Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Growth Hacking Megalodons - Top 5 Hacks of all Time

Top Growth Hacks

Growth Hacking has emerged as the hottest trend in marketing since the term was coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. It is used to describe many things but the definition I prefer is Exploiting shortcuts to growth, at the intersection of marketing and technology, on the edge of ethics{f} 

Twenty years ago, if your product was on the front page of PC Magazine, you could buy a Lambo. But new media is too fragmented to deliver that kind of marketing punch. Growth Hacking is the new way to achieve ubiquity. Get it right and you can buy a spaceship to Mars, literally.  TweetMe

Megalodon means "big tooth" in Greek. It is the name given to a species of giant sharks that lived millions of years ago. {f}  This article reviews some of the biggest Growth Hacking success stories to date. Each one, a Megalodon that munched its way to the top of the food chain.

Facebook - Login API 

Facebook surpassed 1 billion daily logins for the first time on August 24th, 2015. That's quite an accomplishment for a company that started only 9 years ago. A lot of things contributed to that success but one underrated element is the Login API.

Almost every mobile or web app on the planet offers a Facebook login. The number of times the Facebook login button appears is measured in the Billions, per day.  To understand the value, let's calculate how much it would cost Facebook to buy that kind of exposure.

According to TheSearchMonitor, CPC rates across different industries, adjusting for seasonality is about a buck a click. So if Facebook is serving up 10 Billion a day, that's a $3.65 Trillion a year hack. Ok, so I'm exaggerating... we should be using CPMs instead of cost-per-click and it's not really advertising because you don't end up on Facebook. Let's just say it's worth a scheisse-load.

Facebook has gained a lot more than ad impressions through the login API. It was a key differentiator that allowed it to power ahead of MySpace and Friendster. Most importantly, it embedded Facebook in the fabric of the Internet, insuring it's ubiquity for a long time to come.

We take the Facebook login for granted, but the ethical implications of sharing personal information are colossal. To get developers to use their login, Facebook gave away the names of their users' friends. And yet, it's still the place where people post pictures of their kids, unless Notabli has their way.

Slack - Intrinsic Virality 

Slack bills itself as "Team Communication for the 21st Century". It attempts to free users from the tyranny of the inbox while providing a knowledge base composed of historical group chat.

When it launched in February 2014, Slack had about 15,000 daily active users. One year later, daily actives ballooned to 500,000 {f}. More importantly, users were highly engaged, sending over 300 million messages a month. In October 2014, Slack raised money from Silicon Valley royalty, valuing the company at over a billion dollars. Zero to $1B in 14 months, that's faster than a Tesla!

The insight that makes Slack so successful is that team communication creates a valuable knowledge base over time. But Slack didn't fit neatly into an product category at the onset. So just before launch, CEO Stewart Butterfield sent a memo to emphasize that a great product was not enough, "our job is also to understand what people think they want and then translate the value of Slack into their terms". {f}

According to Butterfield, the first growth strategy the company implemented was "begging and cajoling friends at other companies" to try Slack. That feedback allowed the team to perfect the user interface before unleashing a growth tsunami.

Slack used two primary growth hacks, or Slhacks as they have become known.

Intrinsic virality is the first. To get any value from Slack, you have to share it with friends. It does a great job solving team communication problems so people naturally share it with other groups, and so on, and so on...

Slack reduces the barriers to adoption by making most features free and only charging for searchable archives and a few other premium features. A freemium business model and frictionless on-boarding have allowed Slack to spread like wildfire.

Airbnb - Craigslist Integration

Remember Holliday Inn and VRBO? Well your kids won't. In just a few years, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia have built Airbnb into a powerhouse for short term rentals, valued at over 25 Billion dollars. {f}

Airbnb usually tops the list of growth hacks for their Craiglist integration. The founders hired a former roomate, Nathan Blecharczyk as the first engineer. At the beginning of 2010, the team developed a way for users to publish their properties simultaneously on Craigslist with just 1-click. They pitched the feature to users by email, promising an average increase in monthly revenue of $500 per property.

