Dia, Dia, How Do We Love Thee? Let us count the ways.

Dia works with Really Important People, like Clinton Global Initiative speakers and the official Olympic Committees in Brazil and Turkey. It’s no wonder: she is a communications dynamo. You’ll feel her energy when she walks into the room, and she’ll help you build up your own so you can make the impact you want when sharing your idea and story.

How does she do this? For us, she does things such as:

  • Hearing our teams pitch at Orientation….before Graduation…on the phone…
  • Having our teams count in a group to train others listen as much as they speak
  • Forcing our teams to only ask questions rather than make statements.
  • Getting our entrepreneurs in touch with their bodies by jumping clapping and stomping (note this also helps them embrace failure)
  • Producing tools such as the Story Craft framework to guide us in framing and structuring our stories

Dia also ensures we do not develop a codependent relationship with her by leaving us with other ways to be self- sufficient, such as pitching in front of a group and getting their feedback, and encouraging us to do the same for others.

But we’re hooked. Thank you Dia for all you have done for our teams! More than enough reason to be our newest mensch. We thought it best to leave the proof in the words of our entrepreneurs:

  • "more Dia Bondi!!! One each month for all teams and 1:1 meetings upon request if she’s available."
  • "I feel that if we had Dia Bondi’s story telling session at the beginning of the program and not at the end, it would have had more impact."
  • "Dia Bondi was amazing. It would have been great to have had more sessions with her. I thought her exercises were super helpful and it would have been nice to have swapped some of the straight pitching for exercises."
  • "The story spine was awesome, do it earlier!"
  • "We found the session with Dia Bondi the day before the graduation very helpful. It’d be nice to have more sessions like that with her throughout the semester."
  • ….and our team Playir even called her out in their Kickstarter update!
  • Look out, Dia’s here!

Me, Please

Oct 8, 2013

"Me, Please" pretty much embodies the attitude of this month’s esteemed mensch. It’s our huge pleasure to give an October shout-out to Jennifer Selby Long!

Jennifer’s can-do participation and support of WebFWD all started early in our program (think 2012), when we ran weekly live lectures for our teams called LearnFWD. Jennifer jumped on board by sharing how startups can get the most out of their teams natural energy, drawing off of her expertise on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) in leadership and team development.

Jennifer also draws off of her experience as a coach to executives at tech leaders including Cisco, Genentech and LinkedIn to help our teams refine their pitches. Specifically, she’s joined our pitch panels where she helps our founders go beyond “what” is said into the hugely impactful “how.” And she even developed a whole session on the elements of storytelling for our current class orientation.

In addition to all of the professional expertise Jennnifer lends, she also makes it a point to attend almost every mixer, orientation and graduation we have to better get to know our teams and community. All with great humor and positivity, we might add. Please send Jennifer a tweet of thanks at @JenniferSelby for all she does for us!

Jennifer and hubby Kirk experimenting at one of our mixers :)

A big reason we started publicly honoring some of the amazing people that help our WebFWD teams is because they do it without fanfare. They add value, and are there for our teams on private calls, emails and meetings, and serve them without any big news event, product lunch or funding announcement.

It’s this kind of behind-the-scenes dedication-with-huge-value that embodies Diane Loviglio. There since our earliest days of a program, Diane has created various videos for our teams, spoken at our early Summits, and of course, is the author behind one of our most important learning modules (well, they are all important - that’s why we have them! - but her baileywick, user research, is one that is all-too-often neglected by many tech founders!).

In fact, Diane has not failed to miss a single week that we cover her assignment for our teams….which says a lot given she is now a startup founder herself. It’s a real delight to have her apply her very own lessons she’s learning each day to our teams’ challenges.

Diane, thank you for all that you do…so often, so consistently…for our teams!

When we started to recognize our Menschen of the Month last year, we did it because we were blown away by the generosity of many people to go the distance and help our teams and our program. Today we honor a person who not only embodies this, but is the entire reason why we are here: Pascal Finette!

First, Pascal of course is the person responsible for all of WebFWD; he conceived of the idea, rallied Mozillians around it and proceeded to build it from scratch. Sure he hired most of us in the process but that’s the thing: he hired us. Without Pascal, there would be no WebFWD.

But his contributions are not limited to this. Not content to simply launch and ‘run’ a program, Pascal is always there to make us better - whether as an official part of the team or not - as a steadfast teacher (he produced 2 of our core curriculum modules - strategy and financials & metrics) and has loyally served as a strategy mentor for each of our cohorts, meeting with our teams regularly to help them sort through the murky issues around target markets, revenue streams, business models and fundraising. He also walked our newest batch of teams through some important pitching lessons last week.

