When Steve Munford joined leading digital identity verification provider Trulioo as the new CEO as the company expanded its global footprint, he knew to be mindful of common pitfalls like making quick decisions and sweeping changes without appreciating the historical context. Instead, he took time to analyze the business from top to bottom and build relationships with Trulioo’s co-founders Stephen Ufford and Tanis Jorge. Rather than slowing down his work at Trulioo, it helped Steve accelerate his impact, knowing that he wasn’t duplicating previously unsuccessful efforts or making decisions that would clash with the mission-driven corporate culture. By developing that framework with the founders and the company at large, he was able to ensure that he was building the company for the long-term without breaking all of the things that already worked.
Trulioo provides businesses with instant digital identity verification that support compliance requirements, mitigate risk, and reduce friction in the onboarding process. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, demand increased significantly alongside Trulioo’s customers’ digital initiatives. Trulioo had always planned to expand its services globally, but this hypergrowth needed a clear roadmap to be executed diligently. The company planned to scale multiple functions, while also opening offices and growing headcount across the globe. To help prioritize product and go-to-market strategies, Trulioo leaned into two key features: customer feedback and a truly global workforce. Customer feedback helped Trulioo look around corners to see which identity verification features and regulatory hurdles were becoming top of mind for its customers. By establishing a global workforce, the company was confident in knowing that they truly understood their customers’ needs – who were themselves increasingly global – as well as the nuances of the markets they were entering into.
In this episode of Growth Journeys, we discuss how Trulioo navigated hyper growth accelerated by digitization during COVID-19, while building out thoughtful global operations and go-to-market strategies built for the long haul. Steve explains why he prioritizes building trust with founding executives and expanding global offices. He also walks us through Trulioo’s mission driven culture, and how the company is executing on its goal to enable everyone on the planet to participate in a global, increasingly digital economy.
How Steve navigated stepping into the CEO role at a company that was previously founder-led.
For CEOs joining companies that were previously founder-led, it can be extremely tempting to implement changes quickly in order to create impact. But Steve advocates a different approach and suggests that new executives instead spend that time analyzing what’s been working at the company, and what impact the founders had on that success to date. “You have to start by [asking yourself] ‘What is going to be missing when that founder steps aside from the business?’”
He advocates for taking as much time as possible to watch, learn, and digest, and understand why certain moves have been made, and others haven’t. Doing so allows a new outside CEO to truly understand the culture and nuances of an organization before making sweeping changes. He also suggests building a partnership with the founders, when possible, to build trust and open communication. “The goal is not to slow things down, but further accelerate them. You have got to make sure that when you step in, you’re not doing any harm, but setting both you and the company up to go even faster.”
The benefits of building a diverse workforce when expanding a company into new markets across the globe.
One of the first tasks Steve tackled at Trulioo was going to market globally, during a pandemic that had made operations go virtual. Until then, Trulioo had been headquartered in Vancouver, and it could have been simpler to continue with the same team at first. But each market operates differently, and nuances can vary wildly from country to country, which is why Trulioo continued its plan to create a diverse, global workforce. “If you’re going to have a global company…you need to have offices, locations, and workforces all around the world. You need to have a leadership team that is truly multicultural, diverse, and is able to motivate and understand the nuances of the culture,” says Steve.
Indeed, Steve suggests that leadership teams actively prioritize being diverse and cross-cultural as they scale. However, while having a global presence is critical for market presence, go-to-to-market strategies, and talent development as a company grows, for a tech company based outside of the US, having a strong presence in the US is also important.
Using customer feedback to understand new markets, prioritize product iteration, and drive growth.
While Trulioo had always planned to expand its identity verification services across the globe, the pandemic accelerated the demand for the company’s services. While there was no shortage of varying needs and priorities, Steve and his team used one criterion to really prioritize its hypergrowth strategy: customer feedback. Because Trulioo works with some of the largest companies across many verticals, their feedback was critical in helping Trulioo craft its product and go-to market roadmaps. “[Our customers] guide us to the countries that they want to move into next. They guide us on how they see the identity landscape changing, where fraud is coming from, or where the regulatory environment is going. Through that dialogue, we’re able to really help prioritize our roadmap, prioritize where we need to innovate, and prioritize areas that we should partner with,” says Steve.
How Trulioo’s mission of fostering global inclusion for everyone in the digital economy has helped guide the company’s culture, product, and growth journey.