The combination of Airbnb's guest management features and the reach of Craigslist proved to be a winning combination, but that's not the whole story...

According to Dave Gooden, Airbnb poached Craigslist users using questionable methods. Dave worked in the vacation rental industry and was intrigued by Airbnb's mysterious growth. They didn't have the tell tale signs of success like great SEO rankings or social media presence so Dave became suspicious.

Dave created a test to verify his theory. He posted properties to Craiglist and checked off the box for anonymous email, "do not contact with special offers". Within a few hours he received an email encouraging him to check out Airbnb. He conducted further tests and concluded that Airbnb was using black hat techniques to obtain Craigslist user information. But that's not the whole story either.

Brian Chesky and Job Gebbia are designers by trade and hustlers by nature. They created cereal boxes featuring Obama and McCain during the 2008 election netting them $30,000 to get started. {f} 

Their eye for the visual led them to realize that properties with quality photos were much more successful. For the New York launch, they hired professionals to photograph the best properties and conversions went through the roof.

Google - Ad Auctions

A lot of people assume that the Google Search Engine is the main source of Alphabet's revenue. But search wouldn't generate a cent without advertising and algorithms. In fact, search engines like Archie, Infoseek and Altavista were not very profitable businesses in the early days of the industry.

Excite was the first to start making substantial revenue by selling advertising and mixing it into the search results. This may have qualified as a bonafide sales hack but Excite got bonafied by the ethics committee. Users cried foul and Excite's reputation took a hit. 

Google displayed ads at the top of search listings but labeled them clearly as such. They zoomed past Excite in a short time. No growth hack to this point, Google was still a mediocre growth story by Silicon Valley standards.

Google started experimenting with auctioning off ad inventory. Ebay had proven that auctions were a powerful sales tool but Google dialed it up a notch. They added some innovative algorithms and found themselves atop a revenue gusher.

Selling advertising to that point was mostly done by sales people calling on ad buyers. Once Google was sure of the math, they informed customers that the only way to buy ads would be through Adsense auctions. Customers threw a scheisse-fit but Google held firm.

Google made so much money from ad auctions that their biggest problem was hiding it until the IPO {f}

Technically, Adsense is more of a sales hack more than a marketing hack, but the the main component is code and the result has been tremendous growth.

Uber - Free Rides

Travis Kalanick started Uber to be a "baller" {f}. The first version of the app allowed him to tap a button and have a black car pick him up minutes later. In San Francisco, that was geek gold at the turn of the decade. Five years later, Uber is valued at $50 Billion and rumored to be preparing a $100 Billion IPO. That's geek platinum in 2015.

What amazing growth hacking techniques did Kalanick use? Free rides. Taxis are scarce in San Francisco which really pisses off the Technorati so Kalanick sent towncars to pick them up. All they had to do was download his app and tap a button. Now they could all be ballers.

The problem Kalanick solved alleviated  such a pain point that Uber users lit up social media. Bloggers amplified the message. Word of mouth did the rest. As Kalanick explains, Uber spends virtually nothing on marketing to this day.

One of the only growth hacks used by Uber is the double-sided referral. Sign-up a friend and Uber will give you both a $20 credit on your next ride. 

Double sided referrals have become a classic growth hack since Dropbox used them to join the Billion market cap club. There is little evidence that Uber used other sophisticated growth hacks. That's an important lesson to assimilate. Growth hacking can make you a star, but delivering amazing solutions to big problems is the surest path to $1B. TweetMe

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Convertible Sweat - A New Model for Bootstrapping Startups

Sweat equity has been around since the dawn of entrepreneurship. Resource constrained founders ask friends and family for help starting a business. In return for their time, founders promise to reward them if the company is a success. When founders ask for money, they are typically required to provide a written agreement including repayment terms and some form of upside to compensate for risk. In recent years, convertible debt has become a preferred model for lending money to startups.

In a previous article, I advocated for combining these methods to create better incentives for startup advisors. I called it "Convertible Sweat". The objective is to encourage advisors to roll-up their sleeves and implement projects, not just give advice.

