I’ve heard it from founders- “I want more women and people of color on my cap table.” They usually say it with a look of despair either during a fundraising round or just after it when they realize that the vast majority of investors in their round all look the same. It’s frustrating to me too. Twice in one year I tried to put a small personal check as an accredited angel investor in the rounds of women founders who were raising a seed round, and I was told no because I couldn’t meet their investment minimums with my personal…

It’s seems like the startup world has finally started to catch on to the power of executive coaches. Similarly, it seems like a lot of people are becoming coaches. While I was at Techstars Boulder, I developed a coaching program that matched dozens of great executive coaches with startup founders, and I saw first-hand what an amazing match can do for a founder and for a company. Finding the right executive coach is part science and part art. I have suggestions for startup founders going about the process of finding the right coach for them. I always tell founders to…

There is a certain rebellious streak involved with becoming a founder. You go your own way. Lots of founders start their own companies because they don’t fit well working for someone else or because the person they were working for doesn’t like the idea did they believe in. Author Gretchen Rubin uses a Four Tendencies framework to describe rebels: they don’t particularly like upholding the expectations of others or of themselves. Rubin points to appealing to a founder’s sense of identity when compelling the rebel to do something that is in his or her own best interest. …

What is coaching? It’s a question that comes up from time to time from people in my orbit, especially the business world. I have lots of answers to this question, but there’s one that take more time to express and also describes the way the best teachers are in the world; let’s call it:

“Take my hand. We’re going.” (TMHWG*)

Image by Foundry Co from Pixabay

It has two parts, and while it’s short enough to combine into one sentence, I’ve left them separate because the two parts are so distinct and capture the two essence qualities of great coaching- compassion and challenge. Many people have…

and how to stop

Photo by Laura Mitulla on Unsplash

I spoke with a founder a few days ago about workflows and priorities and how to coordinate with a growing team. These are natural questions that every startup faces when they are adding people and figuring how best to do their work.

In the beginning, it’s easy. The founder(s) do everything. There are only a few people, so it’s easy to coordinate who does what. …

Love the thoughts here. I wish links to book time were in everyone's bios, twitter is great, but why not add linkedin and website bios. I've also seen targeted DE&I office hour links to help level the playing field and I support them.

In talking to some founders today, I taught them a presencing check-in called Mad, Sad, Glad. At the end of the coaching, I noted for the founders that it was very important that whatever their employees said in a check-in like this, you can never us it against them or it will be the last time they are honest with you.

Image by Alexandra from Pixabay

Not letting personal information they share blow back on employees is a cornerstone to creating safety on your team, and a skilled way to build trust. And it’s a different process for different people. Some people assume a high…

It’s a question I ask founders when I’m trying to get to know them, learn how the work and think about how to help them. We’d all prefer it if no one ever broke, or hit a wall, or fell in a hole. Whatever you want to call it, it happens. Entrepreneurs in startup land go at warp speed for so long that they don’t see it coming- their humanness catches up to them. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk wrote this famous book in psychology circles that comes to mind in those moments: The Body Keeps the Score.

It’s one…

Dear founders, startup people and anyone who’s livelihood is knowledge-generated, it turns out that you, the thing you think of as you, otherwise known as your mind and its thoughts, are attached to a body. Obvious, but easy to brush aside. Take a second. Notice that your while your brain is talking and thinking and planning and worrying and scheming, it is IN YOUR BODY. I feel bad for the underappreciated flesh and bones.

I was talking to another friend in operations at a startup, and I asked him what his philosophy of company building was. How would he prioritize these four things: people, process, product and profit? I wasn’t looking for him to agree with me, I was wondering how clear that picture was for him. I’m wondering, how clear is that picture for you?

I care about the order of priorities in company building. That order is important because each builds on the momentum of the one that comes before it, and it shapes the ultimate culture of the company. …

Julie Penner

Explorer of the Soul of Startups and lean vulnerability, outdoorswoman, dog mom, coach, facilitator, operator, truth-teller, sometimes investor.

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