Founder Interview: John Furneaux, CEO and Co-founder at Hive


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By Tribeca Venture Partners
John Furneaux, CEO and Co-founder at Hive

John Furneaux is the CEO and Co-founder of Hive, the secret behind the blistering pace of execution at brands like Uber, Starbucks, Netflix, and Google. John founded Hive after seeing a white space in the collaboration space, and coded the first iteration of Hive in the mountains of Lake Tahoe in 2016. Since then, Hive has grown rapidly, powering thousands of teams around the world.

Tell us about Hive and why you started the company?

Achieving your own goals is tough. That problem becomes a thousand times harder when you try to achieve things with a team. I learned this first-hand commuting between San Francisco and DC trying to help USAID (America’s foreign aid organization) deliver programs created in DC and executed in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. It was shocking to realize how hard it was for well-meaning humans to accomplish their mission together, especially for such important initiatives. Hive burst out of me as a desire to help teams achieve their shared goals, no matter where they are or what they might be working on.

What’s been the most important milestone for you and the Hive team?

Meeting Eric, my Co-founder. I hope that my future marriage is as successful as my relationship with my Co-founder Eric — he’s my rock.

You’ve had an impressive customer list since inception. What’s your advice for securing key customers such as Google, Netflix, and Starbucks?

Everyone wants to work better together — it doesn’t matter what the badge is on the door. Being intimidated by big brand names is silly because they have trouble with the same things as you. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.”

We follow the Hive Productivity Blog and #ProductivityHacks. What are your Top 3 Productivity Hacks for startup founders?

  1. Eat the frog — This is the idea that you do the task you’re looking forward to least, first thing in the morning. It’s best to get it done instead of procrastinating.
  2. Pomodoro method — I don’t always use it, but I always get great results when I do.
  3. Sunday launch — Your week starts on Sunday evenings, so I like to get a head start for the week ahead on a Sunday.

What else do you need to know before becoming an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurship has nothing to do with making money. It’s far from the best way to do that. What it does do is allow you to test an idea you have about the world. That’s a huge privilege and the justification for spending five years of your life eating ramen.

Hive Team

Our TVP Founders tell us there are so many lessons in entrepreneurship. What’s the biggest lesson from your Hive journey?

One reason that I am so averse to giving specific ‘advice’ to entrepreneurs earlier in their journey than us is the belief that lessons are heavily context-specific. What worked in one situation may be a blunder in another. To repurpose Samuel Butler’s words, “Startups are like playing a violin in public, and learning the instrument as you go.” The only way to start that engine is to pick up the violin and play the first note.

What’s your advice on what an entrepreneur should look for in an investor?

Great investors understand the balance between providing counsel and letting the team execute. They have the humility to realize they’re at 10,000 feet, far from the day-to-day execution. They understand the moments they can influence a startup for the better, and the times a management team should be left to figure out their own problems and learn from their mistakes. I’m told this has a lot in common with parenting!

How do you deal with failure or setbacks as you build a startup?

If you can’t deal with failure, don’t found a startup. Failure is a healthy and critical part of startup life. I choose the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.”

How do you balance being a CEO with everything else in your life? 

For the most part, Hive is my life, but to mentally reset I love to fly planes. I consider it a huge privilege to have taken friends and family over the Golden Gate Bridge and around the Statue of Liberty. The learned discipline involved in flying safely is very useful in my decision-making at Hive.

What are you currently reading/aspiring to read? 

Satya Nadella put out a list of his 10 favorite books last week, and I want to read them all. I’m kicking off by properly digesting Little Gidding by T.S. Elliot. My father raised me on poetry, and it has been too long since I escaped into a poem for an afternoon.

Words to live by…

“It always seems impossible until it is done” – Nelson Mandela