The Balderton Collective CEO Retreat – The Remote Edition

Balderton’s biennial get together of all its portfolio CEOs, the Balderton Collective Retreat, was a little different this year.

One of the highlights of our calendar is our Balderton Collective CEO Retreat.

It's a few days where we gather our founders and CEOs together at some special location, listen to engaging speakers, build and strengthen relationships with each other, engage in entertaining activities and enjoy great food together. In 2018, we all got together in the Luberon. In 2016, it was at the Soho Farmhouse.

This year, we sadly had to skip the in-person food and fun. But we were lucky enough to get together anyway, albeit online, and we were joined by a collection of terrific guests.

Just to give you a flavour of what turned out to be a pretty enjoyable, albeit online, half day — here's a quick overview of the half day's of sessions.  

Keynote 1: Alex Dayon, Chief Strategy Officer, Salesforce — in conversation with Bernard 

Alex is Salesforce’s President and Chief Strategy Officer. Reporting to Marc Benioff, Alex is focused on creating business value out of technology disruption and market trends. Prior to this role, he led the Salesforce product organisation for 10 years, growing the product portfolio from $1B of annual revenue to $10B. Alex joined Salesforce in 2008 through the acquisition of InStranet, a leading knowledge-base company where he was a founder and served as its CEO. Prior to InStranet, Alex was a founding member of Business Objects SA where he led the product group for more than 10 years. Alex holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Centrale-Supelec in France.

Small group session 1: Sit down with Alex Dayon

This was a chance to ‘sit down’ with Alex and Bernard in a smaller group session.

Small group session 2: Business planning in the post-COVID world, hosted by Daniel

This was an opportunity for our founders to compare notes on how they have refactored their businesses to deal with dramatic market changes, and how they’re thinking about what’s next. The discussion focused on how companies should be assessing what the crisis has meant for their clients, the customers of their clients, their suppliers, and so forth. We noted there will be second and third-order effects as different constituencies adapt for a post COVID world. Startups need to be quick to spot these and capitalise on these changes.

Small group session 3: How to lead with empathy, with Minter Dial, hosted by Rob and Kiana

Forward-thinking leaders have long recognised the power of empathy in unlocking higher levels of success within their business. Faced with unprecedented circumstances, the need for empathetic leadership today is even greater than before. In this discussion, empathy expert Minter Dial shared results of his research into how empathy boosts engagement and innovation. Minter also discussed how to reinforce your level of empathy and propagate it strategically across the company. 

You can read Kiana's write up of the session here. 

Small group session 4: Returning to work in the ‘new normal’, hosted by James

In our session on returning to work, the group focused on how and when different countries were opening up, how to phase their own transition back to work and what may change permanently in how we work going forward. The key principles behind all of these decisions were:

  1. To prioritise employees health and personal choices in all instances
  2. To follow local legal guidelines, and
  3. To engage with all employees to make sure decisions are fully collaborative.

Keynote 2: Lord O’Neill of Gatley — in conversation with Tim 

Jim O’Neill is Chair of Chatham House. His previous roles include joint head of research at Goldman Sachs (1995–2000), as its chief economist (2001–10) and chairman of its asset management division (2010–13); creator of the acronym BRIC; chair of the City Growth Commission (2014); chair of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance [AMR] (2014-16); commercial secretary to the Treasury (2015-16). He is a board member, and one of the founding trustees of educational charity SHINE. Lord O’Neill was created a life peer in 2015 and serves as a crossbench member of the House of Lords. He is an honorary professor of economics, University of Manchester, and holds honorary degrees from the University of Sheffield, University of Manchester, University of London and from City University London. He received his PhD from the University of Surrey and is now a Visiting Professor there.

Keynote 3: Eddie Izzard — in conversation with Suranga

Hailed amongst the foremost stand-up performers of his generation. Star of stage and screen. A tireless supporter of charity. Runner. Political campaigner. Fashion icon. Human. Eddie Izzard is all of these things and more. Eddie has toured and performed internationally in English, French, Germany and Spanish (with Arabic and Russian still to come). In February 2020, he completed 29 marathons in 29 days across Europe. A follow up to a similar challenge of 43 marathons in 51 days for Sports Relief in 2013. He has also campaigned in support of the EU, the Labour Party, voting reform, and as transgender, for LBGT equality.

Finally, chat, music, cocktails

And because it isn't all about work, we finished up with chat, cocktails and music from The Pete Box, who created a very special piece of custom music in collaboration with Balderton teams and CEOs. Pete joined us for a jam session, and it was truly splendid to see everyone bopping from their living rooms with their kids. 

Thank you so much to our speakers and to everyone who joined.

We can't wait to see you all in person soon! 

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