Startup Boards – A Book Review – First Peek

Startup Boards

I have been reading the new book from Brad Feld and Mahendra Ramsinghani titled “Startup Board – Getting the most out of your board of directors“. I can only talk from my experience which is limited, but having the opportunity to learn from the experience from numerous boards that Brad and Mahendra have been on is an opportunity that I think is too valuable to miss. I have to say that my experience of being in a board started when we invested in CLARA, lo and behold, I was a Chairman of the Board of CLARA! I think I can say without exaggeration that I was clueless on what it means to be in a Board.

One can read books and understand the regulations or requirements of the fiduciary mandate of the Board of Directors, but really creating an effective board is an art and it is a collaborative effort of the Management and the Chairman of the Board… and I had no idea where to begin. This was also the time in Iceland when all the dirty laundry was being washed in public about how the Board of Directors failed in all the Banks and Financial Service companies that went belly up. Lot of doubts, lot of questions and a lot of reading and no sleep, to top it off my other board members were the founders of the company and had very little experience. I can say without a doubt that I would have very much liked to have had a book like this before I decided to be on the Board of CLARA. As they say you are a rookie in any job only once, it was true with the Chairman of the Board role and it also includes my current role as CEO of GreenQloud, I have never been a CEO or for that matter Chairman of the Board of anything. There was a lot of learning on the job. Making a book on Board of Directors interesting is hard, but I have to say it has been an interesting read so far. The anecdotes , the insight on specific situations and a flow of why, what and how of Boards is extremely useful and insightful. I am looking forward to digging in.

If you are a startup founder or a first time Board Member, do yourself a favor and go get the book and start applying the learnings, I can assure you that it will be worth your time and money. If you have not built a Board of Directors to keep you honest, please do that first. Building the board is a skill, making sure the right people with the right backgrounds are there asking the right or in some cases the wrong questions is an important journey in being an Entrepreneur or Startup Founder. This book should help you answer all the questions that you have always wanted to learn about the Board of Directors.

Ok, this video cracked me up… if your Board is doing this, then you definitely need this book!

Innovation House one more bridge from Iceland



I attended the official opening of the Innovation House the initiative of Jon Von Tetzchner. I was excited and energized by the show up of the Startup Community, almost everyone was there and it was great to see the support of the Government of Iceland through the Minister of Industry, the Norwegian Embassy, the US Embassy and all other representatives from various other embassies. The keynote was delivered by Jon, the Minister of Industry and the Depty Chief of Mission for the US Embassy. The unanimous sentiment was the positive energy to support the entrepreneur and the startup community. I am really happy to see the momentum being built up for the coming year. We are starting to see success already in terms of participation, commitment and now more tools and avenues for entrepreneurs to start up, grow and build great companies and opportunities. As I say, there has never been a better time to really jump and do that dream company that you always wanted to do.

I think there are a number of unsung heros in these ventures, Kristjan Freyr Kristjansson and his team at Innovit+Klak, all the advisors and supporters who make things like this happen. I am really excited about what is happening in Iceland. As part of my give, we have instituted a Startup Program in GreenQloud. We are starting to see a lot of interest and application for this initiative as well. What entrepreneurs need is mentoring, infrastructure and bridge to bigger markets. Infrastructure could be in the form of Seed Money or Computing, Storage and Advice on utilizing the rocket fuel for Startups which is Cloud Computing. I believe very strongly that Software that is not built for the Internet and utilizing the Cloud is difficult to get into the hands of the potential customers. We are solving one of that problem through our Infrastructure in GreenQloud.

The really impressive thing about this Innovation House in Seltjarnarnes is that it connected to another one in Gloucester, Boston and to the one in Norway. It is a perfect bridge between the Nordic region and the US. It was inspiring to listen to Jon talk about how it is very exciting for him to have launched this Innovation House as he grew up in Seltjarnarnes and his belief that Iceland is the center of the world and great companies can be built out of the talent in Iceland. I am glad to see and hear more people start to believe in this notion. I have written about it when it was the craziest thing to say, but I saw it and I continue to believe in this crazy idea that we can build great companies from Iceland. So now there is no excuse to “Go Be An Entrepreneur!”

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Startup Iceland 2014 – Calling for Ideas and speakers

We have started thinking about Startup Iceland 2014. The overarching mission of Startup Iceland is to build a sustainable/antifragile startup ecosystem in Iceland and maybe that could serve as a model for other communities, this experiment is based on Brad Feld’s hypothesis from his book “Startup Communities“. I have continued to think and act in building a sustainable startup community here in Iceland, it is a long road and I am reminded of poem by Robert Frost

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

It is poignant and apt, I relate to the poem to take a breather and take stock every year during Startup Iceland Conference to see how far we have come here in this tiny island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. We have seen many success stories come out and a number of people being inspired to take on the road of Entrepreneurship and start their new venture or continue to build their startup. I see really young people, actually making choices of doing their own startup as opposed to joining a big company or looking for a job. I see big companies in Iceland completely oblivious to the transformation that is happening and how they are going to be impacted by it. I see the struggle every single day as a CEO of GreenQloud that is transitioning from being a Startup to being a small company. I see the challenges in the policy machine called the Government of Iceland and in all these struggles and posturing, one thing always remains… my fundamental mission of helping entrepreneurs and of being of service to my tribe. Yes, I feel connected with my tribe of Entrepreneurs the brave, the few, the crazy ones. Brad has this notion of give before you get something… this has always been my give. I give time to serve my tribe. I have absolutely nothing that I want to get other than see another entrepreneur or startup from Iceland cross the chasm and succeed.

I want to see this feeling take shape in the next Startup Iceland Conference. We have not decided on the date or theme yet, but it will be in the last week of May or first week of June. The last 2 years it was driven by Brad Feld and Amy Bachelor’s schedule… I know I know I have mentioned Brad’s name a couple of times in this blog. Brad has mentioned in his blog that he is not going to travel for business in 2014, I just asked him. So fingers crossed…

The ask for this blog post is do you have ideas for speakers or themes you would like to see covered in the event? We are going to be ambitious and see if we can cross the 500 people attendance threshold. The last 2 years we had about 250 to 300 participants. Lets see if we can do better this year.