Providing identity verification services and building a robust identity network is built on the company’s core mission to advance financial inclusion. Trulioo aims to enable everyone on the planet to participate in the global economy no matter where they are. That mission is engrained in how Trulioo creates services and products, even if someone isn’t a customer or employee of a company using Trulioo yet. By thinking about future users, Trulioo is able to think more long term and build products that enable even more people to access high value services online. Says Steve, “We are a mission driven company, and ultimately I think our customers appreciate that because when we go about helping them do their jobs, we’re coming at it from a place of purpose. I think that really comes through.”
members can bring a wealth of experience and advice to their CEOs – and not
just when the board convenes each quarter. The chemistry of this critical
relationship requires careful attention, particularly when selecting and
onboarding new directors, coaching the team and providing diverse insights. Tayloe
Stansbury, Venture Partner at TCV, shares lessons and insights from his board
memberships and two decades reporting to corporate boards as CTO at Intuit, CIO
at VMware, and EVP at Ariba. Beth Knuppel, Principal in TCV’s Portfolio Operations,
guides the conversation to the key moments and processes that board members and
CEOs need to master so that their relationships – and the business – can
podcast, Beth and Tayloe address practical questions for anyone coming onto a
board or running a company with board support, such as:
The most important criteria for joining a board
How to maintain diversity of opinion on the board while
still providing the CEO with convergent advice
Why board members should meet with their CEO informally
between board meetings
How to set efficient board meeting agendas that allow for
in-depth discussion of pressing issues
Why board members should evaluate their own performance
and not just the CEO’s
For this and more, settle back and click play.
Beth Knuppel: Welcome to Growth Journeys. This is a
podcast series from TCV focused on lessons from the field from both operators
and entrepreneurs in the TCV ecosystem. I’m Beth Knuppel. I’m an Operating Principal
at TCV, where I lead our talent center of excellence within portfolio
operations. Our podcast today is all about the CEO board partnership and
lessons learned for effective governance. I’m joined today by Tayloe Stansbury.
Tayloe is a Venture Partner at TCV, where he works with existing portfolio
companies, and he’s also involved in diligence for potential investments. In
addition, Tayloe serves on the board of directors at Coupa Software and
BlueJeans. Welcome to Growth Journeys, Tayloe.
Tayloe Stansbury: Thank you very much. It’s great to
Beth Knuppel: So, Tayloe, you had a long, successful
corporate career before joining TCV as a venture partner. Most recently you
were CTO at Intuit. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you got
to this point.
Tayloe Stansbury: For the last decade, I was CTO at
Intuit. I looked after all their technology operations — so engineering, data
AI, IT, and information security. And before that, I worked at a number of
other companies, including Ariba. I was EVP of product and operations there,
which included customer support, product management, engineering, and
operations. I worked also at VMware, Calico, Xerox, Sun, and Borland in a
variety of different engineering and general management positions.
Beth Knuppel: So you are a technology veteran, for
Tayloe Stansbury: I guess.
Beth Knuppel: In addition to those roles, I mentioned
you also serve in some board of director roles. You were on the board of
Shutterfly for three years. You continue to serve on the board at Coupa and at
BlueJeans. What was it that attracted you to board service in the first place?
Tayloe Stansbury: I was a direct report to CEOs of
public companies for some 20 years, which meant that most every quarter I was
doing presentations to boards. And it started to intrigue me that maybe I could
contribute at a different level. And that’s what led me to getting onto my
Beth Knuppel: When you say at a different level, tell
me more about what that means to you. What is it that a good board really adds
to a company?
Tayloe Stansbury: Boards advise, right? Boards don’t
manage. Management manages. And I think that distinction is really important.
Boards bring a wealth of experience that is orthogonal to what some of the
managers have and can advise them on new situations that arise and how to think
about new problems.
Beth Knuppel: I think that a lot of people have in
their mind this outdated stereotype of the board member who sort of jets in,
goes to dinner, maybe makes a few pithy comments at the meeting the next day,
and then you don’t hear from them again for another quarter. I should say, that
is definitely not the model at TCV. Our boards are really engaged. But I’m
curious, what would a management team expect, or what should they expect, in
terms of engagement in between those quarterly board meetings? How do you work
with the board in between those formal opportunities?
Tayloe Stansbury: For myself, I’d say, I generally
meet with the CEO of each of the boards that I’m on once in between each board
meeting — go out to dinner, to breakfast, or something like that — and just
talk about whatever’s on their mind. And I usually adopt one or two, sometimes
three members of the senior management team that I coach. And I usually meet
with them once off-cycle between board meetings. And those meetings can be a
lot of fun, high engagement.
