Why Culture, Leadership, and DEI Matter in Startups, with Donald Thompson

How can leaders foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture – even when their business is first starting out?  When every dollar and every minute matters, culture can be secondary to everything else that needs to be done to keep the business afloat. So today, Donald Thompson shares how he created an affordable solution to DEI with his startup.

Donald Thompson is the CEO of The Diversity Movement and regular contributor to WRAL Techwire.


Trevor Schmidt: Today’s guest is Donald Thompson; entrepreneur, investor, executive coach, and CEO of The Diversity Movement.

If you’re in the Triangle area, you’ve probably read Donald’s weekly articles in WRAL Techwire, or you’ve seen him speak at Chamber events or on various webinars. He’s one of those guys who you just wonder how he gets it all done 

What you might be surprised to learn is that he’s actually a bit of an underdog. He had dreams of making it to the NFL but his ceiling was practice squad superstar at East Carolina. He dropped out of college to start a career. For Donald, it was all about hustle, being the best at what he was doing, reading everything he could get his hands on, and learning from mentors.

Donald Thompson: And I talked to you offline about Fred Hutchinson, who is the legal counsel for an early company, I was involved in called I-Cubed, uh, Grant Willard, the founder of I-Cubed, a good friend of mine and my mentor is one of the folks that really, instead of just treating me like a quota carrying sales guy, he taught me the business of technology and he taught me that if you work hard over a longer period of time, you can have this thing called an exit. Right. And I’m like, what’s that right? I see exits in the movie theater exits, you know, and everything’s just like, well, there’s some more profitable exits that can occur. And most of the time you only dream right at the level of your exposure.

Trevor Schmidt: Eventually i-Cubed was bought out by Adobe, which only wanted the software. Donald coordinated an employee buy-out of the remaining assets and became the CEO. He grew that company from 16 people to 150 before a successful exit. But while growing, he made mistakes along the way.

Donald Thompson:

One of the reasons I’m a great executive coach is I’ve done more dumb things than you’re thinking about doing. So I can, I help people a lot and then I’m not judgmental about it. So number one, cash is king. And you can have all of these big ideas, right, but when you’re running a small company, if you’re bootstrapping that business, cash is the lifeblood. And you’ve got to think about that in the constraints of every decision that you make. 

Full Episode Transcript

Hosted by Trevor Schmidt, Founder Shares is brought to you by Hutchison PLLC, and is edited and produced by Earfluence.

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