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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

A qualified lawyer with degrees in political science and business administration moved to Silicon Valley to follow his passion for banking and internet. He took up investment banking, focusing on IPOs and M&As. Having spent some time in this role, he wanted to get to the other side of the table. He left banking and moved to one of the earlier Internet companies helping them on finance and strategy. Embracing every opportunity he has had, Zander Lurie has travelled a long way and is now the CEO of online survey platform SurveyMonkey turning people’s opinions and voices into actionable data. He has been on a few leadership roles at top companies including GoPro, CBS Corporation etc.

Early career...

While at B-School, he got interested in banking and took up internships in New York with Price Waterhouse Coopers and Chase. After the MBA, he joined JPMorgan Chase & Co full time as an associate during the internet boom and moved to San Francisco. He helped the internet companies with strategic advice, capital raising through private financing, going public, mergers and acquisitions etc. He played a major role in the evolution of the Internet landscape.

Joining the action team...

Spending six years in the field of investment banking with client engagement like NBC / iVillage, Experian / PriceGrabber, Scripps / Shopzilla, News Corp. / Intermix, InterActiveCorp / Ask Jeeves and MLBAM / Tickets.com, he so wanted to be on the other side of the game. He then moved to CNET Networks, one of the earlier Internet companies as it's SVP of Strategy and Development in 2006. Lurie was the Chief Financial Officer and head of Corporate Development when CBS Corporation, the big broadcaster acquired CNET. He spent another two years with CBS Interactive as CFO & Head of Business Development overseeing finance, investor relations, planning and corporate development and two years with the parent company, CBS Corporation as Senior Vice President, Strategic Development holding strategic planning responsibilities across the Corporation.

Lurie was an executive at Guggenheim Digital Media, owner of high profile brands Dick Clark Productions, the LA Dodgers, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and AdWeek, for a year to help former Yahoo executive Ross Levinsohn to build up a digital portfolio, before joining GoPro in 2013.

The stint at GoPro...

Lurie moved to the action sports camera company GoPro as it's Senior Vice President of Entertainment in November 2014 where his knowledge of the new and traditional media marketplace coupled with the skill set of deal-making, financial oversight, and online content development of news and entertainment were put to good use. He built a great unit adding staffers from a number of media entities. He had put in a lot of efforts to build an entertainment business to fit alongside the hardware and accessories business to tap the compelling opportunity for GoPro to become an entertainment destination. He split jobs with SurveyMonkey following the sudden demise of its CEO when he served briefly as SurveyMonkey's interim CEO and Executive Chairman. He stepped down in January 2016, but continues to support as the Board member of GoPro.

Leading the online survey giant...

After the tragic death of his close friend and then CEO Dave Goldberg in May 2015, Lurie, who was also a board member, stepped in to run online poll taking service provider, SurveyMonkey on an interim basis for three months while a new CEO was appointed. As the new CEO stood down in less than six months, Lurie was named CEO in January 2016. He has been on the Board since 2009. He had to make some tough calls immediately after stepping up as CEO like cutting down the salesforce by 12% to refocus its resources on core business. The company has been introducing many innovative services under his leadership like the mobile apps analytics service, People Powered Data platform, including SurveyMonkey, SurveyMonkey CX, SurveyMonkey Audience, SurveyMonkey Apply, SurveyMonkey Engage, SurveyMonkey Genius etc.

Ninety-nine percent of Fortune 500 companies, including Kraft Foods, Facebook, and Samsung, are SurveyMonkey customers for internal feedback or for marketing purposes. The company is expected to go public later this year which will probably be one of several highly-anticipated IPOs. Headquartered in San Mateo, California, the company is advised by prominent tech executives including Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Sue Decker, Brad Smith, Dana L. Evan, Ryan Finley, Lee Fixel, Ben Spero and Tennis superstar Serena Williams. It is named among the 45 Best Companies to Work For in the Bay Area by Great Place to Work and Fortune in 2018. With 700+ employees throughout North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific, the company is continuing to innovate products and solutions with new technologies like AI and machine learning and aggressive growth plans. The company has been adopting so many industry-leading employee policies such as the extension of health benefits to support the family of contractors, unlimited Personal Time Off, 16 weeks of paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, extended bereavement leave, appointing more and more women in senior leadership positions etc. Fueled by diversity and innovation, Lurie has successfully built an inclusive environment where everyone feels their voice can be heard and questions are welcomed.

Personal life...

Lurie holds an undergrad degree in Political Science from the University of Washington, Seattle and a J.D. and an M.B.A. from Goizueta Business School, Emory University. He went to law school and passed the California Bar in 1999. An avid skier, cyclist, golfer, poker fan and runner, Lurie has a few New York Marathons and triathlons under his belt. He is married to Kristin Vogelsong, an actor and screenwriter and has three kids.

The compassionate side...

In 2001, with his childhood friend, Leah Bernthal, Zander co-founded a nonprofit organization called CoachArt in memory of his father Dr. Arthur Lurie, a cardiac surgeon who saw the need for providing long-term care and support for pediatric patients. Nicknamed as Art, he loved teaching and mentoring children. He was lovingly called as “Coach Art” by many of the kids he worked with, thus the name. The organisation aims at bettering the lives of not only the chronically ill children, but also their siblings, who are often neglected due to the needs of the other child. Operating in Northern and Southern California, the organisation offers free, high-quality athletic and art activities to improve a skill, uncover hidden talents and passions, and simply have fun.

His two cents for the future start ups...

Don't let yourself get intimidated of funding.
Pursue the business where you are passionate about products you are building and customers you are serving.
When you are hiring, rather than focusing on credentials on a resume alone, ask the right questions to ensure that you are enriching and strengthening your troop.

Associations and memberships...

Member of Board of Directors of GoPro, Grokker
Chairman of CoachArt
Previous member of Board of Directors of Edmunds.com, Pacific Community Ventures and Target Spot
Previous Chairman of Board of SurveyMonkey

Quotes...

As you get older there will be times when you are thrown into the figurative fire and you have to dig deep and figure out ‘What are we going to do?’ You look back to the compass. As long as you have the best interest of colleagues, workers, friends, and family at heart, you’ll make the best decision possible at that moment.
Successful businesses are driven by curious leaders who are listening to the market and meeting the needs of their customers and employees. The companies that are curious about what their customers, employees, and the market are saying are the ones that will evolve and thrive.
Make questions and curiosity central to your daily work and the company culture. Create an environment of transparency where people can get genuine answers and all kinds of questions are valued.
Make sure you and every member of your team are in regular direct contact with customers to boost the organization’s overall curiosity about customers.
If you’re not willing to acknowledge failure and celebrate what happened and what you learned from it internally, then the people you’re asking to take risks and bring ideas are going to be hesitant to that. If they only acknowledged when there’s a big win, and who people fail are punished or not given the next opportunity, then they are not to take risks. Risk is the only way to move forward.

Hope readers caught up the spark...

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