Convertible Sweat is extendible to all roles in a startup, not just advisors. A founder can implement the Convertible Sweat model using simple methods to track contributions and create opportunities to convert them to cash or equity. 

Convertible Sweat enables entrepreneurs to build successful startups based on the strength of an idea and trust in fair compensation.
Tweet: Convertible Sweat enables entrepreneurs to build startups based on strength of an idea & trust in fair compensationđź’ˇ
Finding Partners

The first step in implementing Convertible Sweat is finding suitable partners. Founders should avoid pitching terms beyond the acceptable risk level of a partner, in the same way they might only pitch business angels that are qualified investors. If a potential partner is the bread-winner of a family, it's better to propose moonlighting than quitting their day job.

High profile developers, designers and growth-hackers are contacted regularly to work for startups. Convincing them to join will take more than a slick slide deck and a firm handshake. Before approaching them, you should develop a compelling mission statement and monetization strategy, then build a prototype and survey potential customers to prove the concept. 

Valuing Contribution

If a founder inspires a contributor to work for deferred compensation, it is important to value their contribution fairly and associate a risk premium.

There are two main ways to value contribution. The first is to assign a market rate by looking at industry averages. The second is to consider the opportunity cost of the contributor. Regardless of the method used, a founder should consider several candidates and negotiate with the same zeal as if they were managing a burn rate.

Considering the time value of money, the most rigorous approach would be to agree on an interest rate to apply to the contribution. This would motivate the founder to convert the contribution as soon as possible. However, negotiating and calculating interest rates is time consuming. A better practice may be to assign a risk premium of between 2 and 3, regardless of time horizon.

Let's look at an example. Imagine a ride sharing startup called HitchLizard needs a web site developer. They might estimate the going rate to be $50/hour and apply a risk premium of 2. If the developer works on the project for 20 hours, the value of their contribution would be $50/hr * 20hrs * 2 = $2,000.

Converting Contribution

If HitchLizard is run like a bootstrapped startup, it may generate revenue early in its development. Depending on circumstances, the founder might distribute a portion to contributors. The money could be distributed pro rata or FIFO (first in first out). 

Contributors should be given the option to forego payment and wait for an opportunity to convert to equity. This can be useful for discerning partners with a long term commitment. 

Converting contribution to equity requires calculating the valuation of a company. Valuing startups is part science, part art, but mostly religion as it requires a leap of faith. It's a challenging exercise that often leads to disagreement. An elegant solution is to defer valuation to a yet unknown professional at a future date. In our example, HitchLizard could wait for a Venture Capital firm or syndicate of angel investors to make an acceptable offer. At that point, contributors would have the opportunity to convert their contributions to equity at similar terms to the new equity partners.

Let's look at an example and do the math. Imagine that Crabgrass Capital buys 20% of HitchLizard for $1 million, valuing the company at $5 million. The web developer could convert $2,000 of contribution into 0.04% of the equity ($2k / $5m * 100).

To compensate contributors for having accepted risk before the new equity partners, HitchLizard could sweeten the deal by offering a 10% discount on the valuation, so the web developer would get a 0.044% stake ($2k / ($5m * 0.9) * 100).

Creating Liquidity

A valid concern of any risk sharing partner is the time horizon. When will I be able to cash out? VCs refer to this as an exit strategy. To improve liquidity for contributors, a startup can create an internal market to convert contributions. Opening this up to 3rd parties may introduce legal disputes so it should be discouraged or subject to the founder's approval.  

Let say our web developer has a baby boy on the way and wants the circumcision done by the best plastic surgeon in Los Angeles :) Ain't no place like Silicon Valley, right? They could offer to sell their contribution to another partner at face value $2,000. A more flexible approach would allow partners to place buy or sell orders which would be filled based on price, like financial markets.*

If the startup has sold equity but has not gone public, the internal market could easily be extended to trade equity in addition to contribution. 

Why not just distribute equity instead?

There are a few problems inherent with "sweat equity" model practiced by many startups. One problem is that founders generally allocate equity based on the potential of an employee, not on the actual contribution. For example, a startup may give a considerable chuck of equity to a well-known individual. But what if that "guru" doesn't deliver and a lesser known partner works their tail off? 

