Joe Dunn

Executive and Founder Leadership Coach

Who I Am

I’m a leader, a mentor and coach with over twenty years of experience in fast-moving software startups. I have worked at all stages, from being one of “three guys in a room”, to going public, to being an officer of a public company.

I was a key early member of three startups that became successful public companies, and a fourth that was sold for $250M+.

What I Do

I work with talented founders, executives and technical leaders to build mastery: of necessary day to day skills (personal interactions, administration, projects, hiring), and of the deeper issues of  individual, cultural and organizational growth.

Download a one-page summary of my background and services here.

Why I Do It

I love the moments when it all clicks. When leadership, teamwork and creativity come together to build something great. When people are working above the best they could imagine. When a vision suddenly becomes attainable.

I want to help you get there.


More about coaching, managing change , startup advice and my background.

Executive and Founder Leadership Coaching


I work with talented, high-performing executives, technical leaders and founders at fast-moving tech startups.

I will work with you to accelerate and focus the personal and professional growth that is inherent in building a tech company.

My goal is to help you master your immediate challenges whilst greatly increasing your capacity to lead a strong, vibrant, rapidly growing organization.

We start by identifying the issues that are challenging you now, today, and use those as “jumping off points” to address personal and organizational growth and change.


We will work at multiple levels: Tactics, Strategy and Growth.

Tactics are the many day to day skills of management: hiring, presentation, time management, public speaking, personal interactions, meeting management (and many more!)

In Strategy we get to deeper skills of long-term vision: assessing risk and potential, market dynamics, technical innovation, building corporate culture.

And all of this comes together in Growth: what are your core values? how do those mesh with the organization? what deeper strengths do you need as an executive for the next big moves in your career? how developed is your personal power and how well do you focus and deploy it?


By the end of the engagement, we expect to have addressed the initial issues that we started with, and have a solid path defined for the future.

You, and your organization, will have developed new skills and approaches at multiple levels, and be fully ready for the next phase in your personal and organizational growth.

Get In Touch

Get in touch and let’s discuss how we can move you and your organization through the next phase of growth, change and success.


Startup Experience

My entire career has been as an early employee in startups. I have experienced every phase of growth, from “three guys in a room with an idea” to successful public offerings.

I have shipped brand-new products, legacy products, been through exponential growth, flat spots and downturns, initiated complete company “pivots” and built organizations from scratch.

Whatever phase you and your company are in, I’ve been there, and can bring my experience to bear.

Life Experience

I have routinely taken time away from the industry, and built skills that provide helpful perspectives from outside the cube and conference room:

  • meditation and mindfulness: a twenty year practice
  • yoga: a ten year practice
  • improv: a twenty year practice
  • writing and performing: a ten year practice
  • surfing: an almost twenty year practice

When these merge with practical consideration of tactics, they can provide breakthrough skills in your growth as an executive (improv for a perspective on public speaking, mindfulness for stress etc).

“Joe is the person I turn to with my most troublesome challenges. His clear thinking and incisive mind invariably get me quickly to the nub of any issue. Joe has seen it all and done it all in the tech business – from engineering to product to strategy to M&A to just getting s*** done.”Tom HaleChief Product Officer. HomeAway
“While I was CEO of Simple Star, Joe mentored and coached me through a period of dramatic product evolution and exciting business growth. Joe continually delivers indispensable creativity, strategic focus and deep product insights. He is a phenomenal secret weapon to have in your back pocket.”Chad RichardSenior Director World Wide Product Marketing. Apple
“If you want to get better at strategic focus, leadership, hiring, directing and overseeing complex projects and organizations, there are few better than Joe from whom to learn.”Norm MeyrowitzPresident Products. Macromedia (retired)
“Joe was the boss that taught me what bosses need to be like. There are very few people with his ability to do two things: see what a product needs to be and do to have the foundation to grow; see what a person needs to grow and be successful.”Deirdre DaviDirector of Business Marketing, North America at Facebook
“Equal parts mentor, unrelenting coach, and insightful sounding board, Joe has a knack for helping you ask yourself the tough questions about your product, your market, and your business… and then guiding you down a path to find the answers.”Mike EdmundsSr. VP Engineering. Eyefi



Change is the Only Constant

Mastering an approach to change is a critical skill for any executive in a tech environment.

To know where you are in a change cycle, to be comfortable with uncertainty, to know when to motivate change and when to move with it are skills that are crucial to a developing career and organization.

Inflection Points

Change is rarely gradual. The most challenging moments come at inflection points in the growth of an organization or a personal career.

Sometimes it’s important to react to an external force (competition, technical innovation) by pushing an organization into a new phase. Sometimes the organization itself is changing naturally, and the skill is riding and maintaining the momentum of that change.

We will work to discover where you are in your current change cycle, and how to use the situation to build both practical and strategic skills.

Phases and Moments

Any of the following may be moments when your approach to change (and that of your organization) may become challenged. My experience includes all of these and more. It helps to have a guide!

  • sudden growth: a revenue or traffic burst
  • sudden requirement for growth: funding
  • going public
  • acquiring or being acquired
  • transition from technical to management
  • transition to an executive level
  • flat spots and roadblocks
  • losing (or gaining) a critical team member
  • gaining new leadership
  • a significant company pivot

“A manager manages, but only a human soul gifted with imagination has the resilient artistry to work with forces that call for deeper strategies than containment.”

David Whyte

Startup Advisor


I enjoy working as a close advisor to startups.

The best fit is with organizations who are looking to:

  • hone and focus their product strategy and market fit – quickly moving from great ideas to great products in the context of a solid long-term vision.
  • grow more mature management styles and techniques, typically during a period of rapid growth

During the past two years I have become a strong advocate of Lean Startup approaches, both using them in developing personal projects and advising early stage startups as they move through the customer development process.

  • Product Strategy
  • Product Design
  • Process, Management and Organization
  • Funding


Joe Dunn
Joe Dunn
I am deeply familiar with the challenges of managing in a highly dynamic environment. Managers must be growing and learning, constantly moving to the edge of their comfort zones and beyond, whilst maintaining coherence in their own lives and careers.

Download a one-page summary of my background and services here.


Chief Strategy Officer at Simple Star, a mid-00’s photo and multimedia startup.  Advised the CEO and the Board.  Sold to Sonic Solutions 2009.

Built the Shockwave.com team, and launched the site – one of the first online casual entertainment sites. Eventually sold to MTV Networks and became Addicting Games.

Executive in charge of engineering at Macromedia from an early startup stage through going public and beyond.   Officer of the company for six years.   Macromedia sold to Adobe in 2005.

Prior to Macromedia, Joe had a key early role at Frame Technology (went public).  He joined Acorn Computers (went public, now ARM), from Cambridge University where he studied Computer Science.


I’ve hired and mentored people who have gone from entry-level positions to the highest levels in the industry (Chief Product Officer of a public company, executive levels at Apple, Adobe and Facebook). I greatly enjoy working with the smartest and best as they develop their careers and talents.


My approach to technology has been eclectic.  I’ve worked on everything from tiny microprocessor operating systems to an augmented reality game for the iPhone.   Most recently I designed and shipped a “Quora for kids”.

I enjoy finding and developing technologies at an early stage when the stakes are high and there are more questions than answers.


I’ve been involved in, and had direct impact on, strategic direction and decisions from early in my career. I’ve been a key contributor and leader in decisions in everything from the “what ifs” of early personal computers to Macromedia’s successful transition to being an “internet company” to the creation of one of the internet’s first casual entertainment sites.


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San Francisco, CA.

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