Beth Knuppel: Got it. You know, a lot of our audience
are founders who may not have ever worked with a board before. So you’re
talking about this engagement in between. Who’s initiating that? Is that you,
on the board? How should the CEO be reaching out?
Tayloe Stansbury: I think it’s best always if the CEO
is making the introductions so you’re not invading their space and having
meetings unbeknownst to the CEO. I’d give an example from a board I was on that
was for a college. And the president asked me if I would lead the advancement
committee, which means fundraising. And I said, “Hey, I’ll do anything for
you, but I know nothing about fundraising.” And she said, “You’ll
figure it out,” and turned around and then walked away. So she did
actually introduce me to the head of fundraising and, we had a very fruitful
relationship, where I would come down before each of the board meetings and go
over his management challenges, his prioritization challenges, and how it is
that he was going to present to the board, because while he was very
experienced in fundraising and I was not, I knew something about presenting to
boards and he didn’t. And so it would end up being a very fruitful relationship
and we blew through all our targets and it was great.
Beth Knuppel: That’s great. One of the sayings that
we have here at TCV is that the journey to the top is never a straight line,
right? Every organization experiences setbacks and challenges. But I’m
wondering, the CEO is typically looking to put their best foot forward with the
board. How should a CEO balance that? How should they bring bad news or maybe
challenging situations to the attention of their board?
Tayloe Stansbury: If all you’re doing is the
Pollyanna version, nobody learns anything. I think what’s really best is
approaching it with complete transparency and an attitude of seeking counsel,
because that’s when you get the true value out of a board member who may have
been through some of these things, or have cognated things before. So that’s
hard to do. It means you’ve got to show your dirty laundry. But over time, you
can build a relationship with a board where that’s okay, because they’ve had
dirty laundry in managing the things that they did earlier in their lives as
well. And they’re not going to be freaked out about it, and they’ll be able to
give you much better advice which will enable you to perform better over time,
with the transparency.
Beth Knuppel: It sounds like a key piece of that is
just developing trust.
Tayloe Stansbury: Absolutely.
Beth Knuppel: How do you think about doing that when
you’ve joined a new board and you’re establishing your own relationships with
the other board members, with the CEO? How do you think about your entry into
Tayloe Stansbury: Well, I think you’re hitting on a
really important issue which is that the relationships are really important.
And I think boards work best when there’s diversity of thought, everybody is
respectful of each other’s opinions, but they’re also able to converge towards
something which is a plan of action or a consistent set of advice for the
management team. And I think the same thing is true with management. There has
to be that trust of each other, the sense that different people are bringing
something different to the party that is worth listening to and every now and
then might be the key thing you need to know to manage through a tough
situation. Mechanically, how that would work is going out to dinner with these
people off-cycle from regular board meetings, getting to know them, and getting
to build up that level of trust and respect for what it is that they’ve done.
Beth Knuppel: Right. I’m curious. As you work with a
CEO, you want to build that trusted relationship, but at the end of the day, as
a member of the board, part of your job is to evaluate the performance of the
Tayloe Stansbury: That’s right.
Beth Knuppel: How do you work through CEO evaluation?
Tayloe Stansbury: I think it’s best practice to have
an annual evaluation of the CEO and actually even an annual evaluation of the
other board members, where you think about: “What are the objectives that were
set for the company, what are the objectives that the CEO may have set?” And
everybody actually scores the CEO on that. You have a discussion as a board,
and that gets presented to the CEO on an annual basis. And that discussion
precedes setting the compensation for the CEO for the following year. I think that
detachment where you can help and also provide some evaluation — hopefully
which has got constructive ideas as to how the CEO can improve in areas where
perhaps they need to grow.
Beth Knuppel: And you mentioned that you think it’s
good hygiene for the board to engage in some self-reflection as well.
Tayloe Stansbury: Yes.
Beth Knuppel: How does that process work?
Tayloe Stansbury: Same way. Score each other, get
together to have a couple-hour discussion about what came out in the survey.
And if it’s a board that has mutual respect, those kinds of comments can end up
helping bring the board closer together and help smooth out some rough spots.
Beth Knuppel: In the case of, maybe, a board that’s
underperforming, what are some of the things that in the past you’ve
encountered that help address an underperforming board?