Adjusting equity fairly would require valuing the company on a regular basis and issuing new shares based on contribution. That's challenging to say the least. If a founder gets it wrong, moral will suffer and partners may become litigious.


Implementing a Convertible Sweat model is not trivial but is has advantages over other forms of financing. It is more robust than most sweat equity agreements. It conserves more equity for operational partners. If properly implemented, it provides liquidity earlier than alternatives. In a nutshell, Convertible Sweat brings the benefit of convertible debt to early contributors while bringing additional benefits startups.

Questions and comments are welcome @marcbolh

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What is Growth Hacking?

The term Growth Hacking has been used to describe a lot of things. Generally speaking, anything new and technology driven in the area of marketing gets tagged as Growth Hacking. I was recently asked to give a talk on Growth Hacking to the District3 Innovation Center so I to a closer look at the origins of the term to see how it has evolved. 

Sean Ellis is credited with coining the term in a 2010 blog post entitled "Finding a Growth Hacker for your Startup". Sean is Silicon Valley's go to person for growth. He helped LogMeIn and Uproar go public before becoming the first marketing hire at Dropbox. Sean went on to start Qualaroo, something to do with kangaroos apparently ;)

According to Quicksprout"He essentially became a one man growth shop, setting up systems, processes, and mindsets, that could be maintained after he left. Eventually, he would hand over the keys to his growth machine to someone else, and he would ride off into the sunset."

Sean later defined a Growth Hacker as a "person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth." That's ok, but I'm sure many marketers primary goal is growth, but that doesn't make them Growth Hackers. 

Andrew Chen further popularized the term in an article entitled, "Growth Hacker is the new VP Marketing" in which he used AirBnB's hack of Craigslist as a prime example. He said that Growth Hackers "are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of How do I get customers for my product? and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph." Informative, but a bit long for a definition.

TechCrunch columnist Aaron Ginn defines a Growth Hacking as a "mindset of data, creativity, and curiosity." Terse, but vague.

I'm a writer not a fighter but none of these resonate completely with me, so I'll propose my own. Growth Hacking is...

Exploiting shortcuts to growth, 
at the intersection of marketing and technology, 
on the edge of ethics.

Why bring ethics into it? Hacking has become an endearing term but it's origin is in computer crime. I'm not suggesting Growth Hackers are criminals, but they are often faced with tough ethical questions. The grand daddy of growth hacks is AirBnB's hack of Craigslist. AirBnB allowed users to simultaneously post to AirBnB and Craigslist with a backlink. Craig was too busy kite surfing to notice until half his users had crossed over to AirBnB. Was it ethical to highjack Craigslist? I can see arguments for and against, so ethical tension should be part of the definition.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Better Incentive Model for Startup Advisors

As the founder of Ascendo and VidaLingua, I am occasionally asked to give talks at startup incubators such as U.lab and District 3. Participants ask me heaps of questions and the ambitious ones continue by email.

I enjoy these events immensely and the exchanges that follow, but I'm often frustrated by the end result. Many budding entrepreneurs are enthusiastic about the ideas presented but lack the confidence or persistence to see them through. I'm very busy with my own startups so I don't have the time to push them over the top. 

Over the past decade, I've advised numerous entrepreneurs with mixed results. Not only in financial terms, but in human terms. I've seen startups fail that could have been successful and the toll that takes on its founders.

For these reasons, I've decided to go Freemium. I will continue to give advice for free, when time permits, but for those who are are serious about starting their own business, I'm introducing mb+ premium service as a startup advisor.

With mb+ we'll define a project that addresses the key pain point your startup is facing. We may focus on defining the core features of your MVP, recruiting passionate partners with limited resources, lean development, growth hacking or monetization strategies. As these topics suggest, my specialty is bootstrapping. If you think raising money is your primary pain point, think again. If you come to the same conclusion twice, I'll refer you to somebody else.

mb+ isn't for everyone. I am already working on several ventures, so if you want me to invest in yours, you will need to convince me you are passionate enough to succeed and your mission is worth my time.

