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Andy Dunn

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Bonobos founder Andy Dunn was born February 20, 1979, and grew up in Chicago, IL. His father was a high school history teacher. His mother, who had immigrated to the United States from South Asia at twenty, ran an ultrasound department. Dunn’s first job was working alongside his mother in the hospital darkroom, developing X-rays.

Dunn attended Northwestern University, graduating with a degree in BA in Economics and History in 2000. After graduation, he spent three years as a Senior Associate Consultant at Bain & Company. He then took a position at Wind Point Partners, working as a Private Equity Associate until leaving in 2005 to attend Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Finishing his MBA in 2007, Dunn plunged right into entrepreneurship. He founded Bonobos that summer, with Stanford housemate Brian Spaly, who would leave the company in 2009. The co-founders aimed to provide men with better-fitting clothes, launching with khakis designed to end “Khaki Diaper Butt.” The company was built on a direct-to-consumer business and customer service model inspired by Lands’ End, a catalog-based retailer Dunn had worked with at Bain & Company.

The company now also offers a women’s wear brand, Ayr, and a golf apparel brand, Maide. In 2015, they launched unique Guideshops, a bridge between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. These small shops carry no inventory, instead offering customers a chance to browse clothes and find their best fit before placing an online order. Bonobos will have twenty of the innovative shops open by 2016. In 2014, the company was listed by Crain’s as one of the top 50 places to work in New York City. Dunn himself made Crain’s New York Business’ 40 under 40 list in 2013, and was listed by Fast Company as one of 2014’s Most Creative People in Business.

In addition to serving as CEO of Bonobos, Dunn has expanded his vision to foster other entrepreneurs. In 2011, he founded Red Swan Ventures, an angel investment firm focused on building consumer Internet companies.

Dunn is also a vocal advocate for women’s equality in education, business, and leadership. He was a founding board member of Blue Engine, an education social enterprise that trains recent college graduates to work with high school students, helping them cultivate skills for academic success.

Companies and Investments

Bonobos (Founder, CEO), Red Swan Ventures (Founder), Wind Point Partners (Private Equity Associate), Bain & Company (Senior Associate Consultant)

Lessons Learned

Joel Peterson, a Stanford GSB lecturer and our first angel investor, once told me, "You catch more flies with honey." There are some schools of management that tell you to set a high bar and withhold praise, or to motivate by fear; I have come to believe more in Joel's approach. It's like plants leaning into sunlight. You condition people to embody the very qualities you are praising. When I started to do this, it created an environment where it is OK for people to offer recognition to their direct reports. Slowly, the culture began to flourish. (Andy Dunn on cultivating employees, leading through support rather than fear, in an interview with Insights by Stanford Business)

It's easy as a leader to point fingers and blame people because you have power and authority. The reality is, you can't blame employees, because if they aren't doing well, it is your responsibility to move them out. Not only can you take responsibility, but you have to take responsibility. Everything the company does is in your purview. As the CEO, you are responsible for everyone who is there, and as founding CEO, you can't even blame it on your predecessor. You can make all the excuses you want about how the world changed, etc., but if you fail, no one cares why it didn't work. It can feel psychologically daunting to think of things this way — it's all your fault and nobody cares why it didn't work if it doesn't work — but it's also empowering. If you recognize you have agency in creating problems, then you can solve them, too. (Andy Dunn on the role of the CEO, not passing blame, and the responsibility of leadership, in an interview with Insights by Stanford Business)

Passion is a prerequisite. So is an unfair advantage. This world is intensely competitive. It's not so much a question of whether you are a high-potential entrepreneur or whether your idea is great, but are you a high-potential entrepreneur for that great idea?

Before Bonobos, I worked on an idea for a personalized content magazine, similar to Instapaper. There was no reason I was the right person to build that business, and therefore I didn't. People say great companies are built by great teams. I think that's true. But I look for more than just great teams and great ideas; I like ideas that are uniquely authentic for that particular team. (Andy Dunn on the winning combination of passion and personal authenticity, in an interview with Insights by Stanford Business)

Inspiring Quotes

On good teams coaches hold players accountable. On great teams players hold players accountable.

Joe Dumars

The only thing that will wreck a company faster than the product CEO being highly engaged in the product is the product CEO disengaging from the product.

Ben Horowitz

A leader is best when people barely know that he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will all say, ‘We did it ourselves.’

Lao-Tzu

Even though you are the entrepreneur you need to make a gift of the company to those who are in it.

Mark Leslie

Andy Dunn's Quotes

There are two basic ways to motivate people: fear and joy. I think the former is easier in the short term, and the latter is harder but more sustainable for the long term.

Andy Dunn

The most important people to the culture are those who leave.

Andy Dunn

If you understand business, you shouldnt read business books; you should read about human nature.

Andy Dunn

Passion is a prerequisite.

Andy Dunn

As CEO, when things go well, your job is to pass the credit on to someone else. But when things go wrong, its your fault.

Andy Dunn

Influential Books

Jhumpa Lahiri - Interpreter of Maladies

Daniel Goleman - Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Ian McEwan - Atonement: A Novel

Ben Horowitz - The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers

Michael Lewis - Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Mentors

Joel Peterson

References


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