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Startups

The Coaches Behind Startup Founders

Laura Behrens Wu, the 26-year-old co-founder and CEO of the shipping software startup Shippo, got some harsh criticism from an employee who quit about two years ago: She wasn’t an inspirational leader on par with Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. “I wasn’t living up to the expectation,” Ms. Behrens Wu said. Then she learned a secret of the startup world.

Ms. Behrens Wu discovered that many startup CEOs in her social circle were getting outside help to develop chief executive skills. They worked with startup coaches—under-the-radar professionals who typically provide a mixture of therapy, skills training and business advice to young entrepreneurs. To shed a light on how these people work with entrepreneurs, The Information has profiled six such coaches. To research the group, we talked with Silicon Valley investors, startup CEOs and the coaches.

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Methods: The firm has an index of 45 behavior traits that effective startup founders need, including the “need to delegate effectively and create accountable teams.” It measures clients against this index, using input it gets from people close to the clients. The firm spends six to 14 months to help them develop these skills.

More: The firm developed their index based on input from 150 senior leaders at startups.

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