Five Simple Lessons about Scaling for Growth: One, be the Change You Want to See.

Published by Hub71 on

When Sal, advisor to the Omidyar Network in San Francisco and expert in the Endeavor network walks into a room, he brings an energy that is full of promise with a dollop of the famous ‘can-do’ American attitude. Straight away, a room full of eager founders sit straight up, hungry to hear what Sal – who took the ‘red-eye’ from San Francisco to Abu Dhabi – has to say. Reminiscent of a classroom full of brilliant passionate students, Sal already knows that one of these startups are statistically destined to be a ‘unicorn’; as Endeavor has a knack of picking top startup performers for its accelerator.

Endeavor is world famous for supporting 60,000 entrepreneurs since 1997. As an accelerator that offers free memberships to the most promising startups, it has already selected and groomed over 1,200 companies all around the world.

“We pick the best of the best startups and focus on high-growth companies to benefit from our global mentorship platform,” says Noor Shawwa, the Managing Director of Endeavor in the UAE.

When you hand-pick startups through a vigorous selection process, it’s not hard to see why Endeavor boast that their startups have created 20 billion in revenue or raised $1.4bn of equity capital. So, what’s their ‘secret’? A cache of super-well-connected A-lister tech celebrities who’ve, to date, donated 20,000 hours to future Zuckerbergs.

Within that cache is Sal. Sal Giambanco was the Vice President of Human Resources at Paypal for ten years and saw the rise of the worldwide online payments system, “I was at Paypal when it was called and you knew everyone’s name by heart.” By the time Sal left, there were 8,200 employees across 19 countries.

Since then, Sal has worked with Reid Hoffman, co-founder and executive chairman of LinkedIn; David Sacks, co-founder of Craft Ventures and founder of Yammer (later acquired by Microsoft for $1.2 billion) and lately, Pierre Omidyar; building up a different kind of global venture, a global philanthropy organization called Omidyar Networks, which drives empowerment and accelerates solutions to tackle the world’s biggest challenges.

Tasked with kicking off Endeavor’s two-day retreat hosted at Hub71, a tech ecosystem at the heart of Abu Dhabi, Sal, with his big booming voice, says:

“I want you to take a step back and take in the bigger picture.”

He had our full attention.

“I want you to introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you and figure out whether they’re worthy of being your successor.”

The unorthodox exercise was the ideal tactic to jolt startups into thinking about their future. We soon discovered that many startups had not yet had the inclination to think that far ahead; but that’s precisely what Sal was here to do: encourage you to project the kind of future you want, and not to focus only on the today.

The very idea of having someone else run your company that you had started from scratch is preposterous, but never-the-less a necessary exercise in the tech world where sometimes the best founders don’t always make the best business leaders. As every startup with VC funding knows, it is business you’re running, not a charity. And Sal would know, he’s worked with five different ‘unicorns’, in five different industries.

Over the two days, Sal shared hilarious anecdotes, star-studded stories and colorful slides on everything he knows about human capital and building the best teams. From this, we distilled five important lessons for startups who are looking for growth, success and scale:

  1. Figure out who your star performers are – focus on getting the right people around you to grow your business. Find the star performers that put in that extra ‘discretionary’ effort without asking. Who can – on a good day – do the work of eight people. The ones who stay late because they want to get the job done well; the ones who always put up their hand for extra tasks; or the ones who support others around them. These are the employees that are worth hiring, but more importantly, the ones to focus on keeping motivated and rewarded.
  2. Do you know what motivates them? What is their ‘currency of reward’? Rewards are subjective. Some people are motivated by financial rewards, but most often, it’s beyond pay. It could be as simple as sending out a company-wide email highlighting their discretionary effort. Take the time to find out what motivates your top performers and find out their preferred ‘currency of reward’.
  3. The top performers in an organization are very often NOT the top executives The people driving the most value in any company are generally not the top executives with the biggest pay cheques. As a founder, you should really look at who is driving revenue and top performance. Don’t waste your time on poor performers, give that job to your COO! Work directly with the top performers to help them grow new revenue in new markets. As the CEO, you should work on everything designed to drive revenue.
  4. People don’t leave jobs; they leave a toxic workplace There should be no reason why anyone leaves an organization badly. Care for your workers as human beings, not as cogs in a wheel, and give them the respect and dignity they deserve at every stage of their career.
  5. “Be the change you want to see” If, as the CEO, you’re looking to scale your company, you too need to scale. If you want to have a ‘big vision’ company, ask yourself, “do I have a big vision? Or do I surround myself with people with a big vision?” As a startup, you’ll always have limited resources. There are always a million and one reasons not to do something; but ask yourself, “am I leading with a model of fear and anxiety of failure, or through a spirit of abundance, possibility and love?”

When sharing your vision with your executives, are they all excited about the realm of possibility, or are they saying, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ In which case, surround yourself with people who can drive revenue and growth and those who possess the right skills to set change in motion.

Endeavor UAE and Hub71 launched its partnership in October 2019 and kicked off with a two-day summit at the tech hub located at Abu Dhabi Global Market. To find out more about Endeavor UAE, go to

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