Motivating Founders

One could write an entire book on motivating founders and in fact several actually already exist. Perhaps the best example is ‘Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell’. [1] So I’ll do my best to summarize how to specifically motivate founders in an accelerator program.

The most important method for motivation in these programs is accountability. This falls mainly on the founder but also the program director or in this case more specifically the POC (point of contact). For the founder, you motivate them by helping to guide their business, setting goals and challenging them to complete tasks. This is best done on a weekly iterative cycle, with small deliverables. The POC then meets with the founder weekly to discuss how their last week went and what they plan to do next week.

Naturally, founders will have a million excuses for why they didn’t complete deliverables. As POC, it’s your job to help knock down blockers and push them to complete. Y Combinator is known to be ruthless in this regard. Their POCs accept few excuses and really push the founders when they don’t follow through on what they committed to. It’s tough love but it’s the only thing that works with early-stage founders.

A few examples of weekly tasks might be:

  • Send (10) outbound sales emails offering a demo
  • Onboard an intern to support you during the program
  • Start building an investor pipeline

I also encourage you to end each week with a batch-wide group forum, where the founders present the results from the week. I normally position this as a weekly KPI review session. Learn more about these meetings and how to structure them below. This helps support accountability in the batch as each founder will know how to present their week’s achievements in front of their peers. If they failed to focus on their KPI for the week that creates some shame within the batch. At the same time, the program manager should be using that moment to help them remove blockers and enable them to come back next week with more results. You’ll also see these meetings prompt a lot of group feedback and general founders-helping-founders type vibes.

Did you read it? What is your recommendation/takeaway from the book?