The journey from founder to CEO

What does it take to become a successful Founder/CEO? What many people don’t see is the hard work behind the scenes that founders do every day to create winning strategies, make better decisions, or build scalable organizations. For episode 058 of ‘The World Class Leaders Show’, I was joined by my good friend Eric Rubenstein, Founder and Managing Partner of New Climate Ventures, a new early-stage venture capital firm investing in innovative carbon reduction and avoidance technology companies. Since its launch in October 2021, NCV has made several investments that cover areas involving climate tech, alternative materials, and food tech – as well as other emissions-avoiding technologies. 

Attributes Of A Founder

Investors like Eric believe that founders should have the humility and ability to take advice. This doesn’t always happen. Great founders surround themselves with people who trust and are knowledgeable about business but without having an interest in listening to other perspectives, the odds for success are very low. Not surprisingly, great founders use advisors, join peer groups, and/or hire a coach. As a start-up journey can last anywhere between 5 to 10 years, passion is also essential. If you don’t get excited about your product, how can you expect investors to? “And if you’re going to be in something for 10 years, you better really like what you’re doing and not just be driven by the money that can be associated with being successful.”

A Little Self-Reflection Goes A Long Way

A little self-awareness is never a bad thing. Recognizing what you’re good at is a step in the right direction, but it’s just as important to recognize what you’re not so good at.  Take a fashion industry start-up for example. If your expertise is on the fashion side, but lacking in the business side, investors can help guide you along. Or bring a partner on board who can help to navigate the business side of things. Build a solid team that complements you as the founder, a team that can drive things forward and inspire.  “Founders generally are driving so hard at being successful at what they’re doing that they don’t take that step back”

Mature and Diversify

There are always going to be teething issues during a start-up. And as your company grows and matures, and your client base gets bigger, it’s always worth diversifying. Focusing solely on a single client, or a small selection of big clients may seem like the wisest idea, however, what happens if inevitable issues arise with these clients? Problems will come up which can directly impact your business. Since COVID, hiring has become a lot more difficult. A lot of people want to work remotely, which can be a challenging factor for a start-up. Because of this, it could potentially mean that your product is not developing as quickly as you’d like, slowing down your growth. “Diversity has been a challenge. Even companies that are trying to hire diverse talent have struggled, when they purposely are trying to do that and achieve those goals of increasing the diversity of a team, it’s been widely, I guess, reported on at this point that diverse teams perform better.”

The Journey From Start-Up To Scale

There are many different reasons why seed start-ups fall flat, making it a challenge for founders and CEOs. Whether it’s not having a market fit or a lack of interest/need for the product on offer. “It’s really having a flexibility in the way that they think, not being too hard set on any particular direction they’re going in.” The seed stage is the time to discover what their product market fit is, once it’s been found, a good start-up will adapt their product to what the market wants, instead of what they think the market wants. Take the time to navigate. When the product goes to market, obviously it’s important that you always work towards improving it, but that’s not all. What matters is working with corporations to sell the product and finding the direct path that leads to the consumer – fundamental in growing from seed to scale. This is where taking advice is beneficial and surrounding yourself with a strong team. Growing your business means taking risks. Acknowledge setbacks and learn from them. Learn from other people who might have a broader knowledge of what it takes to run a business. Understand that the start-up may not be smooth sailing, but mostly, never lose the passion. If you’d like to know more about Eric’s work, he can be contacted via LinkedIn, at–rubenstein/. For more information about New Climate Ventures, visit the website at If you’ve enjoyed this or another of my podcast episodes, please send me any comments via LinkedIn at, or via email at [email protected]. For more information on my work and access to other valuable resources, please visit the website, at Listen to the podcast related to this article:
Subscribe to the Newsletter


Insider strategies in your inbox every Thursday