I do a lot of work with technology startups and I’m only one non-profit board, and rarely do these worlds come together. And rarely do I wear a tux. But all that and more happened one night in October, and I’m pleased to share some of the details. Mike and Kass Lazerow were among the recipients of the Leader of the Future Award given by the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute. Mike and Kass were gracious, humble, and inspiring, and they brought many of their friends and co-workers and family to help them celebrate, including investors and advisors Softbank, IVP, Greycroft, WPP, GGV and MediaLink.
Here is a transcript of my remarks that evening:
It’s a particular honor for me to recognize our final recipients of the evening, and it represents the intersection of two of my worlds – that of leadership across the sectors, as well as the New York technology and startup scene. Mike and Kass Lazerow are not only great leaders, but entrepreneurs, partners and parents, and they’re fearless together.
Mike and Kass are the co-founders of Buddy Media, which in a few short years has helped over 1000 brands and Fortune 500 companies like HP, Ford and L’Oreal connect with their customers on social media. It’s very much in the tradition of Peter Drucker asking “What does the customer value?” – and clearly the answer lately has been that their customers value spending time on places like Facebook and Twitter. They helped brands do that, created value for their employees and investors, and earlier this year Buddy Media was acquired by cloud computing giant Salesforce.com for approximately $700 million.
Mike and Kass have helped change perceptions about whether a husband and wife startup team can work well together, and whether you can build a great technology company in New York. They’ve not only led by example with their own successful companies, but through Lazerow Ventures they’re actively investing in new startups and giving back to make sure New York continues to be a thriving technology community.
Mike’s own health issues with heart disease and a related near-death experiences changed his life, and Mike and Kass have been extremely active in supporting cancer research and raising money and awareness for their friends who have been affected. In fact, their efforts with Buddy Media around “Cycle for Survival” has raised over $4M for Memorial Sloan-Kettering cancer center .
I encourage everyone to Google “Lazerow – Is Fear Holding You Back” and watch the Youtube video Mike recorded 2 hours after they agreed to sell their company, and you’ll get a great sense of the people behind the headlines. They live fearlessly and are an example for us all, and I hope it spreads. Please join me in honoring Mike and Kass Lazerow, Leaders of the Future.
And here is a letter I sent to prospective attendees and sponsors for even more background:
I’m proud to serve as the Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, and we’re excited to be honoring some people you know well – Mike and Kass Lazerow of Buddy Media. They’ll be our Leader of the Future Award recipients, joined by fellow 2012 honorees Charles Ramsey, Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department, and General Peter Chiarelli (US Army, Ret.) of One Mind for Research. Previous award recipients include Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford; AG Lafley, former CEO of Proctor & Gamble; Executive coach and author Marshall Goldsmith; and the Secretary of the Veterans Administration General Eric Shinseki.
If you haven’t heard of the Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute and her work, she’s the former CEO of Girl Scouts USA, a Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient, and Peter Drucker said she could manage any company in America. She’s now the CEO of the Institute that bears her name, and you can see what Fortune has to say about Frances here, and what I have to say here.