Thomas Knoll – Founder Consigliere

“Really? Consigliere?”
“Yeah, it sounds silly, but you’ll see why… just read on.”

Thomas Knoll

Who are you?

Hi there! I have been building online community for 19 years, and working in or building early-stage startups for 9 years. I love hockey, TacoBell, my wife, and my new baby. Not in that order.

  • Recovering Entrepreneur: Founder @ Primeloop (exited), Co-Founder @ LaunchRock (exited), Co-Founder @ Glocally (failed)
  • Mentor: 500Startups, Up Global, MovesTheNeedle
  • Community Architect: Zappos (Amazon), Uservoice (growing), Seesmic (exited)

What is a Founder Consigliere?

  • Personal support for you – the Entrepreneur. (This stuff is hard, don’t go alone.)
  • Personal and team work on communication, productivity, emotional intelligence, anxiety, and trust.
  • Tactical input on strategy around marketing, growth, customer service, culture, recruiting, fundraising, etc. (See more details in the FAQs below.)

What is included?

  • 4 hours per month of customized and dedicated time for you and your business – use in blocks as small as 30 minutes or schedule a half day strategy review once a month – it’s up to you!
  • You can use all these blocks for yourself, or you can assign them to specific team members (if you want me to work with them on a specific project or goal).
  • Unlimited email & messaging
  • Access to my network of mentors, founders, investors, and partners who can introduce you to new opportunities, help you solve problems, or just answer questions: send me a question and try me out!

All included in a $2k/mo retainer.

Schedule your free 30 minute discovery session now to learn more about the process and determine whether we are a good fit.

My biggest joy in life is helping other people survive and thrive while building their business. My Founder ‘consigliere’ service is specifically for building a long-term relationship. If this isn’t the right time for you to set up this deep of of an engagement, here are several other ways to reach out:

p.s. If we are friends and or have previously shared projects, poke me about a friends&family discount.

Frequently Asked Questions

[expand title=”Seriously? Consigliere? Explain yourself.” tag=”h4″]
I know. It sounds funny. But, trust me, it’s a better title than anything else I’ve come up with. Advisor doesn’t fit. I’m a resource for you personally, not an advisor to the company. Chief-of-staff is closer, but I’m not an employee of the company, again I am here for you. I also tried Coach… but it was a loaded term for a lot of people. After 4 different people said, “you’re kind of like a consigliere” I decided to embrace it rather than fight it.

Still not buying it? Well, here is a good ol’ definition for you:

The consigliere is a close, trusted friend and confidant, the mob’s version of an elder statesman. In some depictions, he is devoid of ambition and dispenses disinterested advice. By the very nature of the job, a consigliere is one of the few in the family who can argue with the boss, and is often tasked with challenging the boss when needed to ensure subsequent plans are foolproof.

Here is what it boils down to: I’m not an investor or one of your employees. I’m not your competition or another peer that you need to posture up to. I just want to help you survive and thrive as an entrepreneur.

[expand title=”Isn’t this just being a Startup Advisor?” tag=”h4″]
For the past 5 years I have been advising and mentoring startups individually and through 500 Startups and Up Global. Startup advising is broken. Even though I own on average 0.25% of the startups I advise, I rarely get tapped for help. And, being an entrepreneur with my own advisors, I know how easy it is to get buried in the insanity and forget to reach out.

I want to provide hands-on help so you get as much value as possible. That is why we schedule 4 hours per month of dedicated time to dive into specific issues/opportunities, document the next steps, and measure impact. The retainer model enables me to focus on you, and helps keep both of us accountable to fully utilize the time we have.

[expand title=”What are some specific things we could work on?” tag=”h4″]
Some of the things I have worked with founders on:

Culture & Community

  • How can we improve our company culture?
  • Can we take some lessons from Zappos to build a training program for new hires?
  • How can we create company values that aren’t stupid?
  • Should we build a customer community?
  • How do we get our community more engaged?
  • We need to fix customer service. What app should we use?
  • Should we implement a customer success team?

Customer Development & Product

  • Can you train my team on customer development?
  • What’s the deal with Lean Startup stuff?
  • We need a better flow for product development.
  • How can we use trello, slack, pivotal, quip, evernote, gCal better?
  • What would make our sprints go better?
  • How can we start beta testing our app?
  • Can you help our product lead implement some user testing?

