When I founded Feedster in 2003, I always knew that I wasn’t the CEO. Sure – I could blog and communicate well – but I didn’t want to raise money and, in a startup, that’s the CEO’s job. Also I was in Boston at the time, 2003, and in those days the funding climate was much better on the West Coast so Feedster was always going to be a West Coast company. The only thing I didn’t know was the how. That happened at the 1st SuperNova Conference by Kevin Werbach. Since I was a poor, unfunded startup, ok technology experiment at that point, Kevin very graciously comped me a pass.
At SuperNova, I met Scott Rafer and, as I wrote in my first blogging tool, radio.weblogs.com,we ended up sharing a ride to the airport. Thanks to crappy weather, the airport was socked in and he and I hung out for about six hours. Not too long after that Scott agreed to be an informal adviser to Feedster. And not long after that I asked him to be the CEO and run the business side of things.
So here’s what Scott Rafer taught me: always be nice everyone but be particularly nice to the little guy.
Scott was experienced, smart as a whip and had been around the high tech block more than a few times. But despite that, he was unfailingly polite to anyone and everyone - waiters, taxi cab drivers, etc. There wasn’t a hint of “silicon valley arrogance” in him and I made the decision to hire him, to a large extent, based on that. I knew that he had the personal background and credentials that I wanted but, when you start a company, you need to expect that there will be bad times as well as good times. Generally there are more bad times than good so character matters. And I’ve never found good manners without good character. Anyone can be polite to other people in a socially upward context but it takes both grace and humility to be nice to everyone. Its easy to be nice to people when they can do something for you. So this one thing told me a huge amount about Scott Rafer.
Now to be honest this isn’t anything I didn’t already know. My mom taught me this. So did my father and my grandfather. I had it drilled into me from a very early age, as you always do, when you grow up working retail. But even when you already know something you can learn it again.