Mark
Dempster

Chief People Officer, The Circle

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” —Booker T. Washington

Catering to founders of start-ups was born out of Mark’s 21 years in venture capital and 31 years in marketing. Having had a seat around the Monday morning Partners table at Sequoia Capital afforded Mark the distinct privilege of working with some of the finest minds in entrepreneurship and company building.

I started working with Mark (way back) in 2000 when both he and I were the Sequoia<>SVB relationship managers, a partnership that we cultivated for 13 years together. That’s when I witnessed how he repositioned Sequoia as the very first “services” brand in the venture business. With Mark’s guidance, the Partnership understood that, when raising money from a venture firm, the founder was actually in the process of purchasing a service where capital was but one of those business-building menu items they were seeking. And that the founder was prepared to pay for those services with a most precious currency—shares in their company. In short, the founder was the customer, not Oliver Twist, asking for another bowl of porridge from the Headmaster.

As the firm’s Marketing Partner, Mark schizophrenically embodied two roles at Sequoia—the firm’s external marketeer plus the founder’s internal service provider—and multiple personalities in between—positioner, messenger, storyteller, slide master, speaker coach, communications planner, webmaster, event producer, P.O lead generator, and Rolodex referrer.

He catered to every one of the start-ups that Sequoia partnered with–from those who amounted to two engineers, some code, and a dog to those whose size and speed made public company wooly mammoths run for the hills.

He had the privilege of plying his trade with those innovative fireballs who took the brave leap during the young days of the 21st century – Ashar Aziz, Sanjit Biswas & Hans Robertson, Brian Chesky, Patrick & John Collison, Kevin & Julia Hartz, David Helgason, Reid Hoffman, Steve Hafner & Paul English, Drew Houston & Arash Ferdowsi, Tony Hsieh, Chad Hurley & Steve Chen, Jan Kuom, Phil Libin, Fred Luddy, Hosain Rahman, Steve Streit, Peter Thiel, Marco Zappacosta, Nir Zuk – and scores of other incredibly talented innovators.

Mark is incapable of saying “no” to those whose impressive IQ, domain expertise, and technical prowess are exceeded by their EQ, passion, and grit. What gets him up in the morning and puts the beat in his step is the chance to help them sharpen their aim to change a corner of the world and reconfigure the balance of power in their industry. The glass, when optimistically half full, allows him to dream that these founders have a real shot of making both an economic impact and a human impact on those they serve (the former must precede the latter).Through these founder stories, Mark derives his empathy for the highs and lows of their entrepreneurial journey. It’s also where he gets his passion to solve the “lonely leader problem” that comes from encountering issues and opportunities, unique to companies of this size and speed, and often having no one that they can turn to for ideas or guidance. From these threads, Mark is weaving the fabric of our firm’s most coveted relationships via The Circle, which he founded as a private leadership community. A peer-to-peer network where each member helps to scale one another so they all can scale their companies.

by Ken Loveless