Tayloe Stansbury: I see it as a spectrum – where at
one end of the spectrum, you have a rubber-stamp board that’s not really
providing any meaningful thought diversity to the problem, and the other end,
where you have an acrimonious board which can’t agree on anything and they’re
just fighting over stuff. And I think the sweet spot is somewhere in the
middle, where everybody is thoughtful, they’re presenting diverse points of
view, and they’re figuring out how to converge that into something that is
constructive for the management team. And how do you get there? Again, I think
it’s by spending time with each other and learning to appreciate what each
other’s gifts are, what each other’s experiences are, what their scars are that
they’ve managed to live through and learn things from. On a rare occasion, it
may be best if some people move off the board if they just can’t get aligned
with the rest of the team.
Beth Knuppel: Are there any common pitfalls that you
Tayloe Stansbury: In one case in particular, we did
have a board that was pretty acrimonious and couldn’t get on the same page and
it was very hard to get anything done. It was very hard to give consistent
advice to the president of that organization. What happened in the end is some
of the people who were really on a different page rolled off. And we got down
to a set of people not who were rubber-stamped, who had diverse points of view
but were able to come together in the end.
Beth Knuppel: I know at Coupa, you’re a member of the
nominating and governance committee. What is it that you think about when
you’re evaluating somebody who might potentially join the board? For CEOs out
there, what should they be looking for when they’re thinking about board
Tayloe Stansbury: We look at: “What is the skill set?”
We have a whole matrix for skill sets that would be desirable for the board,
and we score each other on how strong we think we are on those things. And that
leaves it clear where there are some areas where we may have some gaps, some
skills gaps — some experience gaps — that it would be really nice to flesh
the board out with. And so then you go and say, “Well, who would be the
people who could best fill those skill or experience gaps?” And then you
look for, “Who are the people who are going to work well with the rest of
the board, whose voices will be heard, who will hear other people’s voices, and
will actually be convergent in their thinking, over time.”
Beth Knuppel: And, of course, the other side of the
coin, as you’ve joined boards, you’re also making an evaluation. What is it
that you look for to figure out whether a board is a good fit or not?
Tayloe Stansbury: The first thing is, you’ve got to
have a passion for the business. If it isn’t a business that you love, then you
probably shouldn’t be taking up space on the board. Another thing I really want
is to have a visceral sense of what is the strategic path to success for this
organization. So how is it that they’re going to weather whatever competitive
threats and come out on top? Your sense of that may change over time, but I
think you have to go in with a pretty good hypothesis of how this organization
can become durable and win against the invariable competition. And the last
thing is, it’s got to be people I like, because you’re going to be working with
these people over several years. And you’re going to have to come to converged
advice for management. It helps if you like everybody who’s involved.
Beth Knuppel: Sure. I’m curious to get your
perspective on bringing on a new board member. Is there anything that you’ve
experienced personally, or you’ve seen done really well, in terms of onboarding
somebody onto the board?
Tayloe Stansbury: I think that bringing on a new
board member is a big deal, and if you just hand them a board book and say,
“Show up for the next meeting,” they’re going to come in without a
lot of context, and they’re going to feel a little bit not on the inside, and
their questions are just going to be off-kilter. And what I’ve seen as a best
practice is you invest several hours, like a day, in training a new board
member by having them meet with some of the senior management people,
one-to-one, and then also go through a full rundown on the products, including
demos of the products, so they have a real feel for the business and the
Beth Knuppel: I’d love to get your perspective on how
you think about the board agenda, and what topics are actually covered. Board
time is so precious, you want to make sure that you’ve got a thoughtfully
constructed agenda. What, in your view, rises to the level of importance for a
Tayloe Stansbury: One thing I’ve seen that doesn’t
really work really well for board agendas is to try to have every key member of
the senior leadership team talk about the progress in their area every single
board meeting. What I have found works a lot, lot better is if you look at the
board calendar over the course of a year and say, “How do we make sure
that every function gets their day in court, if you will, with the board, over
the course of a year rather than the course of a single meeting?” And
everybody can have a deeper discussion, and you get into the meatier stuff. Now, to complement that, I think
having board materials that are first-rate, that come out early enough so that
all the board members have a chance to read and digest them, is really
And what you
can do in the board materials is make sure that the board materials include
some news about what’s happening in every function that has something to report
— even if they’re not going to present — so the board gets a view of that as
it’s happening but then gets the deeper-dive discussions.
