Last year I was nominated and then interviewed by several Alumnae to be a member of the Mindshare class of 2019. I was somewhat unaware of what this program was all about. Chris Schroeder from App47 had been through the program and thought the work we were doing at Bamboo would qualify for entry into the program and that we would surely benefit from the content and network. The Organizing Board members conduct a rigorous selection procedure that accepts about 50 technology CEOs each year into the Mindshare Class. Ultimately we were accepted as one of the 50 companies for the class of 2019.
What is Mindshare? From their website:
Mindshare is an exclusive, invitation-only network of chief executive officers (CEOs) from the most promising emerging and high-growth technology companies in the Washington, DC region.
Founded in 1997 by a local group of prominent executives and passionate business leaders, Mindshare is an exclusive forum designed to help CEOs of emerging technology companies build bigger, better, and more innovative businesses.
The Class meets once a month, for 10 months, to engage with other successful entrepreneurs, interact with the board, enjoy dinner, and gain knowledge from a panel discussion. Panel presenters are legends and luminaries who share their success stories and lessons learned on topics that are critical to launching, scaling, and exiting a company – such as raising venture capital, driving revenue, marketing and sales, recruiting and retaining top talent, building a board and implanting successful exit strategies.
Over 900 CEOs of highly innovative and dynamic technology companies have joined forces through the Mindshare Alumni Network to:
- Drive further growth of individuals and companies by establishing a vibrant community that develops long-term trusted business and personal relationships.
- Build a strong peer-to-peer network of CEOs that fosters collaboration and entrepreneurship to build high-growth technology companies.
- Increase awareness of our region as a technology innovation hotbed to attract investment capital, develop entrepreneurial talent, and share valuable resources.
Insights from Mindshare
I would distill the activity into three main components. The Alumni Board, the monthly events with guest speakers, and networking among my class members.
First, think of the Alumni Board as access to the who’s who of technology in the greater Washington area. Our first meeting was held at the Capital One Arena with Ted Leonsis as our speaker. At the event, I immediately recognized people from my past startups and really enjoyed reconnecting with them. This includes Mike Lincoln from Cooley LLP and Carter Griffin from Updata Partners. I had worked with Mike when I was part of a start-up called the VCampus, which we took public in 1997, and with Carter at a company called Brivo Systems which is now the technology basis for Amazon’s “in-garage” delivery service.
Second, speaking events have been insightful. The one speaker I want to share was Jon Jackson from Mobile Posse. Jon is an entrepreneur with a quiet determined demeanor that can relate his journey in a credible manner. Often, when speaking of their startups, founders glorify the experience with summary tales of getting funding, building a team, and working 20 hours a day 7 days a week with constant growth on a plan that was born out of a godlike vision. Those stories/soundbites are not the point of Mindshare and are rarely true (see Scott Blakely’s book The Messy Middle). We are here to learn about the true tales of self-doubt, identify failure in a strategy, what it takes to overcome that failure, and realize that change and flexibility are what lead to success. True entrepreneurs are on a lifetime pursuit, often moving through multiple companies and startups before technology catches up with the vision that is developed along the way. Jon’s story is one such lifetime pursuit of unlocking the power of mobile ad-based revenue. The span of this pursuit is summed up neatly in this article from Washington Executive.
Lastly, my fellow classmates have truly inspired me with their passion for the problems their companies are trying to solve. We have the CEO’s leading technologies such as urban vertical farming, preventing falls in Hospitals, fashion social networking, and the future of 5G. I have made some great connections with my classmates that carry outside of the events. Two notable ones are Blake Allison of LifeCents and ex-NFL running back Femi Ayanbadejo of Health Reel. When getting to know Blake and Femi, they inspire not only personal growth but provide a trusted sounding board for issues and ideas critical to the future of Bamboo.
In summary, the importance of networking outside of your company cannot be stressed enough. I am fortunate to be a part of Mindshare. Ideas that are not socialized and tested with your peers, both inside and outside your organization, will have a high rate of failure. Of course, there are brand new ideas and technologies that pioneer spaces that we have never seen or experienced, but the decisions and strategies to make those ideas successful have all been tested and the path is well-trodden – ask for guidance!