How Leading Three Startups Shaped This Founder's Perspective on Positive Leadership by Jenna Abdou


In Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech, he urged the 2005 graduating class to fully embrace the journey of finding their passion.  

He said, “As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

I first heard Steve’s speech when my dad shared it with my mom, my brother Adam, and me over dinner. Although I was captivated by his presence, my 11-year-old mind quickly dismissed his call to action in favor of reading my favorite novel.

Nine years later, I visited Steve’s speech again. This time, during my last semester in college. 

Suddenly, his call to action was hauntingly real. At 20 years old, I struggled with the notion of how long it would take to find my calling. Or worse, if I would find it at all. 

The last few weeks have been a special time for me hosting 33founders. I’ve been blessed to see Steve’s insight manifest with each founder I meet.

The opportunity to spend time with bullishly excited, genuine, and honest founders is a blessing I am deeply grateful for. 

Perhaps, I’m even more grateful for the chance to watch them bring their visions to life. Just last week, Refresh was acquired by LinkedIn, Greg Hong and the Reserve team acquired zurvu and HAIL, and Spring announced they were releasing an Android app.

From our earliest episodes to my most recent conversation with Munjal Shah, the Co-Founder and CEO of Health IQ,  I owe each of these wide-eyed, ‘I can’t believe this is my job!’ moments to my family and the founders I’m meeting along the way.

I’ve always been a big fan of Oprah’s ‘A-ha’ moments, and my conversation with Munjal was certainly one of them. He sealed the deal on Steve’s quote, so to say. 

After selling his last company Like.com to Google, Munjal started Health IQ along with eight other co-founders in San Francisco. The team’s goal is to increase health literacy by empowering health conscious individuals to make even smarter decisions. The end goal is to make your Health IQ a number that matters, similar to your credit score. 

You earned it. You worked for it. But it’s not your asset, and we’re like why not? It’s your health equity. You built it up

In his episode of 33founders, Munjal explains that those with high Health IQ scores should be celebrated emotionally and financially.

Between my Aunt deciding to eat salmon for dinner after taking a quiz and my best friend sharing that there’s a new quiz on bone broth, my family and friends are obsessed with the app. The best part is the actionable micro-learnings that continuously influence me to make smarter health decisions. 

Whether it’s choosing the purple carrot for an additional boost of antioxidants or buying kale after learning it has the highest amount of nutrients per calorie, the app is making a hugely positive impact on my life. 

Munjal’s had an extremely impressive tenure in Silicon Valley. He sold his first company Andale to Alibaba in 2004 and most recently Google acquired his company, Like.com in 2010. He also invests in and advises startups like Meebo, Swell, and Refresh. 

Here are some of the key learnings he shared about being a founder and CEO in our conversation. 

  • Acknowledge the team members you bring on during the early days as co-founders. Forget exclusiveness and titles. Instead, celebrate the individuals who are working day in and day out to bring this vision to life.
  • Instead of evaluating potential team members based on past positions, focus on the personal and professional wins that are most significant. In addition to scoring high on Health IQ, potential hires are required to submit a brag sheet. Whether your middle school basketball coach described your defensive game as being the white on rice (Yes, my nickname was the bulldog), or you were the China Math Olympiad (Shuo, one of the co-founders at Health IQ, actually held that title) the Health IQ team wants to know. 

Usually what we find is that people who are great in a couple of dimensions are great at almost everything.

Munjal on using the brag sheet to evaluate potential hires.
  • When it comes to setting team goals set a simple plan rather than an astronomical vision. The simple plan isn’t intended to discourage you from visualizing massive goals; it’s simply to put your team in a position to achieve them. Munjal leads his team by setting a plan, a list of goals that can be met by simply coasting. A stretch plan, this is where the bonuses come in. And a super-duper stretch plan, which I like to call Hola Cabo San Lucas!  

People’s psychology is so much more powerful when they feel like they are winning instead of feeling like they are behind.

Munjal on how to set your team up for success.
  • According to Munjal: “The most important leadership skill period is optimism.”


In startups, there is marginal value for the devil’s advocate. The whole world is playing devil's advocate for a startup. I don’t need more people who say it’s not going to work.

While Munjal emphasizes the importance of being candid, he's adamant about cultivating an extremely positive culture.
  • For second and third time entrepreneurs, Munjal’s advice is to cling tightly to your rookie smarts. He found that the simplest way is to surround yourself with individuals who are irreverent. Translation: They’ll tell you when you’re full of sh*t. 

To gain deeper insight to each of these strategies, as well as additional advice on fundraising vs. bootstrapping and acquisition, tune into Munjal’s episode of 33founders

You can also sign up for Health IQ here - which I suggest you do immediately. 




Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • eero Designs Wi-Fi for the Smart Home Era — Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Principal at Shasta Ventures, recently distinguished exceptional founders by their ability to prioritize. “It all comes back to prioritization, speed, paranoia, and knowing that if you don’t iterate, even after finding product market fit, you can be disrupted by the next product,” he says.


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