- Founded in 1950, the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) has had a reputation as a fraternity for ultra-rich white men who inherited the family business.
- A first-year initiation fee is about $4,000, annual dues start at $6,000, and the club has an often repeated secrecy slogan “Nothing, Nobody, Never.”
- “Outside of forum, talk about Nothing that is said in forum to Nobody under any circumstances. Never means forever,” the code says.
“Startup founder Rana el Kaliouby said she was frantic the day she had to tell her employees that some of them were being let go because of the pandemic’s economic toll. But she had no one to confide in.
“It’s a very lonely experience,” el Kaliouby said of being a chief executive. “You can talk to your mentors, but they’re usually in a different spot. You can talk to your investors, but you have to be careful.”
Instead, she turned to the Young Presidents Organization, a global network of executives where members meet monthly in regional small groups known as forums.
Founded in 1950, YPO has a reputation as a fraternity for ultrarich white men who inherited their family’s business, and, for a time, it was. But over the years, it’s recruited more entrepreneurs, who tell Insider that the exclusive club is worth the price of admission. A first-year initiation fee is about $4,000 and annual dues start at $6,000, depending on the chapter.
When el Kaliouby sat down at her computer for her first forum meeting of business leaders from across the Northeast, she remembers thinking it was going to be “a colossal waste of time.”
Then the meeting began with members sharing the most important thing going on in their lives. For el Kaliouby, it was laying off staff the day before. She heard other leaders talking openly and so she did too.
Since then, her forum has become a crucial sounding board.
“A lot of my friends are not CEOs,” she said. “I’m the first entrepreneur in my family. I can’t go seek my dad’s advice on how to manage my board or how to raise the next round of funding.”
Confidentiality is required by a code of conduct, and that atmosphere of secrecy is part of its appeal, members said. Executives can unload about work and their personal lives, trusting that coworkers are never placed in a forum together, and neither are competitors.
In 2015, when TaskRabbit founder Leah Solivan was CEO, fundraising was taking longer than she expected and the company was running out of money. Solivan felt panicked.
One night she took an Uber to the hospital with stomach pain. She left the hospital after a few days and went straight to a pitch meeting, feeling as if she would fail her company otherwise.
“There are so many reasons for an investor to say no to a deal. I didn’t want to give them any hesitation about my health, so I kept it a secret,” Solivan said. But she told her forum about the incident.
“Nothing leaves the forum,” said Solivan, now a founding partner at Fuel Capital.
She confided in her small group of Bay Area executives when she considered resigning as TaskRabbit CEO, and she did so again as chairwoman during the nine months it took to close the company’s sale to Ikea.
In fact, the group’s code of conduct has an often-repeated line — “Nothing, Nobody, Never.” — that serves as an unofficial slogan. It’s “drilled in” at orientation, one member said.
“Outside of forum, talk about Nothing that is said in forum to Nobody under any circumstances. Never means forever,” the code says…”
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