CEO Summits at USV

Each year in May, USV hosts a CEO Summit for our portfolio network founders and CEOs.

Initially, we designed this day-long event similarly to what you might experience at a typical conference. It included a predefined agenda, packed with panel discussions, fireside chats, and presentations. While the summit did provide an opportunity for our CEOs to meet each other, interacting with each other was by no means the focus of the day.

The feedback we received was clear: Our CEOs wanted to spend less time passively listening and more time engaging. Preferably with each other.

Then Scott Heiferman, Meetup’s CEO, suggested something even more interesting–kick off the day with stories and lessons learned, opening up a safe space to share anything.

So we scrapped the format and started fresh. Rather than tee up topics that we thought our CEOs might want to hear, we had them drive the content, sharing questions or topics that they might want to discuss with their peers across the portfolio. We kicked off the day with a brave question: “What’s one success or failure you experienced last year that you would like to share?”

For the past five years, we have stuck to this format, and it’s been a game changer.

Now, prior to each summit, our CEOs submit lessons learned and current challenges, which we use to help curate breakout groups where they lead each other in conversation. By leveraging an “unconference style” model, our CEOs and founders learn from each other, rather than from us, which makes a lot more sense. In fact, we thought this idea was powerful enough that we built it into our USV Network guiding principles.

This year’s CEO Summit is coming up in May, and we are eager to see what new questions and topics surface at this year’s event.