are with those around us.
6) We must live in the present, as the only time we have is NOW.
7) We are never too old/it is never too late to change, grow, learn.
8) We must avoid making assumptions about others backgrounds, experiences.
9) Empathy is the key to a more harmonious world.
10) Entrepreneurship is color and gender blind.

Many volunteers have written about their day in prison in moving detail. Google them – they are all worth reading and deeply moving. Just keep in mind, reading about others’ experiences can not quite prepare you for how emotionally impactful and rewarding the day will be for YOU. The only real way to understand this is to volunteer! There are several prisons that are part of the program in LA. I plan to stay involved with my new sisters at the women’s prison and will likely be organizing a bus for the next visit. If you are interested, please LMK.

To learn more about Defy’s awesome work and meet some grads (who turn street hustle into legal startups), check out