Xoom's John Kunze: 'We, Not Me'

Today Xoom announced the closing of its merger with PayPal.  This also marks the closing of a personal chapter in my own life, as my role as a director of the company comes to an end.  

Xoom has been a great way to conclude the venture capitalist chapter of my life.  It has been an amazing journey. I first met the Xoom entrepreneurs 9 years ago and led a venture round in the company. Back then the company had 20 people and had just started generating revenue with on-line money remittances.

Then, Xoom's business started to take off.  There was a public offering in 2013 (see the Times Square billboard above), and a merger with PayPal announced this past summer (more here).  In the past 12 months, Xoom's 1.5 million active customers sent approximately $7.1 billion.  Yes...over $7 billion has flowed through Xoom's network to people in 40 countries, such as Mexico, India, Philippines, China and Brazil. 

This post is a shout-out to John Kunze, Xoom's CEO, with whom I've had the privilege to work for these past nine years. 

If you know John, you would immediately realize John is not the kind of guy who wants a post written about him.  If there is one word that best sums up John, it is this: humble.

John is a very effective leader, and so, I wanted to pass along four leadership nuggets observed from seeing him in action these years:

The "Why" in the Mission:  Xoom has a very personal mission of delivering global on-line money remittances.  John often introduces the company, as "We put chicken on the table for Mom back home."  Yes, that is "What" Xoom does.  But for John, he has made this into a bigger mission of "Why" Xoom does what it does.  Note that Simon Sinek has an amazing Ted Talk on the power of Why.  He asserts that the best leaders can explain why their companies exist. I think John is a great example of this. 

IMO, if you're an entrepreneur, ask yourself this: "Am I explaining why my company exists rather than just what we do?"

"We," Not "Me":   John is a "We" leader.  In group discussions, internal memos and board packages, the team talks about what they are doing as "We."  The concept of "I" has been purged from the collective culture.  There is no "I did this"," I deserve this," "I should get the credit."  There is a discernible difference on how much more powerfully a "We" culture gets everyone together.  You can feel the difference. 

Just Say "No":   It is easier to say "Yes" than to say "No".   A pivotal moment in the company occurred a few years back when John (with his team)  decided to say "No" and discontinue one of their product lines. The reclaimed energy was redirected back into the company, creating increased focus. 

Our human tendency is to spread ourselves too thin, to dabble, as we get excited about new initiatives.  We all yearn to be tinkerers.  Much has been written about the Google and Facebook product innovation experiments: just let ideas spark, put a few people on it, and see what happens.  Yes, that can work in some cultures.  But many, many more start-up cultures might benefit from the discipline of saying "No" more often.

Try this out in your next team meeting, what is one thing you could eliminate and just say "No"?

Time: Your Most Valuable Asset.   Of course, you know this one...we all know this one.  But what are you doing to manage your time better?  John runs Xoom to a clock.  Actually there are many clocks, one in each conference room, all displaying the time in BIG numbers visible to all.  When time becomes front and center, available as a metric, it becomes a tool in your leadership toolkit.  Let's agree upfront to run our meetings on time.  Guess what happens?  Meetings run on time.   Imagine what you could accomplish with the hours and weeks of productivity saved.

The weeks and months ahead for Xoom are exciting ones as the company's employees will be integrating with PayPal.  I wish John and everyone at Xoom the best of luck with this next phase.

And, a heart-felt thank you to John for all you have done for Xoom, and for all those customers whom you helped to put meals on their tables back home.  It truly has been a pleasure to work with you.

I miss you all already.

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