Bonusly CEO Raphael Crawford-Marks on Getting a Boost From the People Around You

The life of a startup CEO can be chaos. Your inbox is like a constant scrolling ticker. Your calendar is a solid block of meetings. Your time and attention are requested from every direction.

It’s common for founders to feel some guilt for not having enough time for all of the people in their life.

Bonusly Founder and CEO Raphael Crawford-Marks knows well how challenging it can be to give relationships the care they deserve, but he believes the support and guidance gleaned from those interactions is invaluable. Interestingly, the concept of nurturing relationships is very much at the heart of what the team at Bonusly is building - enabling employees to give and receive timely and meaningful praise and recognition. Bonusly calls these pieces of recognition micro­bonuses. Employees save micro­bonuses they receive from their colleagues to spend on items in the company’s reward catalog, such as gift cards, charitable donations, time off, company­ branded gear, or lunch with the CEO.


We recently sat down to chat with Raphael about his path to becoming a CEO and how he draws inspiration from the people that surround him.

Where do you find inspiration?
What draws me in are problems to solve. I can be pretty single minded and dogged when I have an interesting problem to work on. That can be all different kinds of problems, software engineering, figuring out how to scale our sales operations, solving really hard math problems.

Where I draw inspiration to counter balance that is the people around me who tell me to take a step back, see the big picture, get exercise, stop working. I feel very thankful to have that type of uplifting influence in my life.

What do you wish you could go back in time and tell yourself?
I would tell myself that relationships are the most valuable thing. They need to be nurtured. When you're young, you feel like these relationships just fall in your lap. Friendships or mentor relationships. But as you get older you realize that really meaningful, strong relationships are hard to come by. Taking the time to nurture those is very important.

What’s something you had to learn the hard way?
This is my first time building a company, so every day I feel like I'm learning something the hard way, whether it’s getting better at hiring or letting go of responsibilities that were previously mine. The learning curve is steep and rough and I certainly have taken more than a couple missteps.

I've learned to take seriously the advice I receive from seasoned founders. A lot of the time, I will have an emotional reaction to advice. But it's important for me to set aside my emotions and think critically about the advice. I try to listen to people who have been where I am and are ahead of me in the process.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I ever received was to not accept the kind, cushy job offer that I had and pursue Bonusly.

It came from my former boss. I had just told him that I was leaving the company and I was trying to decide if I was going to start a business or start this other job.

He said, "You've got to start the business."

The fact that he could see beyond the frustration of receiving the bad news that I was leaving and give me some good advice made it more meaningful.

He pushed really strongly. He was a first time founder and was a couple years into it at that point, so the decision to start a company was a pretty recent memory.

Bonusly is a peer-to-peer bonus and recognition platform that makes bonuses a more decentralized, frequent, and employee-centric activity. To learn more, visit