What legacy do you want to leave?

My blog today is more personal than usual, as I’m reflecting on two things at very different ends of the spectrum. One is the loss of a very dear friend and teammate who passed three years ago this month. And the other is the joy of being able to fund a team who have a very bright future ahead of them. And yet they are connected in my mind by things like culture and purpose.

First I want to honor Bill Wagstaff who passed 3 years ago this month,  by sharing a little about him. Before we were acquired by IBM, Bill led what became a big group for us, the Engineering and Product group at AlphaBlox. He did it without fuss and fanfare, just simply and brilliantly for many years. 

(Picture: Bill, second from left on the bottom, with the AlphaBlox Advisory Board: Geoffrey Moore (Author, Chasm Group), Mike Maples Sr. (IBM, Microsoft), Klaus Dieter Laidig (SAP), Michelle Schwabe (Deutsche Bank), Joe Schoendorf (Accel)

Let me share just one of Bill’s qualities, so you’ll see what it could inspire in you.

We all have our own unique experience of him. That was one of his gifts – he always treated us each as unique individuals, not just as members of his team, but as people who he cared to understand personally and well enough to bring out the best in each of us. Two decades after first meeting Bill, this still resonates with me so strongly and inspires me to try to listen and learn to find the best in the extraordinary entrepreneurs we’re lucky enough to work with.

Bill, your genuine, generous curiosity in others’ potential is just part of your wonderful legacy – thank you. Today we’re raising a toast to YOU!

That is just one small example of the legacy Bill left behind. In fact it inspired me to write a much fuller piece on the subject of what we may all want to consider at some point – the legacy we leave behind. It features inspirations from one of my favorite leaders, Nelson Mandela. I hope you’ll enjoy reading more on Linked IN here.

In contrast, I’d now like to celebrate a current team that has done it right from the start. Salsify. 

We recently got the opportunity to lead Salsify’s $30m series C investment at _Underscore.VC   We’re very clear that we lead investments based first and foremost on the quality of the people. But to  attract, empower, reward and retain people on a sustainable basis is not easy in a fast company like Salsify. (They grew 3x last year.)  So to get a layer beneath this, we really like to look at the Culture enabling the people, because it powers the virtuous circle of great companies as shown below from our Startup Secrets series.

Out of this comes a rich story of how 3 founders have taken a business from nothing to now leading a vital category of eCommerce and done so with a culture that is, to quote one of them, “simple, real and lets everyone know what’s expected of them”.  

Part of making it real was to get focus on their Customer’s Success. That’s an easy thing to say and a hard thing to do when you’re adding the likes of Coca-Cola, Bosch, Rawlings, Fruit of the Loom, Nine West and others whose eCommerce revenues will rely on your product. 


So they have been very strategic in building their customer acquisition and highly attentive to what we call the 4A’s of customer success: Addiction, Adoption, Absorption and Adaptation. You can read more about that here on Startup Secrets- 4A’s. 

All of this, together with a great team has earned Salsify the award of one of Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For.” Something that has helped Fortune 100 companies consistently outperform their peers in the S&P 500. For the full story of how they did this see more here on the Underscore Blog.

To bring it back to my opening, I find that great people who have a passion for what they do and find purpose in applying themselves create incredible legacies, be they personal or professional.  In the personal context, it’s a conscious choice we make individually. In the business context building a vision mission and culture that can bring individuals together as a team  for a common purpose makes one unstoppable in my experience. 

As always I’m still learning and look forward to hearing what your experience has been.