Our Founding Manifesto
Our Founding Manifesto: The New Way to Scale Your Executive Team and Board
Welcome to Bolster, the on-demand executive talent marketplace. We are creating a platform that is the new way for CEOs to scale themselves, their teams, and their boards.
verb: bolster; 3rd person present: bolsters; past tense: bolstered; past participle: bolstered; gerund or present participle: bolstering
support, boost, strengthen, fortify, solidify, reinforce, augment, reinvigorate, enhance, improve, invigorate, energize, spur, expand, galvanize, underpin, deepen, complement
We believe that startups and scaleups are not average companies. Their rapid growth means their appetite for talent constantly outstrips their ability to bring on the right talent at the right time – and that they can’t spend months searching for it and can’t necessarily afford full-time executive hires across every functional area in the company. Their dynamic industries dictate that they keep pace with competitors. Their leadership needs evolve quickly. Their CEOs spend a ton of time hiring and coaching their leaders to shape the direction of the team. They stress about big expensive new executive hires when sometimes they just need to level-up an existing manager or “try before they buy.” Their boards frequently jump in to help, but those efforts can be a little ad hoc and inefficient.
We are here to make it easier for you to:
- Bolster your executive team. For our Clients, think of us as a shortcut to scaling your leadership team. Our pledge is to provide a platform to help identify the gaps in your executive ranks and quickly, and cost-effectively, fill them with trusted, curated talent (whether interim, fractional, advisory, board, or project-based). We pledge that the Bolster platform will be able to be with you throughout the entire lifecycle of your business to help evaluate your leadership team needs as your company evolves.
- Bolster your board. The best boards are the ones with multiple independent directors from varied backgrounds with diverse points of view. We also pledge to our Clients that we will find great matches to help fill out their boardrooms as their strategic advisory needs change over time.
- Bolster your opportunities. For our Members, our pledge to you is that we will find you the right kind of interesting clients and help you manage your back office so you can focus on your work (and all the other important things in your life!). We promise to open doors to new connections and off-the-radar roles to help you exceed your career goals.
- Bolster your portfolio. For our Portfolio Partners, VC and PE firms, our pledge to you is that we will make it easier for you and your firm to both drive successful on-demand executive placements for your portfolio company CEOs, and to manage and expand your firm’s network of flexible executive talent.
- Bolster your member community. For our Membership Partners, typically executive professional organizations with a particular functional, career interest, or demographic focus, our pledge to you is to be another tool in your toolkit to help your network achieve their professional aspirations. We will find new opportunities for your members, provide you with impact data, co-create informative content, and generate awareness about your community to our marketplace of members, clients and portfolio partners.
- Bolster your coaching clients. For our Members who are Executive Coaches, our pledge to you is that in addition to helping you find new clients, we will provide you with software tools that help you do more effective work with your CEO and other clients as you help them develop and grow.
- We believe that experienced executives working as consultants is the future of work. The number of career executives who work flexibly and on-demand for a living has skyrocketed in recent years. People are more often “between things” and interested in plugging into shorter-term engagements while continuing to look for their next full-time role. People are retiring younger, yet wanting to keep contributing. And even fully-employed execs like to advise companies and serve on Boards. Whether these people are career consultants, looking for a “side hustle” or just want to pay it forward to the next generation of leaders, they all have two common problems:
- Finding work is time consuming and they’re often not good at, or don’t like, doing it.
- Managing their back office, everything from insurance to legal to tax to marketing, is a drain on time that could otherwise be spent with clients or family.
We believe that a new kind of talent marketplace is needed to meet the unique and complex requirements of both audiences – the freelance, or flexible, seasoned executive, and the startup or scaleup CEO who thinks holistically about their leadership team and board and carefully tends them like a garden. We are building a platform to make instant, tailored, vetted matches between talent and companies without the randomness of a job board, the barriers of closed networks, and without the theater, long lead times, and cost, of a full service agency.
Service marketplaces like ours work best when they help their stakeholders solve other meaningful, related problems. In this case, we believe that CEOs need lightweight and dynamic support in thinking through the composition and skills required of their executive teams and boards, both today and 6-18 months into the future. And we believe that the need for back office services will help executive consultants focus on more important things.
That is the essence of the business we are building: A business to quickly match awesome companies with awesome freelance executives and to help both sides be better at what they do.
We are an experienced team of entrepreneurs and operators who have scaled multiple businesses throughout our careers. The eight co-founders worked together as part of the leadership team at Return Path, a leading email technology company that we scaled from 0 to $100mm in revenue, and 500 employees in 12 locations around the world, while winning numerous Employer of Choice awards. All of us have independent experience scaling other businesses, small and large, public and private. All of us have experience being on-demand executives as well – whether interim, fractional, advisory, project-based, or board roles, we know the landscape of both our members and our clients.
We’ve all dealt with the stress of having product-market fit and market opportunities, and not being able to capitalize on those opportunities because we were missing key talent. And we’ve tried everything from executive search firms (expensive, time-consuming, and slow), to leveling up people (will they be able to grow into the role?), to leaning into our board (hit or miss, inefficient). We’ve been desperate enough to follow up on the “my cousin’s boyfriend has an uncle, and he might know someone” lead. While our favorite approach is “leveling up” our internal people, sometimes that isn’t fast enough, and none of these approaches naturally leads to building a diverse team.
We believe there is a better way for startups and scaleups to find executive and board-ready talent. Our team has a maniacal focus on helping startup teams scale and flourish, and on helping leaders develop into the best version of themselves based on lived and lauded experience. Our co-founder and CEO published a book about scaling startups called Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business that has sold over 40,000 copies to CEOs around the world. And our whole team is working on a new book called Startup CXO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Teams, which comes out mid-2021.
Plus, we have an amazing group of investors behind us who know how to grow businesses like ours and have incredible reach into the startup and scaleup world. More about that later. For now, we are excited to launch Bolster and begin unleashing the power of on-demand executive talent to help CEOs bolster themselves and their teams. Thank you for being on this journey with us.
To learn more about the mission, vision, and the history that drives this team, click here.
– Matt Blumberg, Cathy Hawley, Jack Sinclair, Shawn Nussbaum, Ken Takahashi, Nick Badgett, Jen Goldman, Andrea Ponchione, April 1, 2020