About

About The Blog

The Awesome Culture Blog was created to help leaders develop strong, aligned workplace cultures where people thrive. It combines my experiences as an entrepreneur (mostly from doing it wrong and learning from mistakes), as a coach/consultant working with some of the leading startups and fast-growing companies, and from what I’ve gleamed from my tremendous and ever-growing library of books and articles on the subjects of culture, leadership, organizational development, positive psychology and happiness.

About Me

Hi, I’m Dave Kashen.  I’m an entrepreneur, startup advisor/investor, leadership coach and culture development consultant. Over the past few years, I’ve worked primarily with CEOs of some of the leading startups and fast-growing companies to help them develop strong, aligned organizational cultures, and succeed in their missions to change the world and build thriving businesses.

If you’d like to contact me, please feel free to email me at: dave AT quantumleading.com.

In terms of my background…

Bullet Point Version

  • Grew up in NY
  • Wharton Undergrad (BS in Economics, summa cum laude)
  • Goldman Sachs (Investment Banking Analyst)
  • Moved to SF
  • SPO Partners (Investment Associate)
  • Joined Team In Training, got hooked on Triathlons/Endurance Sports (2 Half Ironmans, 10 Olympic Distances, and lots of ridiculously long bike rides)
  • Stanford MBA (focus on entrepreneurship / organizational behavior, Arjay Miller Scholar)
  • Wellsphere (Co-founder, acquired by HealthCentral)
  • Coaches Training Institute (Certified Professional Co-Active Coach)
  • Quantum Leading (Founder/CEO, Leadership Coaching and Culture Development Consulting)
  • Unleashed (Co-founder, Conference series focused on helping startup CEOs build workplaces people love)

My strategy for increasing the level of joy and fulfillment in the world:

Companies/Organizations: To coach/consult/train leaders and teams to build organizations in which people thrive.
Individuals: To develop technology that enables individuals to increase their levels of joy and well-being.
Education: To train parents and teachers in effective coaching skills and mindsets, and to ensure children are taught fundamental life skills that are critical to becoming fulfilled adults.
Government: To persuade key governments to use citizens’ happiness and well-being as the main driver of their policy decisions.

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Longer Version

I grew up in New York, and had a relatively typical upper middle class high school experience. After high school,  I went to the University of Pennsylvania.  During my first year there, I studied psychology and economics. I loved my psychology classes and was fascinated by the mystery of why people do what they do and how to live a happy life, and also felt drawn toward the world of business and the promise of financial success. Midway through my freshman year, an academic advisor encouraged me to transfer to Wharton’s undergraduate business program, because “if you think you’re going to want to be in business, any recruiter is going to wonder why you didn’t go to Wharton.”  So I did.  For the next three years, my classwork consisted primarily of courses ranging from accounting, finance and statistics to pricing derivative securities and bond math. I was on track to be a ‘quant jock’ of ‘The Big Short’ fame. And I was good at it. I graduated from Wharton with a near perfect GPA, and landed a job as an Investment Banking analyst at the venerable Goldman Sachs.

Career Phase I: Finance

I had a relatively positive experience at Goldman and made some amazing friends, but realized fairly quickly that I didn’t aspire to become a managing director and the role of a financial ‘agent’ was not what would ultimately fulfilling. After a few years at Goldman, I turned down an offer to become an ‘Associate’ and decided to move west and join a firm on the ‘buy’ side where I hoped I’d have a chance to actually understand what companies did and get more involved with helping them to do it better. I joined an extraordinary group in Mill Valley, CA called SPO Partners and spent the next few years learning how some of the best investors in the world make decisions. The team at SPO has been returning 30%/year for over 30 years. I learned a lot about the importance of doing your homework, being contrarian and building the conviction to see the big picture when everyone else was mired in emotional swings or short-term details.  But ultimately, I saw the way the rest of the team got excited when the market moved, and knew that my passions lied elsewhere. I wanted to create something in the world, and was intrigued by the tales of entrepreneurship I kept hearing from friends in the Bay Area. As part of my transition from NY to SF, I had gone from relative couch potato to weekend warrior triathlete. I joined Team In Training and trained for my first Olympic-distance triathlon, and was struck by the impact of constantly pushing yourself to do something harder than you’d ever done, and being part of an inspired group supporting each other toward a common goal. I was profoundly impacted by this experience, and found myself not just physically better off, but feeling more confident and happy than ever before.  This inspired me to want to help others make similar transitions in their lives.

The combination of my desire to create something, and my newfound passion for helping others live better led me to apply to Stanford Business School with the goal of becoming an ‘entrepreneur’ and creating a business that would help millions of people live healthier, happier lives.