If I am convinced of both, I'll invest between 5 and 10 hours making the project a success. In return, we'll agree to an hourly rate that reflects my opportunity cost. In most cases, I won't ask for payment up front. The time I invest will be considered a loan with two payout events.

If your startup achieves an agreed upon revenue rate, I can opt to be paid back in cash, at at rate not to exceed 1% of revenue. For example, if I invest $2,500 worth of my time in a project and the startup makes $100,000 in annual revenue, I would have the option to get paid $1,000 and the remaining $1,500 at a later time.

If your startup enters into an agreement with an equity investor, I can opt to convert my time investment into equity at similar terms. For example, if a VC (Venture Capital) offers $1m for 25% of your company, giving it a valuation of $4m, I would have the option to convert my time investment into 0.06875% ($2.500 / $4,000,000 * 1.1) of the equity.

This model combines the benefits of Sweat Equity with Convertible Debt so I've named it a "Convertible Sweat" agreement.

If you are 100% committed to starting your own company and you want to take the next step, gmail me marcbolh@ explaining your mission, motivation and primary pain point.

To discuss the Convertible Sweat model for startup advisors, tweet me @marcbolh.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Top 4 Reasons to Bootstrap your Startup

Bootstrapping - Starting a company without outside investors and growing it organically.

A newer version of this article is available at

There is a healthy debate in the startup community about whether to bootstrap your company or raise capital. 
For many, raising money is synonymous with starting a company. University entrepreneurship classes typically focus on writing business plans for investors. Accelerators often focus on creating the perfect slide deck for investors. Not surprisingly, many entrepreneurs spend more time on their pitch than their product.

Others, such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Michael Dell and Richard Branson spent years bootstrapping in garages and dorm rooms before taking on investors.

So a better question is; When should you consider leveraging your company with outside capital? The answer may be never, here's why...


Most people want to start a company to have more freedom. Some want the freedom to tackle projects they feel passionate about. Some value the freedom of working in a small team with people they like. Others want freedom to spend more time with family.

Raising money has its benefits but comes with strings attached. Investors want a high rate of return and an clear exit strategy. Startups are forced to deliver extremely high growth rates. The founders typically work long hours and sacrifice their personal lives. That's called responsibility, not freedom and most people find it very stressful.

They hope the sacrifices will end in a huge payoff and financial freedom. "I want to make millions and retire by age 30." Unfortunately, this is a false god for many because a person who is wired to take a company public isn't usually very happy sitting on a beach.

Bootstrapping provides more freedom in several ways. You can stay true to your purpose without having to negotiate with investors. You can work with a small team that you pick. You can grow at a reasonable rate and and you have more time to learn from your mistakes. You choose how much you want to work and when. That is the type of freedom many people crave.


When you start a company, time is precious. You can spend it solving a problem, learning from customers, developing a product, recruiting, marketing or raising capital. If you focus on solving a problem and working with customers to make a great product, then recruiting will be easier and your customers will help with marketing. 

If you choose to spend time raising capital, it will come at the expense of the other tasks. This may lead to an unclear product strategy which leverage will only amplify. 

Don't you need capital to develop a product? It depends. 

If you are developing software, you need time more than money. Sure, you can pay $250/hour for a Bay area developer or you could have it coded by interns from Novosibirsk. Interns may take longer, but the extra time can be spent collecting user feedback to understand your market.

If you want to build a solar power station, you will need more capital at some point. However, you can start by doing feasibility studies, land assessment, financial modeling and customer surveys. If you get everything right, Kickstarter may raise the money for you. 

According to Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, success can be boiled down to one word, focus. The more you focus on developing a great product with the help of real customers, the higher your chances of success. 


Fun is underrated. People say they like having fun but generally don't organize their lives accordingly. They make decisions to maximize income and figure they will buy their way to fun.

Many startup founders do the same thing. If they are super smart, hard working and choose the right space, they will find investors. But there is a catch. VCs invest in sectors with returns-to-scale, in which one company emerges as king of the hill. So you can be super-smart and work on New Year's Eve and still end up second. That's not fun. In fact, it leads to high levels of anxiety and depression amongst startup founders.  