Marketing & Growth

  • Should we try retargeting? How would we test some ads?
  • Can you work with ____ on our content marketing?
  • We have a twitter and a facebook and a pintrest and an instagram and I think three other accounts. What should we do with them?


  • When should I start raising my next round? Do you know ____ vc?
  • Can you give me feedback on our pitch?

Personal & Leadership Growth

  • How can we fix our team communication? It feels like a lot of people are getting frustrated about basic things.
  • I want my team to trust me more.
  • Is it normal to feel like I am a fraud? I know they say fake it till you make it, but… this feels shitty.
  • I can’t sleep, because I constantly wake up worried about 100 different things.
  • What can I do to improve my relationship with my co-founder? I think we’re about to have a huge fight soon.
  • My email inbox is out of hand. How can I get back on top of things?
  • Shit keeps falling through the cracks. I need something to change now.
  • People talk about work-life balance, but I think they are full of shit. Is it real? Can I have some?
  • How do I say no?
  • What are some tricks for getting better at setting priorities?

“Crushing It”

  • Investors are breathing down my neck, my team wants to know what the plan is, I barely see my boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/kids, and I think something is wrong with me. What am I supposed to do next?


[expand title=”Why are you doing this?” tag=”h4″]
I have been building startups for the past 8 years. I have lived through the hustle and the fear. I’ve failed a few times. And I’ve sold a few. I know how difficult it is to fight the odds.

I’m doing this because I love startups and entrepreneurs. I want to see you succeed in business AND in life.

I also have the advantage of a partner who is a Marriage and Family Therapist and Coach. I know her model works for her clients, so now I am applying that same model to my work with entrepreneurs.

[expand title=”Why not just sell online courses and information?” tag=”h4″]
There is already too much advice and information out there. It is always generalized—rather than specific—which means it is mostly a distraction and a small amount of actual value. I am also much more interested in helping individual founders get through the highs and lows, ups and downs, and very human experiences of building a company.

Yes, I bring years of tactical experience and hard-lessons-learned to the table. But, more importantly, I’ve been there. I am a third-party (not an employee or investor), so we can focus on the truth… not just, “Yeah, we’re CRUSHING IT!”

[expand title=”How long will this last?” tag=”h4″]
That’s up to you. It will last as long as it is helping you succeed, on a month-to-month basis. Generally, it is best to start with 3–6 months so that we can get deep and really address your opportunities. Some people want to work together for several years. That is great too, as long as we are making measurable progress.

[expand title=”Why should I hire you?” tag=”h4″]
You probably shouldn’t, unless you are ready to dig deep.

[expand title=”What are the specifics about the time we spend together?” tag=”h4″]
We will always use the highest fidelity communication as realistically possible.
In person > video > phone > email. The occasional emergency phone call is super valuable at the right time. But scheduled “one on ones” will always be highest priority. And, I will always let you know when I will be in town so that we can schedule time face-to-face.

[expand title=”How do we measure success together?” tag=”h4″]
During every session we will capture our next actions. I will have some homework to do. You will have some homework to do. Some next actions will be moved into your own company workflow. Some things will be one-off tasks that are quickly completed. Others will be long-term goals that we will track over time. But, all of this will be captured and available to you at all times.

What are people saying?

“As an entrepreneur, I try to get as much feedback and advice as possible. This creates noise. When there is noise, Thomas is always there to help find the signal. His advice is always spot on and he brings a wicked amount of knowledge across the board from product to strategy to community engagement to execution.”

“TK is the most helpful person I know. Hands down. He’ll go to bat for you.”

“Thomas has been tremendously helpful in getting us to think about new ways to more effectively reach, retain and “wow” clients. His simple, effective and powerful suggestions have been great for my company.”

“Thomas is an expert in understanding the dynamics of communities. He helped me think through how to incorporate community into a marketplace. And he helped me reflect on the higher purpose of the company (one of the most important things in any business in my opinion).”

“Thomas was grounded and listened to us before he responded. We were able to throw our cards on the table and received solid advice regarding our ideas on building our community of users. Thomas helped us focus our efforts and that’s a big deal. If you’re launching a startup you’re going to have to dig deep so it helps to know where to dig.”

Let’s get started:

Schedule your free 30 minute discovery session now to learn more about the process and determine whether we are a good fit.