Stanford Business School

The most powerful thing for me about my experience at Stanford was the notion that folks who had sat in my seat had gone on to run some of the most world-changing companies, organization and even governments in existence. Gone was the excuse that I didn’t know enough, that there was something else I needed before I could achieve what they did. Right or wrong, I came away with the idea that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to achieve, and have the impact I want to have on the world.

Career Phase II: Wellsphere

At Stanford I partnered up with a classmate who was a serial entrepreneur, and together, we started an online health company that came to be called Wellsphere. Our original vision for Wellsphere (then called Wellnet) was to create online communities within companies where employees could interact and support each other to make healthier choices as a way to reduce company’s healthcare costs and absenteeism, and increase productivity and engagement. We spent the first two years making just about every mistake in the book – most notably not having a clear, consistent direction and hiring people who did not share our values and vision. We focused most of our energy on trying to get stuff done, and very little on trying to build a great organization and culture. These mistakes combined were the most emotionally costly of any I’ve ever made. We nearly burnt the company to the ground, and left in our wake a trail of disgruntled ex-employees who spent a formidable amount of time and energy smearing our names, trying to persuade others to stay away and thwart our progress.  As you can imagine, this was extremely disheartening and made every step of the way in rebuilding the company exponentially more difficult than it otherwise would have been. At the time, I blamed most of the mistakes and issues on everyone else involved, but have since come to realize my role in the ordeal and have reconciled with many of the folks who were hurt by their experience.

Undoubtedly, this experience has strengthened my resolve to help others create work environments where people thrive. Fortunately, we were persistent (stubborn?) enough to keep going and ultimately rebuilt the company with a solid, passionate team, and evolved our business model to become an online consumer health media company with a unique and effective strategy for aggregating content and driving organic traffic. We grew the company from 100k monthly unique visitors to over 4mm in less than 18 months and were ultimately acquired by The Health Central Network at the end of 2008.  Wellsphere.com is still thriving as part of HealthCentral and many of the folks on our team are now working with my co-founder on an innovative new mobile health startup.

Career Phase III: Coach Dave

After the most intense 4 years of my life, I finally took the chance to step back and reflect on what I really wanted to do with my life. I hired a coach and went through a series of personal development programs, which led me to realize that (1) I’d been walking around believing a ‘story’ that I wasn’t good enough, (2) I’d been spending my life trying to prove to everyone that I was in fact good enough, and (3) that I could give up that ‘story’ and start living life authentically by doing what I really feel that I’m here to do.  I came to the conclusion that I’m here to help people (and groups of people) unleash their potential, and increase the level of joy and fulfillment in our society.

The strategy I jotted down for accomplishing this ‘big, hairy, audacious goal’ in my lifetime is:

Companies/Organizations: To coach/consult/train leaders and teams to build organizations in which people thrive.
Individuals: To develop technology that enables individuals to increase their levels of joy and well-being.
Education: To train parents and teachers in effective coaching skills and mindsets, and to ensure children are taught fundamental life skills that are critical to becoming fulfilled adults.
Government: To persuade key governments to use citizens’ happiness and well-being as the main driver of their policy decisions.

Progress to date:

I decided to begin by focusing on the Companies/Organizations ‘front’.  Most people in the developed world spend the majority of their waking hours at work, and find their experience at work to be detrimental to their well-being. Ironically, the few organizations that create an environment that energizes and empower their people are the ones most likely to be successful by conventional measures anyway. Helping organizations to bridge the gap between their current culture and their desired one is an incredible win/win opportunity to improve peoples’ lives and increase financial performance.  Wanting to gain the skills and knowledge to maximize my ability to make a difference for company leaders and their teams, I went through a coaching training and certification process, took courses on systems/organizational development, and began reading every book I could get my hands on about happiness, positive psychology, leadership, organizational development and culture.

With a 2-month old baby at home, I decided to resign from my position at HealthCentral (the company that acquired Wellsphere), leave my sizable retention package ‘on the table’ and take the leap to pursue my newfound mission full time by launching an executive coaching firm called Quantum Leading.

For the past few years, I’ve been working as an executive coach/consultant with CEOs of some of the leading startups and fast-growing technology companies to help them develop as leaders, build strong, aligned organizational cultures and enjoy the business-building journey. I’ve seen firsthand the incredible difference that leaders can make in the lives of the people working in their organizations by taking steps to create a strong, aligned culture.  In an effort to expand my impact beyond one company-at-a-time, I recruited a few other entrepreneurs and launched a conference series called Unleashed, with a vision “to create a more fulfilling and joyful world by empowering the next generation of business leaders to create successful workplaces that people love.”

And finally, I decided to launch the AwesomeCulture blog as a way to further spread ideas, insights and training that I believe can make a big difference in being an effective leader, building a strong, aligned company culture and enjoying the business-building journey. I hope you find it valuable, and please don’t hesitate to comment and/or contact me with your thoughts and questions.  Let the blogging journey begin…



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