Beth Knuppel: Great. When I was presenting to boards
on a regular basis, one of the things my CEO always said was, “Be bright,
be brief, be gone.” In other words, do whatever you need to, to avoid the
dreaded page flip where it’s kind of a march through slides that hopefully the
board has already read. Is there anything you would share with folks who are in
that spot of presenting to the board?
Tayloe Stansbury: I think it’s important for
presenters to realize that the board has read the materials in advance and say
the things only that punch up the most important parts of what’s on the pages.
I think another good practice is you may think that you’re going to have an
hour to present or half an hour to present, and it may be that the schedule
goes sideways and you end up with only 5 or 10 minutes to present. It’s always
good to have the 5-minute version of your presentation in the back of your mind
so if you’re asked to do that, you can say something intelligent and helpful
during whatever time remains. An important thing to remember about board
members is they come and engage only periodically in the business. You, as an
operating leader, are in there every single day. The board member isn’t going
to remember all the context that you’ve got in your brain, and they’re not
going to remember the thing that you told them three months ago. So making sure
that you show not current state, but trajectory over what’s happened before,
can help make sense for the board member.
Beth Knuppel: Great. Good advice. I want to close out
with two questions. And first, I’m curious, if you look back over your board
service, what do you think is the biggest learning that you’ve taken away? What
is it that you would do differently the next time you join a board?
Tayloe Stansbury: You know, I think that getting to a
sense of flow with a board, where you’ve got good ideas that are coming in,
people bringing diverse thoughts, and where people are thoughtful about that
and get to a good place quickly in terms of advising management, those are the
boards that feel really good. The ones where you have people who are on a
different place of, “Hey, I’m excited about this company,” and others
who are thinking, “We ought to sell this company,” and you just can’t
get them together, those end up being pretty rough situations. And you want to
avoid the latter, if you can.
Beth Knuppel: Finally, for founders, for management
teams who might be listening, what would you say would be the key takeaway that
you would offer them for, really, how do you build and leverage an effective
Tayloe Stansbury: Look for openness and trust. Build
a board where that exists. And working together, you can actually be a lot
smarter than you can individually.
Beth Knuppel: Absolutely. Great insights, Tayloe.
Thank you so much for joining us today.
Tayloe Stansbury: Thank you so much.
views and opinions expressed are those of the speakers and do not necessarily
reflect those of TCMI, Inc. or its affiliates (“TCV”). TCV has not
verified the accuracy of any statements by the speakers and disclaims any
responsibility therefor. This blog post is not an offer to sell or the
solicitation of an offer to purchase an interest in any private fund managed or
sponsored by TCV or any of the securities of any company discussed. The
TCV portfolio companies identified above, if any, are not necessarily
representative of all TCV investments, and no assumption should be made that
the investments identified were or will be profitable. For a complete list of
TCV investments, please visit www.tcv.com/all-companies/. For additional
important disclaimers regarding this document, please see “Informational
Netflix founder Reed Hastings is known for placing big bets on bold ideas. One was turning conventional corporate culture on its head by stripping away limitations on employees, so they could be more free – and more accountable – to achieve shared goals. It worked so well that he published the blueprint online as the “Netflix Culture Deck.”
TCV’s Founding General Partner Jay Hoag, a long-time Netflix board member, chats with Patty McCord, Netflix’s chief talent officer for 14 years and co-creator of the Netflix Culture Deck, for this exclusive podcast about her new book: “Powerful: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility.” Together, they detail the origins of the culture deck, what happened when it went viral (it’s been viewed more than 15 million times), and how CEOs can apply the principles that made Netflix a magnet for high-performance talent.
The path to industry leadership is rarely smooth, and those that make it to the mountaintop must adapt to both market opportunities and dynamics. Jay and Patty anchor their conversation in historic pivots and lessons learned from Netflix’s evolution to become the world’s leading internet television network. Patty reveals how vigorous management debate and candor with employees kept morale high during both peaks and troughs. The podcast includes numerous lessons for successful recruiting and creating the conditions for people to do their best work. Topics covered include:
What really attracts top talent
How to ensure that employees link their work to high-level strategy
Why employee compensation should not be secret
How to sustain the speed of a small company as you build a large one
Why lavish perks do not promote higher performance
How to use a product-development perspective to enhance culture
For an inside story on the cultural principles that made Netflix a household name worldwide, settle back and click play.
TCV is an investor in Netflix and Jay Hoag serves on the board of directors of the company.