A Conversation with Oliver Libby

This article was originally published on Impact Squared.

Q: Tell me a little bit about what you do. 
I'm deeply involved in two organizations in my professional life. I am the Managing Director of Hatzimemos / Libby, which is a combination of an accelerator, venture, and strategy firm. We’re focused on businesses with high growth potential and also potential for social good. I’m also the Chair and Co-Founder of a nonprofit organization, The Resolution Project, which helps college students launch new social ventures. So far, we’ve supported nearly 200 ventures in 63 countries and across America.

Q: How did you end up with these two roles? What motivates you to continue with them? 
Both positions were callings for me; they are both threads from the same DNA. I always knew I had to be doing something that had a positive impact since I was a young child. I’m motivated to focus on helping things grow, working with great management teams or leaders and leveraging power of networks and experience to help others get somewhere bigger and faster than they would have been able to otherwise. 

Q: What do you find most rewarding about both components of your work?
The most rewarding thing is to watch leadership teams and organizations grow, which happens in both roles. There’s nothing better than seeing a good leader take things to the next level, knowing we played a positive role. Other rewarding things are a good financial return or good leadership experience, and a measureable social impact. It’s rewarding to have a chance to see the leading edge and future leaders in social innovation, technology, and other sectors from the beginning.

Q: What networks or organizations are you involved with? How has being part of these networks impacted you? 
I’m involved with several organizations that for me are all deeply intertwined and all part of the same story. Specifically, I’m involved with: the Harvard Club of New York; Project HEAL, which is an eating disorder organization founded by Resolution Fellows; the Advisory Council of the Clinton Global Initiative; the NationSwell Council; and I’m a Presidential Leadership Scholar.

Being part of these networks has impacted me in several critical ways. First, they expand my own networks by bringing me into contact with amazing people. As an engaged participants in these organizations, the people I’ve connected with have impacted my professional development and education deeply. Also, these networks provide exposure to diverse experiences and knowledge. It has been helpful to learn about and experience outside knowledge and viewpoints. Participation has also accelerated my path to leadership by providing opportunities to manage teams, much earlier than would otherwise have been possible.

Q: Are you a leader? What skills and values are important to you as a leader? 
I'd like to think that, yes, I am a leader. I’ve risen to leadership positions and developed organizations from scratch, demanding decision-making, network development, and solid strategy. 

I think that as a leader, it’s important to be clear with yourself about what you do well (and inevitably what you don’t do well), manage time effectively, and take on positions that fit your personal narrative and skillsets. As a serial cofounder, finding great teams to be a part of is super valuable. I've always started with great teams. It’s important to find people who fill in the skills you lack and can complement you for an effective decision-making team. A positive organizational culture is extremely important to me, which includes decisive and collaborative management.  I value leading from the front, working hard, managing time well (and respecting others’ times) and building a strong team. 

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing the world today? How are you involved with solving these challenges? 
The number one issue I think about is workforce development. I think about the workforce in terms of what the experience of a human being will be like in about 20 years. I’m exhilarated by advances, but concerned about people put out of work by innovation. It’s important to provide support and education to keep up with rapidly changing work dynamics on both a policy level and within individual companies. This is not say that there won't be jobs, so much as that we have to have training and education to ensure that people can fill the jobs that technology and shifting workplace dynamics create. That's critical; there are many other issues, but this one has some really fundamental ramifications for society and it won't take care of itself.

Meryl Natow