If there’s one theme that has been pretty consistent through the all-star lineup of Startup Institute fireside chat speakers, it’s this – don’t be an asshole. Too many people in the startup space think the road to success means running over everyone else in the process. The Steve Jobs complex, if you will. “If I’m a huge jerk, then maybe I’ll be successful like Steve. If I treat everyone around me like an inferior species, surely it’ll help catapult me to success.”
And to be honest, I had heard so much about the startup ecosystem, so much about the competitive landscape for funding, the constant re-shuffling of teams, that I was a little worried about what exactly I was going to encounter out in the real world.
Then I started my partner project at this incredible company called UrbanBound (By the way, these guys are going to explode here soon. You heard it here first). It’s fairly standard as far as startup office spaces go. Big bright open floor plan for the most part, couple conference rooms..a mini golf course..a bar (of course). I’ve worked there for three or four weeks now, but for whatever reason, yesterday was the first time I took note of the fact that I could hear the CEO and co-founder of the company on a sales call. And it’s not because he had the door to his office open. It’s because he was sitting about ten feet from me at a desk space just like mine, working alongside everyone else.
His name’s Jeff Ellman by the way, in case you want to do a little web-stalking to see how impressive this guy is. UrbanBound is Jeff’s fourth company. This is not his first time at the rodeo, but there he was – sitting with the rest of his sales team in the “pit,” making calls, doing demos – getting shit done. That, to me, is exactly the type of leadership I’ve been missing out on the first five years of my career. People who lead by example, instead of from behind the comfort of a big mahogany desk and a lockable door. People who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, and who are great mentors because they’re right in the scrum alongside you.
I found my people, here in Chicago. Just gotta find my spot in the pit.