May 3 2021

Startup CXO: About the Authors

This book names Matt Blumberg as its principal author, he wanted to make clear he is not THE author, but AN author. The book has a very large number of contributors and external reviewers and you’ll probably notice a different “voice” for each Part. That’s what you should see with multiple authors, but despite the various perspectives, we’re all focused on providing a playbook for each functional area including the “mistakes” we made, what we would do differently, and what worked really well. Each Part has one or two principal authors who have the experience, credibility, and expertise to share something of value with others in their specific functional disciplines—most of my Bolster co-founders are writing Parts, and the others are being written by former Return Path executive colleagues or members of Bolster’s network. And that is a good lead-in to a few caveats before you embark on the book.

First, although most of the book is being written by former Return Path executives, it is not meant to be the Return Path story. Every author here has 20–30 years of experience working at 

multiple companies of different sizes and at different stages and in different sectors on which he or she is drawing. It’s also not the story of Bolster, the new company that a number of us started 

earlier this year, although Startup CXO is pretty closely related to Bolster’s business of helping assess and place on-demand CXO talent. 

Matt Blumberg. Matt has spent his entire career creating startups, scaling them, and sharing best practices of what works and what doesn’t work for other CEOs and team members in the entrepreneurial community. He is the author of Startup CEO: A Field Guide to Scaling Up Your Business (Wiley, 2020), a highly influential book embraced by entrepreneurs, CEOs, founders, and board of directors in the entrepreneurial ecosystem that was an outgrowth of his blog, OnlyOnce. In 1999 he founded Return Path, an innovative email marketing company, and helped grow it to $100mm in revenues and to a successful exit in a strategic sale to Validity in 2019.  Along with a number of his colleagues from Return Path, Matt started Bolster in 2020, a company focused on helping startups and scaleups grow, develop, and scale their leadership teams and boards. Bolster’s unique combination of heavily curated executive talent, tools, and services provides a new way for CEOs to assess and benchmark their executive teams and boards and provides a new avenue for on-demand executives to work with startups and scaleups. 

Before Return Path, Matt led marketing, product management and the Internet group for MovieFone, Inc. (later acquired by AOL). Prior to that, he served as an associate with private equity firm General Atlantic Partners and was a consultant with Mercer Management Consulting.  He also co-founded and chairs the board of Path Forward, a non-profit created and spun out of Return Path. Path Forward’s mission is to empower people to restart their careers after time spent focused on caregiving by working with companies offering mid-career internships. Path Forward gives women and men a path to a professional career, while giving companies access to a diverse, untapped talent force. Matt earned his A.B. from Princeton University.

Peter M. Birkeland. Pete is a sociologist, author, and collaborative writer. He has spent his career spanning research and business roles, as Research Director at Accenture and research associate to Gary Hamel, to CEO of a steel fabrication company, to Senior Editor at Techstars. Pete is the author of Franchising Dreams: The Lure of Entrepreneurship (University of Chicago Press) and Legal Cannabis: The Great Social Experiment (forthcoming, 2021). As a collaborative writer Pete has worked with a number of leading business and entrepreneurship authors including Matt Blumberg (Startup CEO and Startup CXO), Brad Feld and David Cohen (Do More Faster), Will Herman and Rajat Bhargava (Startup Playbook), Claudia Reuter (Yes, You Can Do This), and others.  Pete received his Master’s and PhD in economic sociology from the University of Chicago, focusing on organizational behavior and quantitative methods. 


Cathy Hawley. Cathy is an experienced fractional and full-time Chief People Officer passionate about building highly effective leadership teams and creating inclusive and people-focused workplaces. She has more than 20 years of experience in a variety of industries developing global People and Culture teams. At Return Path she spearheaded the “return to work” program, spun it out to a nonprofit, and is on the Board of Path Forward, a non-profit that helps companies create return-to-work programs for caregivers. Cathy earned a B.S. in business administration from the University of Colorado and a master’s in European HR and Industrial Relations from Keele University.

Dennis Dayman. Dennis has over 25 years of experience in security, privacy, and governance issues. He has worked with startups, scaleups, and global organizations to protect and improve data for consumers and companies. He is actively involved in internet and digital communication regulations, privacy/security policies and anti-spam legislation laws for state and federal governments. Dennis was appointed by the Department of Homeland Security to the Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee (DPIAC) to provide input on policy, operational, technical, and other privacy-related matters. He is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University with a degree in criminal justice. 

Jack Sinclair. Jack is an experienced Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer with over twenty years in startups and scaleups including Return Path, Stack Overflow, and Bolster. Jack began his career at Stern Stewart as an analyst but quickly figured out he enjoyed startups and scaleups and has since co-founded Return Path and Bolster. Jack earned a B.S. in finance from the Wharton School. 

Ken Takahashi. Ken has spent more than two decades in the B2B SaaS space helping companies and industries grow. His career has taken him from product management to pre-sales consulting and industry relations and is now squarely centered on business and corporate development. Ken has significant international business experience, launching offices across Europe, Latin America, and Australia. He serves on industry boards and committees and is a mentor and advisor to technology startups around product-market fit, geographic expansion, and exit strategy and execution. He earned his B.S. in business from the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University.

Anita Absey. Anita began her career on Wall Street in equity research, risk arbitrage, and corporate finance with Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank, but for the past 20 years has had wide-ranging roles in sales. Anita has been in sales leadership positions in startups and scaleups including Abacus Direct, DoubleClick, Return Path, Voxy, and LRN. Anita views her success through the lens of revenue growth and customer satisfaction and her greatest satisfaction comes from watching people on her teams thrive in their careers. She earned a B.A. in economics at Fordham University.

Holly Enneking. Holly is an experienced marketing leader who believes in the power of storytelling and finding innovative ways to communicate a brand’s value through cross-channel experiences. Holly is currently the Vice President of Marketing & Alliances at Lev and thrives on amplifying the Lev brand and helping fellow marketers understand how a consultancy like Lev can help them maximize their investment in Salesforce. Prior to joining Lev, Holly began her career in video and digital production before being a senior leader at Return Path and overseeing brand, digital, customer, and partner marketing. She earned a B.A. in communication from DePauw University.

Shawn Nussbaum. Shawn is a technical leader and consummate problem solver with over 25 years of experience developing software and leading high-performing teams. Shawn spent the last decade at Return Path where he led Product and Engineering and was responsible for setting the vision and culture of the organization, extracting meaning from email data, and applying technology as a force-multiplier to solve interesting and difficult problems for customers. Prior to Return Path, he helped launch two Internet companies and was an advisor and technical director for a consortium of insurance companies. He believes that empathy and usefulness are the keys to remarkable products.

George Bilbrey.  George is an experienced technology executive with over 20 years of experience running Product Management, Analytics, Service, and Customer Success organizations.  Most recently he was co-founder, President and Chief Customer Officer at Return Path and currently is the CEO at Signpost.  George started his career at Mercer Management Consulting (now Oliver Wyman).  George earned an B.A. from Duke University and an M.B.A from the University of North Carolina.

Nick Badgett. Nick is an experienced marketing leader with more than 15 years of experience working in both startup and enterprise environments across the B2B SaaS, Telecom and financial services industries. His approach to marketing has been shaped by experience in a variety of go-to-market roles including sales, sales support, and marketing. Before joining Bolster, Nick held marketing leadership positions with Emplify, Return Path, Salesforce and ExactTarget. Nick holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and a master’s degree in information & communication sciences, both from Ball State University.