You don't need to come up with the idea for a story yourself to be an effective startup CEO, but you do need a sense of which stories could come true—and which ones most likely won't. When you find that story, you have to tell it, shape it as you go and make sure it comes to life as a real business.


I hear from people all the time who say that they can't be entrepreneurs because they aren't creative. I used to say it about myself. As a case in point, I didn't have the original idea to build an email change-of-address service. My original co-founder, James Marciano, did. Nor did I come up with the idea for an email deliverability business. My colleague George Bilbrey did. Nor did the idea for an inbox organizer consumer application occur to me. That was my colleague Josh Baer's idea. All of these ideas are part of the Return Path story and I've led the organization that either brought these ideas to life or shaped and turbo-charged them to scale.

It takes a lot of creativity, a significant amount of business acumen and great communication and execution skills to get from an idea to a business—or from a small business to a big one.

Many great companies begin with a wildly new invention, but sometimes the best ideas are borrowed from others or combined from sets of existing things. There's nothing wrong with that! After Steve Jobs died, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article claiming that he'd built the world's largest ...

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