This brief outline explores the near future of the Founder Book Club to ensure continuity, growth and maintaining core values. It also contains several things that are not written down elsewhere to ensure all readers are on the same page and to serve as input for other materials, like an introduction into the community.
Julian Jagtenberg has founded the Founder Book Club and is actively managing the club, including the newsletter, website, online database of members and books, and hosting the monthly club events. The Founder Book Club has grown to about 150 members, about 20% of whom are active and about 10% very active in the community. Members value the exchange of ideas and insights with fellow entrepreneurs who ‘live in the same mindspace’ as start-up founders.
Right now the requirements on Julian as founder and CEO of his commercial business have grown to the point where managing the book club has become a challenge, and he has asked the community to step up and help ensure the continuity of the club. Several active members have offered to help.
This proposal provides a structure to organize and formalize that offer of support into the outcomes of continuity, growth and maintaining the core values of the Founder Book Club.
Mission, vision, and principles
The mission of the Founder Book Club is to provide a space where start-up founders grow as people and entrepreneurs in a safe and stimulating environment by regularly exposing themselves to new ideas and information by reading books and to other ways of thinking by having open debate about these books and how they apply to members’ life and work.
The vision of the Founder Book Club to be the one place where any entrepreneur from any background, especially people who traditionally did not have access to quality business networks, can join and experience growth personally and professionally while net contributing to the growth of other members. Thereby the Founder Book Club contributes to the growth of a generation of entrepreneurs who create businesses that contribute to a fair, free and sustainable societies all over the world.
Principles of the founder book club include net contribution by everyone, respect and inclusion in word and deed, welcoming contrarian points of view, founder focus (versus business focus), aversion to ego and intolerance, and regular participation.
Leadership and Community
The leadership of Julian has been invaluable both in defining and growing the community and in setting the tone for discussions and leadership by example. Several active members have supported and grown the community, notably Julien-Paul Jukema by taking the initiative to host the first community event.
The community has weathered the pandemic years well by seamlessly going to an online meeting format. Recently, in-person and hybrid meetings have resumed.
The community values a number of explicit and implicit principles and rituals around the way discussions are held, that have ensured attaining the club’s aim to be a safe, shared space for entrepreneurs and regular reading in and out of everyone’s comfort zone.
Legal status and Management
Currently the club is not established as a legal entity. Initiating newsletters and meetings, the process of member onboarding and organizing book-focused events has largely been managed by Julian.
The systems of the founder book club include Airtable databases, Zoom communication software, Revue newsletter CMS and a website, currently managed and paid for by Julian.
Book-focused events: nearly every month there is a meeting of the Founder Book Club where the latest book is discussed. New members are introduced to the group, the group usually does some moving and breathing together to get in the same mindspace and then there is a structured discussion around several statements supplied by the participants.
[10 times a year.]
Community events: two to three times a year there is a community event where some members meet up in person for a weekend somewhere ‘off the grid’ featuring several activities around personal growth and development, growth and development as business leaders and relaxation.
Growth has plateaued in recent months but can easily be resumed through a combination of networking (tell a friend) by members and promotion at founder-dense locations online and offline, for example at the accelerator, incubator, or start-up spaces that members are a part of.
The Founder Book Club is not explicitly embedded in the start-up ecosystem by official association with other entities or by hosting events open to non-members. Both options can be explored.
FBC can be a headless brand  -> sharding. ToDo: FBC Manifesto proposal.
Explicit link participation and value of participation -> accrue value in the middle, discourage passivity.
Commitment conversion funnel
The Founder Book Club can be incorporated as a foundation (Stichting) under Dutch law and apply for the status of non-for-profit (ANBI), simplifying finances and taxes and making it independent of, and less burdensome to the founder while maintaining the upside for him and for the community.
As a foundation the Founder Book Club can invoice membership dues, carry the cost of digital infrastructure and events, and apply for subsidies and benefits targeted at entities that support start-up founders and entrepreneurs.
The statutes of the foundation provide a clear way to mandate responsibility for certain tasks to (board) members to share the burden of operations and ensure continuity and succession mechanisms.
The foundation can be led by a small board of active members who share leadership duties and are elected annually by the general membership. The nature of the community lends itself to having informal asynchronous communication between board members rather than regular time-consuming meetings.
The board of the Founder Book Club could consist of the following roles:
Chairman: nominal leader, owns the responsibility of opening and closing formal meetings and setting the agenda. Also steward of the mission, vision, principles, and values of the club.
Events manager: operational leader, schedules and coordinates the regular book-focused and community focused events and communicates this schedule to the membership.
Librarian: responsible for the database of selectable titles and coordinating the monthly selection and communication with the members to vote on the pick of the month. Also responsible for book reviews and coordination with authors.
Treasurer: responsible for the collection of membership dues, maintaining the financial administration and reporting, and paying the amounts owed by the foundation.
Content & Outreach officer: responsible for the newsletters to members and social media content and marketing efforts to potential members and partner organizations. Also responsible for maintaining the technical systems.
Community & membership officer: onboards new members, maintains the register of current members and moderates internal means of communication, as well as supporting members in bringing questions or issues to the board. This person is also steward of the safety and inclusiveness of the club.
Membership and dues
FBC wants to be both accessible to early-stage founders and financially sustainable. Founders of funded businesses and cash flow positive businesses are asked to pay a 5 Euro per month / 60 Euro per year membership fee, which is tax-deductible and includes the newsletter and monthly book-focused events. The (biannual or quarterly) community focused events are subject to separate fees. To keep the club accessible for early-stage founders we can consider a two month free introduction period as well as waiving membership fees for founders whose business is pre-funding and cash flow negative.
By incorporating the Founder Book Club as foundation and mandating several active members to share the duties now carried by Julian, the club can continue to add value for the community as well as for himself. I think it’s advisable for Julian to continue to be the nominal leader of the community in the role of board chairperson.