Why does Pascal keep giving even though he’s technically ‘moved on’ to a new role at Mozilla? Because he genuinely cares about helping entrepreneurs. It’s why he started WebFWD in the first place, and why he mentors for other startup programs such as Techstars and Unreasonable Institute (and if you are wondering how he has the ability to do all of this, read this).

So please take a minute to thank Pascal for all he’s done for so many entrepreneurs - you can do it on Twitter, and even join him in heresy by signing up for his provocative almost-daily startup newsletter. No wonder he’s so energizing to our teams :)

One of our favorite things to do is to honor the menschen who give and support our program. And, it never hurts when it’s obvious. This month’s distinction goes to… Naval Ravikant!

Let us count the Whys….

Naval has:

  • Presided on WebFWD II and III pitch panels. These are 2-3 hour sessions where our teams endure intense scrutiny of their pitches in front of a panel of judges administering tough love feedback, and Naval has consistently offered HUGE insights into our teams’ business models, products and pitches (don’t believe us? Read his insights here).
  • Encouraged his AngelList team to help us recruit three awesome teams participating in WebFWD III and one in WebFWD IV (announcement coming next week on IV ;)
  • Featured our team,, leading to some promising investment opportunities, and was the vehicle that introduced the Mobozi founders to one another.
  • Taken time to hear our individual feedback for our AngelList application form and other offerings.

These are just a few ways that Naval is scaling his own personal history of entrepreneurship to help a multitude of others both through AngelList and helping programs like ours. We’re super lucky to count him as a friend and a Mensch of WebFWD’s (introduced to us by another mensch, we might add).

A Mensch of Menschen

May 30, 2013

We’ve already discussed how menschen are the kinds of people who give without expecting anything back, and do it on a continual basis. This is just a taste of why they are so awesome, and why we choose to honor the ones we have the honor of meeting every month.

You’ve heard of “funds of funds” yes? The things that are sort of meta? Well, Jonathan Nelson is not only this month’s Mensch because he’s sort of a Mensch of Menschen. What do we mean?

Jonathan has introduced us to so many fantastic people…people who have gone on to help us in countless ways, whether as mentors, pitch panelists, investors, corporate partners, service providers and more.

And it’s not like Jonathan is bored or anything. After founding a global meetup organization, Hackers and Founders, Jonathan went on to start an incubator and is constantly traveling the world to grow his mission of hacking entrepreneurship and funding.

To know Jonathan is to love him. We might mention that he was an ER nurse before getting into all this startup stuff, and it shows in how human and empathetic he is. So if you have not yet met him at one of our events (he faithfully attends most of our orientations and graduations), check him out on this interview with TechCrunch. And hopefully meet HIM someday. You won’t regret it!

Today we are celebrating not only May Day but the fact that we have so many menschen involved with WebFWD! We’re super happy to say that this month’s distinction goes to Telemachus Luu.

We were introduced to Telemachus last year by the amazing team at Hackers and Founders. Telemachus is a big supporter of H/F and their accelerator, Co-op. He’s also a founder of Nephoscale, an Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider which became a WebFWD partner after we met.

Since then, Tele has gone on to attend our orientations, our graduations, and even coach our teams on their pitching! That’s because - in addition to being a husband, dad and startup founder (phew) he also happens to be an angel investor. But he still has taken countless hours out for our teams at these events and on our team call. The best part? He’s the nicest guy you will ever meet. Promise.

Thank you Telemachus for all you are for us!

Running WebFWD is hugely rewarding for so many reasons…but the primary one is working with fantastic entrepreneurs, partners and mentors. It’s the latter that compels us to honor this month’s Mensch of the Month award to our star mentor, Allen Wirfs-Brock!

A little history: Allen’s grasp and experience with software covers both the business and technology sides. Currently a research fellow at Mozilla, leading all kinds of cross-industry efforts to standardize for Javascript, Allen has also successfully founded two technology companies. Summary: he can talk both geek and money.

So when Pascal invited him to help out, we jumped on the chance to invite him to mentor our teams. He jumped back, working with a number of teams in our last cohort and even flying down to San Francisco for just the day to coach our current teams during their Orientation pitch practicing. Now that’s serious commitment!

"He is an incredible sounding board and source of wisdom" says one of our teams. Another credits Allen’s insightful questioning as the reason behind their significant pivot — a shrewd choice to adapt early rather than drag out an unsuccessful path.

Please take some time to thank Allen with us for his amazing contributions to our teams.


Our teams are so lucky to have Allen!

Our February Mensch….

