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Martin Brauns: Retired Silicon Valley CEO and Evolved Leader

By Brad Kearns

Martin is the retired CEO of Interwoven, Inc. and all around peak performer striving to balance his natural competitive intensity with an evolved perspective. At Interwoven, Martin presided over a classic dotcom startup sensation, taking the web content management software company from the basement to a successful public offering at breakneck speed, riding the wave to a $6 billion valuation at one point, and then having to abruptly shift gears to weather the economic collapse and keep the entity thriving. Interwoven was later acquired by a larger enterprise and technically still exists today—probably a one in 100 success story in the world of high flying software startups. Martin is an understated guy quick to bestow credit to others. He avoids the spotlight and the silly excess consumption seen with many of his ilk. Only with coaxing from me did he dispense some of his fabulous leadership and peak performance insights that can help you understand how he got to the top of the most competitive economic environment on the planet by being kind, generous, open-minded, and leading a healthy, fit, and balanced lifestyle. You’ll hear how Martin worked his way through college, reached for and thrived in jobs that were above his qualifications, and managed the disparate challenges of growing Interwoven at record pace and then quickly having to tighten the reins and get lean ‘n mean. While Martin followed the classic script of striking Silicon Valley gold and retiring to the top of the hill before reaching 50, the story takes some surprising twists and turns toward the end. As he (literally) sailed off into the sunset, Martin relates how his competitive drive got the better of him and led to disillusionment in the face of a great competitive victory. He was compelled to slow down, get off his boat, get over himself, and reflect more carefully on what it means to win in whatever game of life you are playing. Martin may suggest that he is “old news” in the age of Facebook and Google tech hotshots, but his valuable insights may get you to think differently about your role as a leader, your career aspirations, and constantly assessing and reassessing your priorities. There are so many cool tidbits in this show, including how Lance Armstrong himself (at the height of his fame in pre-scandal Tour de France legend mode), was “intimidated” when he first met Martin, how Martin likes to hire people with an “owner, not renter” mentality, the mandatory best practices and stratification for email, telephone/voicemail, and in-person communications in the workplace, how young aspirants might best put some time in with bigger operations and avoid startup fever, how we best pace ourselves instead of romanticizing workaholism. “Be suspicious of heroism,” Martin says. Enjoy this show and pull down some memorable insights to be the best you can be in all of your competitive pursuits.

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