Founders’ Stories: Backupify, BzzAgent, and Pixability CEOs Bare It All

6/20/12Follow @gthuang

OK, not literally. But some good stories were told.

Last Thursday’s XSITE conference at Babson College, our fourth annual full-day innovation conference (see photos here), had plenty of highlights that didn’t make it into my previous recap. One of them was a session on “founders’ stories” in tech companies. Of particular note: mistakes made, how to fail fast, how to choose a founding team, hiring and firing, and work-family balance (or lack thereof).

On the panel were Dave Balter, founder and CEO of marketing firm BzzAgent (acquired by Dunnhumby/Tesco); Bettina Hein, founder and CEO of video startup Pixability; and Rob May, founder and CEO of online data startup Backupify. All have experience leading previous businesses as well. Noam Wasserman, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the dynamics of company founders, was the moderator.

You can check out a short video of the session, courtesy of Pixability, below.

A few highlights:

Rob May, on taking the entrepreneur plunge: “Once you realize that this thing of failure isn’t that bad, it becomes really easy to take the next jump again.” (Heck, what’s $50K in credit card debt?)

Dave Balter, on one of his previous ventures: “It was a 50-50 partnership, which you should never ever do.” And on recruiting: “People come into your lives for lots of reasons. You’ve got to find the path that they’re going to work with you on. It may change over time, but hiring is as much an art as it is a science.”

For me, probably the highlight of the session was the “Parenting 101” portion at the end. Bettina Hein said having a baby has made her a much better CEO. “Having a child does something to a woman,” she said. “It changes your brain. It strengthens your frontal cortex.”

Interestingly, both men on the panel had the opposite reaction. “If you can start a company when you’re single or without kids, I think it’s definitely better,” May said. Balter agreed. Somehow, I’m not surprised—men may do less, but we suffer more (or at least complain more).

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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