What triggered me most in the ScaleUpNation Board Program, is that the key driver for success, is the behavioral attitude of both the board members and the founder of the venture. Research conducted by Dr Natalia Blagburn (2022) taught us that the venture board effectiveness is driven by the behavioral characteristics of the board members.


Successful board members

Successful ventures have a CEO/venture founder who is coachable, receptive to advice, values the board and understands governance. Their non-executive directors truly understand the scaleup stage and what that means to gain high growth, they spend time with the venture, have regularly touch-bases with the founder as well as members of the executive board in order to gain a deep understanding of what is truly going on in the venture and are mentoring the founder in making the transition in becoming a CEO. The most successful venture capitalist directors were the ones who had a more portfolio mindset and were not solely focusing on winners. They are experienced in a large number of boards and have experience in the full lifecycle, from start-up up until an exit or failure, Blagburn (2022).


Re-imagining executive search services

In 2020, I conducted a research study for Nyenrode University if there is a need for re-imagining executive search services in a digital world. The title of Marshall Goldsmith’s famous leadership book: “What got you here, won’t get you there”, becomes in my belief a strongly growing phenomenon to deal with within executive search. Job descriptions are no longer linear written towards one role at one department, but are instead more and more blurred over different
business lines, Goodpasture (2010).

However, the recruitment methodology which most executive search agencies
are using, is the one of a behavioral-based interviewing approach, which is
founded on the premise that past performance is the best predictor of future
behavior. In my study I was wondering if this is still the best method for
executive search in a digital world. For my research, I interviewed Professor
Doctor B. de Wit, author of the book “Strategy, an international perspective”.
He explained to me that there is a paradigm shift happening from the industrial
era to the digital era, based on the theory of Perez (2002): “Each technological
revolution is different, each paradigm is unique, each set of solutions needs to be coherent with the problems to overcome and with the logic of the techno-economic paradigm, its opportunities and its best practices.”

Dr. Bob de Wit agrees with Perez’ view and mentioned there is a different type of leader needed at the end of a paradigm than at the beginning stage of a paradigm. This would support my hypothesis that executive search agencies should adapt their interviewing style in order to select the right candidate who could be the right fit for the future.

The idea that a new type of leadership criteria is needed in order to make a fit for the future is supported as well by futurist Frank Diana, Futurist at Tata Consultancy Services. Frank mentioned already in 2017 in his podcast with Gred Leonard that the exponential and combinatorial elements of current technologies make the future much faster paced than that we have ever experienced in the past. “One of the underlying or foundational reasons for that, is”, according to Frank, “that there are so many building blocks in place already. They can be combined in ways that create value fairly rapidly. And so, we are starting to see innovation exploding, as a result of combinations that smart people are leveraging to create value in so many different ways”, Diana (2017).


Predictable in an unpredictable world: life cycles for successful ventures

What almost felt contrary for me, based on the findings of my own research in which confirmed that the future becomes more and more unpredictable, that Blagburn’s research showed that the life cycle of successful scale-ups is actually predictable. Blagburns’ research shows that the stages through which a venture is going through are predictable, and one can draw a playbook for it, which both founders as board members can use to address the right topics in each fase of the lifecycle.

It fascinates me how that is possible: being predictable in a more unpredictable world and what behavioral characteristics should someone have in order to become this. I would love to have a conversation with the other Scaleupnation Board program participants and Natalia Blagburn about this topic to learn more.

Sylvia van Alphen

Headhunter for growth companies & scale-ups



[1] Presentation: Board Effectiveness- Dr. Natalia Blagburn

Author Bio

About Sylvia van Alphen

Sylvia, a ScaleUpBoard alumni of Class 12, is Headhunter for growth companies & scale-ups. She received an MBA in Marketing from Rotterdam Erasmus University and an Executive MBA in Digital Strategy and Transformation from Nyenrode University. She currently works as the Tech Talent Acquisition Specialist for Shyppie, a Recruitment Strategist for codecentric Nederland and is the Founder and Headhunter for MPWR Holding B.V. Sylvia also founded JUIZS Cold Pressed before executing a successful M&A in H12018 and successfully selling 51% of the shares in August 2018 to Fruity Line BV.

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