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Our startup ‘CEO’ Russell Wilson chats with marketing chief Richard Sherman. Image via

We’ve got startups and football on our minds this week — preparing for the sold-out GeekWire Startup Day on Friday in Seattle, and gearing up for Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, with our hometown Seattle Seahawks vying to repeat as NFL Champions against the New England Patriots.

Of course, in both startups and football, assembling an effective team is one of the most critical factors for success. Which got us to thinking: What if the Seahawks were a startup? Which roles would their key players play on the executive team? And what startup insights can be gleaned from their leadership traits?

So we studied the Seahawks’ roster and came up with a list of executive leaders. Most startups could only dream of drafting talent like this.

Chief Executive Officer: Russell Wilson

OK, so this one may be obvious. The Seahawks quarterback is well-spoken, upbeat and resilient in the face of adversity. He is a master of delegation and getting things done — understanding intuitively when to hand off an assignment to a colleague, and when to run with a project on his own. But most importantly, Russell Wilson seems to know exactly the right moment to take big risks, and he’s not afraid to make bold strategic moves in his persistent quest for big gains.

Chief Marketing Officer: Richard Sherman

He certainly knows how to talk the talk, but what we love best about Richard Sherman is that he can back up all his bragging with results. The ability to not only promote a product or service, but to actually deliver — that’s what you want in a marketing guru. On top of an innate ability to communicate and sell, the Stanford grad has a multitude of his own sponsorship deals, helping to sell everything from Beats headphones to Oberto beef jerky. Sherman’s personal website and social media presence are also impressive. Richard is a natural marketer, and a perfect startup CMO.

CTO: Earl Thomas 

While Sherman may be Seattle’s most vocal player, Earl Thomas might be the smartest on the field. Sherman, after all, once told ESPN that his teammate had one of the “highest football IQs I’ve ever heard of.” A CTO must know the ins and outs of a company’s technical DNA, and Thomas fits that bill perfectly with mental preparation that is second-to-none. Today’s chief technical officers also need to not only have the tech backgrounds, but also demonstrate leadership and communication skills. Thomas certainly has that covered, too, as the Legion of Boom’s point-man.

Director of Public Relations: Marshawn Lynch

Just think of all the attention this guy has drummed up! Apart from Deflategate, Marshawn Lynch been the talk of Super Bowl Week. He has mastered the art of non-verbal communication, demonstrated his deep understanding of promotional branding, and displayed an uncanny ability to stay on-message. What more can you ask for in a public-relations executive? Oh, right, a willingness to acknowledge the existence of the media. Well, maybe he can work on that.

Chief Operating Officer: Max Unger

Max Unger. (
Seahawks Center Max Unger. Image via

He might not get all the headlines, but the Seahawks center is the guy who gets everything started, and then holds off the competition for long enough let the CEO make things happen. And his effectiveness is quantifiable. As The News Tribune reports, when Unger was out due to injury this season, the Seahawks averaged 4.7 yards per carry. When he was in, they averaged 5.8 yards per carry. If that were sustained over a full season, it would be a half-yard per rush better than any NFL team’s average this millennium.

Chief Financial Officer: Steven Hauschka

Steven Houschka. (Image via
Steven Hauschka. (Image via

Calm, steady, reliable under pressure, and straight down the middle. What more could you ask for in a finance chief? We have no idea if the Seahawks placekicker is good with numbers, but he’s certainly got the temperament to do the job. And he’s also flexible in applying his skills, having made the transition from soccer to American football.

Chairman: Pete Carroll

Photo by Anthony Quintano, via Flickr.
Photo by Anthony Quintano, via Flickr.

The Seahawks head coach is perennially upbeat, cheering on his players and focusing on their successes. Ben Malcolmson, a former USC student newspaper reporter who tried out for one of Pete Carroll’s squads, tells Forbes, “One of the most impressive parts of Coach Carroll’s leadership is that he’s remarkably consistent in terms of attitude and approach, while also never being boring or predictable. He keeps his coaches and players on their toes … [And this] fosters an eagerness about working and learning.”

Of course, there are plenty of additional positions to fill on our startup team, and this enterprise wouldn’t be possible without an investor (team owner Paul Allen) or a director of human resources (general manager John Schneider). And we’ve got to find a role for Kam Chancellor somewhere.

But we feel good about our core leadership team. These guys seem well-positioned to make a big impact, and in true startup style, they do some of their best work on weekends.

Go Hawks.

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