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Book Review: Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg

When I read Startup CEO by Matt Blumberg, it made me think about a question that often comes up when I think about startups. Namely, what is a startup?

Matt Blumberg is the CEO of Return Path, a company with more than 400 employees. The majority of CEOs that I work with in early-stage startups operate on a totally different plane from Mr. Blumberg. Those CEOs have only a handful of employees. Questions such as employee-review processes, managing HR, and 360-degree feedback take a backseat to the primary problem of getting the plane off the ground.

But Mr. Blumberg started Return Path, and he led the dirigible from the beginning to the place it is now, through a tech crash and a great recession. This makes him uniquely qualified to talk about the processes of starting a company. I thought the section on storytelling was particularly compelling. He walks readers through the importance of not just asking such critical questions as: Why do we exist? What do we do? And how will we succeed? But he also emphasizes how important it is to communicate the answers to the questions effectively throughout the organization.

Make it known what the business is and what it stands for. This will give employees both a sense of purpose and a sense of direction. That will help you keep employees around when times are tough and challenges abound.

I’m about as qualified to critique a book about being a Startup CEO as I am to comment on a book about advanced dentistry. To the extent that I have criticism, it’s that the focus of the book is on scaling a company from 50 and more employees to maturity, rather than on growing from the founding team to 50 employees. While I can imagine that this book would be very helpful to CEOs in that position, something tells me there are 1000 aspiring CEOs looking to take a company from 1 to 50 employees for every CEO looking to scale from 50 to 400. Either way, I think both types of CEOs could greatly benefit from reading this book. And even if your startup doesn’t fit the exact mold of this book’s demographic, that’ll just give you a model for which to aspire.

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