If you choose the right space and bootstrap, you will avoid a great deal of stress. You'll fly under the radar a lot longer. You can spend more time talking to customers and enjoying the company of your team. You will have more time for sleep and exercise. As the saying goes, Bootstrappers have more fun.


What gives us fulfillment in the workplace? Most people cite things like; working for a higher purpose, collaborating with teammates, learning new skills, recognition. Few people place cold hard cash at the top of the list.

Creating an Leveraged Growth Startup (LGS) can be detrimental to feelings of fulfillment for several reasons. Investors may put pressure on founders to compromise purpose for profits. Teams may grow to sizes that make them less effective. As a company grows, the scope of work of each contributor narrows so they learn less. In addition, authentic recognition is challenging when a founder has a hard time remembering everyone's name.

Bootstrapping allows startup founders to stay more focused on purpose. They may have to make compromises to pay the rent but at least they decide, not the Board

Bootstappers have to wear multiple hats to survive. That can be challenging but they learn a broader set of skills and how they fit together in a startup. That's energizing. 

Recognition in a small team is personal and heartfelt in a way that is difficult to replicate in a company with hundreds of employees.

Most importantly, small teams can do big things. The backrub algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergiy Brin still powers a huge part of Google's revenue, something which armies of Google PhDs haven't been able to replicate.


Bootstrapping isn't for everybody. If you have high personal burn rate you may not be happy running a company frugally. 

If you choose a space that favors a winner-take-all outcome, then raising capital is probably the best option.

Hopefully, you are sold on the idea of bootstrapping your startup. But you may be wondering, "How do I start a company with little or no capital?" Answer: very carefully... but that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Thomas Jefferson Quotes

“I'm a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

"Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you."

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

"It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness."

"Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude."

"Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far."

"I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past."

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."

"When angry count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred."

"Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning."

"Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances."

"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Monday, March 16, 2015

What is the best title for a startup founder?

In the early days of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg printed business cards with the title "I'm CEO, Bitch." To any self respecting entrepreneur, the title of Chief Executive Officer smacks of old school hierarchy. I hold my nose every time I see it on my business card. I try to tone it down with Founder & CEO, but a startup with a CEO? "Bitch please" (Angie Tempura). 

A startup with a CEO? Bitch please.
Tweet: A Startup with a CEO? Bitch Please. Best Titles for Startup Founders. @marcbolh

My first business cards at Ascendo had no title and I used several humorous titles to describe myself. Then a friend told me I was shooting myself in the foot. "People want to know if they are talking to the boss, head honcho, el capitan." So I added CEO to the next batch of cards and it made some things easier, like getting meetings with other CEOs. But I still dislike the term Chief Executive Officer. I assume it means a person whose main job is to speak with unearned confidence.

And so I've been looking for a good title for some time. I like Chief Facilitator but people might think I'm in charge of maintenance. I like the word Designer in a title, which could be used to mean designing the company's strategy, processes, etc., but designer makes people think of Jon Ivy and I don't want that comparison (btw, Ascendo is looking for a UX designer).

I recently pitched PhraseMates at Fishburners co-working space and used the title "Storyteller". That choice was inspired by Bernadette Jiwa's great book, The Fortune Cookie Principal. Shout out to Stuart Hall for recommending it. I do believe that a person leading a company needs to tell the story on a regular basis, but using storyteller as your title sounds a bit dodgy.

My favorite title at the current time is Lead Sherpa. The person running a company needs to lead the team to a destination, like a sherpa climbing mount Everest. They need to be in front, choose the best path, and be the first to bear the pain of a bad decision. They should carry some heavy things and lighten the load for others by being a facilitator. And finally, they need to keep everybody, including the customers, focused on getting to the summit.

I've started rolling out this title on the PhraseMates web siteI'll still be dropping the CEO title whenever it helps, but in my mind, I'm the Lead Sherpa on a fantastic journey to enhance people's lives with great apps.

What interesting titles have you heard for the founder of a startup?