SPECIAL: Brett Hurt shares how leadership just changed forever

Our friend, Brett Hurt, co-founder and CEO of data.world, joins us on today’s episode of the For You Leaders Podcast. Today, he provides his unique perspective on leading and communicating during difficult times.

Brett has learned from both major breakthroughs as well as major breakdowns: from taking a company public (Bazaarvoice) to his experience in the middle of the dot-com bust (Coremetrics). In this episode, Brett authentically shares his experience in both good and bad times.

Brett not only has a lot of personal experience of starting, growing and advising many successful companies but he is a voracious reader, writer and avid learner. You don’t want to miss the chance to hear from Brett as he provides actionable advice you can start implementing with your team (and family) today.

Key Takeaways

  • How leaders will need to change in the future to stay relevant and effective.
  • Honesty and transparency: people appreciate a good, honest answer.
  • How the machine has always worked is not how it always WILL work or SHOULD work.
  • Read Conscious Capitalism
  • Get Brett’s FREE book on entrepreneurship
  • Empathy during this time period seems obvious but we’re all going through the same thing together. 
  • We have more opportunities to have a human connection during this time and create even more empathy.
  • You can’t always do what you want, but you can do SOMETHING.
  • We can’t do this without our family and support at home
  • Engage in writing more often – it helps you make the right connections and understand even better.
  • You get to see how strong you are and how strong your team is during this difficult time. 
  • Brett’s Blog, Lucky7.io

Brett’s Open Letter to the data.world team


I’m a tangled hot mess of emotions this morning and wanted to address you on several fronts.

First, I know I’ve been pushing hard. Having led companies through crises before, it is important for me to do so as CEO. As I attend CEO discussions about what to do in this environment and read and hear about layoffs at companies here in Austin, many of which employ friends of mine (including a CEO that I adore that got let go last week), I know there will be a flight to quality for investors in this environment. Close your eyes for a moment and visualize the feeling of us beating our goals in this environment. Of us navigating our sales pipeline and customer up-sells to exceed. Go ahead and imagine how that would feel like when there is so much chaos around us. Jason Pressman would literally give us all a big bear hug. Our investors would be ecstatic. The feeling of pulling off “the impossible” would be euphoric. Just do yourself a favor and visualize it – live in that moment for just one minute. The power of visualization has been so strong in my life, and I’m sure you would agree that it has been in yours. Think about that goal that you wanted so bad and the euphoria you felt when you actually achieved it. There’s real beauty and power in that.

Yes, we would still feel for our brothers and sisters that are not as fortunate, as we should (and that feeling is deep for me as I know it is for you), but we would emerge as one of the winners amidst the noise. We would look back on these times as the times that even amidst a crisis we rose to the challenge and it was all because of our ability to navigate the environment – and the very important fact that our platform delivers real value for our customers. We see it in today’s metrics with how much the Associated Press, [one of the largest strategic global consulting firms], [one of the largest companies in logistics real estate], [one of the largest tech companies], and others are utilizing what we built together. We see it in our community numbers. We are going to crush our C-RADs goal – and our community member acquisition and RADs goal. So please know that this is where I’m coming from when I push hard – when I push us to be more action-oriented. I push us out of love for our mission, I push because I believe we can, I push because I know how companies are treated on “the other side” of a crisis when they beat their goals during one.

Second, at the same time, I’m deeply empathetic inside about what is happening. It breaks my heart to see my friends get laid off and small businesses that I love on the brink of going out of businesses. It breaks my heart to see the historic unemployment numbers, surpassing many “experts” predictions. Matt and I received this note from Kelly Wright, and she decided to turn it into a LinkedIn post. She is one of our best Advisory Board members, and I encourage you to read it. My heart sank when I read it. This is real, this is raw, and this is from a leader that proved the test of time at Tableau and prides herself on strength and action: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/covid-19-our-personal-journey-kelly-wright/.

I want you to visualize how we are going to act when this happens to someone on our team. If 100,000 to 240,000 Americans are doing to die from COVID-19, as Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx believe, then that implies a very high infection rate if you believe, as I do, that the South Korean death-rate numbers are the most accurate due to their much higher level of testing. It is highly unlikely that any of us will die from COVID-19, but it is likely that one or more of us will get it. Debra and I went to Costco three days ago and it felt very dystopian. I’ve never had such a wide range of emotions while shopping. “Am I doing the right thing by being here?” “What if this is the trip that makes me sick and my recovery scars my lungs and shortens my lifespan?” and, even, “Wow, we finally got some toilet paper.” (I never thought I would be thinking that in this country that is such an embarrassment of riches!) I want you to know that even as I push, and you know that I’m pushing from a place of love, that when one of us gets this nasty virus I believe our company will show them a level of love that is truly extraordinary. That it will continue to bring out the best in us. That cultures are defined in moments like this. That Mark Cuban has it right that brands will be defined for decades during this crisis (https://www.cnbc.com/video/2020/03/25/how-companies-respond-to-coronavirus-will-define-their-brand-for-decades-mark-cuban.html). I agree with his every word in this clip and we will be very cautious in returning to the office ourselves – as much as I love – really crave – working in person with all of you, having a drink together, laughing together. We are going to take our time and learn how to thrive in this “new normal” for months to come. And we’ve shown how it can be unique and fun in its own way (42 pages of comments in our last Show & Tell, really?!)

I do believe this crisis is bringing out the best in our teams and in each other. Embrace and appreciate that. In moments like these, you realize the importance of team and the value that each of us has to contribute to our team. You can push hard while being deeply empathetic inside. You can overachieve while also being present for your family and friends, and being a comfort to many that need your comfort now more than ever before (like you, I’ve been having many calls, many meetings, outside of data.world to see how I can help). You can choose to let this crisis bring out the best in you. One of the things I love most about being an entrepreneur is that it is a journey of self-discovery. You are all entrepreneurs here. You chose to join this early and help us all define product-market fit, build a terrific product, form our great services, and execute with love and determination. We are all in this boat together.

I want to reiterate that we are not talking about doing a RIF (Reduction in Force) and today Jason Pressman is speaking to an exciting candidate that may be joining us. We are pushing hard on hiring the best, albeit a smaller number than we were focused on hiring before. As we beat our goals, we will open up more budget selectively. As we navigate to verticals that are still buying in this environment – that see how we can help them save costs (most important to the majority of our prospects in this environment) and also drive opportunity (almost as important) – and we overachieve, it will free up budget. It will make us more confident in hiring closer to our original plan. It will make it more likely that we get to [a larger fundraise]. It will make our Board, and our investors, realize in this very real flight to quality that we are one of the winners amidst the chaos. And that we did it with heart, we executed with love, and we did it with community, determination, curiosity, passion, and integrity.

Yours in battle (and the world really is in a fight for survival right now),

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