Cyrus Taghehchian, CEO of Splyt, is an accomplished entrepreneur ranked in Entrepreneur’s 40 under 40 in 2018. He is a 6x founder with two portfolio companies at notable Silicon Valley VCs. Prior to Splyt, he was a Deloitte Consultant and agile thought leader for e-commerce and digital marketing tech implementations.
Cyrus leads with a servant-leadership ethos. His greatest joy is mentoring people towards realizing their goals. He is a rare and inspiring individual in his practice and of living and leading with kindness. This mindset expands his ethos into the business landscape through Splyt, an infrastructure that levels the playing field so that businesses of all sizes can scale and grow. I sat down with Cyrus to learn more about his leadership style.
What happened in your life to inspire you to create Splyt?
I’ve always respected role models who took the time to help out the little guys. One of them was Mr. Rogers. He would always respond to all the fan mail he got. Growing up, I’ve been on both sides of the spectrum; I’ve been the bullied kid and I’ve been part of the popular crowd. It made me come to understand the importance of being kind, even when you have the option to use your power to exploit others.
So I think the best products start with empathy. I believe in creating psychological safety, which starts with transparent communication and establishing good intentions. Corporations, as they are now, can’t do that since they are only programmed to maximize profits. That doesn’t leave room for the environment, child development, poverty, etcetera. It sounds like a huge responsibility that you have put on your own shoulders. How do you manage the pressure?
By surrounding myself with good people. I like to say I don’t have employees, I have friendships. It’s important to me to have people that also have the same empathy and kindness, so whenever I’m around those kinds of people, I feel energized. I also stay active, workout everyday, go to the beach, get some fresh air. Meditation and sound bowls. Reading. Everyday I write in my journal gratitude statements and “I am” statements.
You mentioned building a team of friendships instead of employees, but ultimately you are in charge. How do you balance being a buddy and a boss without creating tension?
It’s all about being a good communicator, being straightforward, creating psychological safety and boundaries between work life and personal life. Building interpersonal relationships and trust with my team members. One thing that might be surprising is that it’s completely a no-pressure environment. Some people come and go, some people stay. It’s more about the individual than the team. Sometimes, years down the line, people that left come back and someone that has been there for a while leaves. It’s about creating a safe space where you want to succeed because you want to, not because someone told you.
It sounds like your team handles stress well, but what do you do when it gets overwhelming? How do you unwind as a team? And what are your team-building exercises?
Well it’s hard now, but before Covid, we would go out, play board games or video games, play tennis, cookout, things like that. Even with Covid, we have safe social hours, eat and drink, and just encourage friendships. Everyone comes to my house to chill and work, sometimes sleep over. Play games. But we’re all pretty self aware and don’t allow ourselves to get overwhelmed. Those are the types of people that end up staying.
Sounds fun. Does this somehow tie into the Splyt ethos, or are they just fun things to do?
I mean these are normal things, so it’s mostly for fun, but building a community and connecting, sometimes with complete strangers when we get new teammates, does fit in perfectly with our company’s mindset. It’s important to remind people why we’re doing this and why it really is the most effective system. When you work together, communicate, and connect on multiple levels, the team actually functions much more efficiently and comes up with bigger, better ideas. And it pushes everyone to work hard.
Last question, I know you guys are big on NFTs, so what’s your take? A fad or the future?
It’s for sure the future. If crypto is programmable money, then NFTs are programmable data. NFTs give us something we’ve never had online before.The real life equivalent is any scarce and unique object, like a sculpture. Digital data can always be copied or forged. Now we have data that can belong to me and me only. It will make living online safely a reality. Makes the metaverse a real possibility.