Feb 28, 2013

This month’s MoM has a special place in our heart. He became familiar with Mozilla well before WebFWD was a twinkle in its eye, as his wife was a marketing exec for Firefox back in 2009-10. As a long-time institutional investor, Didem and Pascal recruited him to be a mentor at the program’s kickoff and was off and running.

He mentored our teams (so much that he joined one of their advisory boards!), and hooked us up with world-renowned frog design to give quite an extraordinary talk to our teams (it’s pretty awesome, and if you watch it now you’ll see how prescient a talk that is!).

He even donned the makeup to appear in our 2nd promotional video (go to 1:31 on our home page today :)…and let’s not forget *he* recruited Diane, who worked with him back in the Web-a-saurus days of 1.0, to join the WebFWD team. Score for Diane!

Then he left the demanding world of investing for an even more demanding role as CEO of a leading mobile games company. Natch - he was still all over grilling our WebFWD II teams before they pitched on their graduation day last month.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, our February Mensch of the Month is Marco DeMiroz. Marco, you rock and we are so lucky to have you!


Good thing we snagged him before SAG did!

A New Year, a New Mensch

Jan 29, 2013

Last month we unveiled our Mensch of the Month Award (aka “MoM”). In short, it’s for people who go above and beyond the expected. Who serve others without hope of getting something back. The people who go out of their way to help others with no hope of payback. They pay it forward.

Often this involves behind the scenes stuff. Doing things that aren’t recognized. When our teams graduated last week, they were featured in some gorgeous glossy programs that the 80 or so attendees used for Tweet instructions and general information on our teams.


Just so purdy

Of course, we didn’t “outsource” these programs in the traditional sense. Instead, we went to the professional we knew would do a fantastic job based on his work for our first class. Jesse von Doom: an accomplished graphic artist, WebFWD alum and yes, total mensch, produced these programs for our 2nd graduation (as well as the 1st, we might add).

Not only did Jesse do a fabulous job, but he did it in the same way he participated in our program: with an insanely positive attitude and energy, coming up with ways to serve and go beyond what is expected. Dubbing Jesse MoM represents his overall modus operandi of constantly excelling and striving to help others.

People like Jesse make what we do a joy, not a job. Thank you Jesse!

We love to share “The Art of the Start" with our teams. It’s a classic manual written by Silicon Valley maven, marketer, communicator & investor extraordinaire (oh, and also one of our mentors ;), Guy Kawasaki,. It is chock full of principles and tactics for getting your startup off the ground.

Guy’s final chapter in the book is titled “The Art of Being a Mensch.” Even if you didn’t grow up learning Yiddish, you can get the gist of what this means for tech entrepreneurs from Guy’s post — key attributes include:

    Help people who cannot help you. A mensch helps people who cannot ever return the favor. He doesn’t care if the recipient is rich, famous, or powerful. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t help rich, famous, or powerful people (indeed, they may need the most help), but you shouldn’t help only rich, famous, and powerful people.
    Help without the expectation of return. A mensch helps people without the expectation of return—at least in this life. What’s the payoff? Not that there has to be a payoff, but the payoff is the pure satisfaction of helping others. Nothing more, nothing less.
    Help many people. Menschdom is a numbers game: you should help many people, so you don’t hide your generosity under a bushel. (Of course, not even a mensch can help everyone. To try to do so would mean failing to help anyone.)
    Do the right thing the right way. A mensch always does the right thing the right way. She would never cop an attitude like, “We’re not as bad as Enron.” There is a bright, clear line between right and wrong, and a mensch never crosses that line.
    Pay back society. A mensch realizes that he’s blessed. For example, entrepreneurs are blessed with vision and passion plus the ability to recruit, raise money, and change the world. These blessings come with the obligation to pay back society. The baseline is that we owe something to society—we’re not a doing a favor by paying back society.

Like Mozilla, WebFWD is a community-powered effort. Our mentors, teachers, service providers, Scouts and fans give their talents and time to help our teams succeed; we realize the program would be nothing without them. And from time to time, some of them really stand out. We want to recognize them. Please join us in honoring our first Mensch of the Month:

Fred Dixon

As lead developer of our alumni team BigBlueButton, Fred is a tireless advocate of WebFWD. We used BBB for our team calls even before they joined our program (because it’s just good!), and Fred hosted our calls to ensure all went smoothly. Once he joined the program himself, he coached our teams on sales, and now that he’s an alum, he even put together this fantastic module for them (and you). He even coached them on our team call, doing role-plays, and offering up more of his time for individual teams for further help.

All of the above — and the fact that he is just a great guy - qualify Fred for our first MoM award. Congratulations, Fred!