Tugboat Institute® is dedicated to supporting Evergreen™ leaders, their teams, and their companies through recognition, a range of experiences, several publications and programs to bring forth inspiration, new ideas, proven best practices about business, family and life. To be clear, we do not profess to be experts, but instead we view our role as conveners and curators. We believe everything that needs to be known is within our Evergreen community and from Evergreen thought leaders. Our current offerings include:
Tugboat Institute Membership offers qualified Evergreen CEO and presidents, and nextgen leaders, a trusted, authentic network of peers, unique experiences to connect and learn, and access to our rich library of content
Evergreen Journal, the voice of the Evergreen movement, shares the stories and best practices of our members and Evergreen thought leaders, building awareness of Evergreen principles and best practices, and offering inspiration to leaders and teams. The Evergreen Journal is available to any interested learner.
Our Certified Evergreen program, provides Evergreen companies the opportunity for extensive, rigorous assessment with the intention of continual improvement and further maturation on the Evergreen 7Ps as well as public recognition that one’s company adheres to these highest standards. A firm’s leadership does not have to be a member of Tugboat Institute to be Certified Evergreen.
Gathering of Teams brings Evergreen leaders, their teams, and family members together to connect, share, and learn around Evergreen principles, best practices, and hard-earned personal wisdom. Gathering of Teams is open to select Evergreen leaders and thought leaders who are not current members of Tugboat Institute.
Please explore our website to learn more about Tugboat Institute!
In 2005, Dave Whorton had a transformative conversation with an entrepreneur and friend that would deeply challenge his beliefs about business and launch a movement.
Having founded four companies in Silicon Valley and spending his early career as an investor at two of the top venture capital and private equity firms in the world, Dave’s conversation with Stella & Dot founder Jessica Herrin awakened him to an alternative path to business success. Jessica’s approach to building a business was novel in the Silicon Valley landscape: She dreamt of building a private company to last her lifetime and beyond, growing at a paced rate over time, and fueled by a deep purpose and a commitment to her employees.
The conversation became an idea that took over seven years to germinate. In 2013, Dave had dozens of conversations with leaders around the country who were ambitious to build a meaningful company but eschewed the VC and PE path to exit by sale or IPO. Combining sound business principles, extraordinary purpose and a desire to bring their employees along in their success, and without an expectation of an exit, these leaders were building growing, private, profitable companies for a lifetime, or longer.
In 2013, Dave coined the term “Evergreen” leaders and “Evergreen” companies to describe the people and businesses leading this movement. After a small gathering in Sun Valley, Idaho in October of that year, with the help of Chris Alden, he created Tugboat Institute to convene Evergreen CEOs to help one another through inspiration, new ideas, best practices, support, and encouragement. (Read the full launch post here.)
We believe in the vital importance of humans coming together to create and grow enduring, private businesses that make a dent in the universe.
Our vision is two-fold. First, that Evergreen companies will go from being underappreciated to being broadly recognized for what they are—attractive employers, partners, suppliers, customers, and community members that aren’t going away because they are adaptable, well-run, share in their success, and are not for sale.
Second, that Tugboat Institute will be the unrivaled resource for Evergreen CEOs and their businesses, providing a value-aligned support network unlike any other and additional services that are highly valued by our members and the broader Evergreen community.
We have dedicated our careers to supporting great entrepreneurs, and we believe that supporting Evergreen leaders is our calling.
Dan serves in an advisory capacity to The Tugboat Group, including Tugboat Institute, Tugboat IP and Tugboat Ventures. More
Michelle manages financial reporting and payroll for Tugboat Institute and contributes to a variety of operational and programming projects, including Certified Evergreen. More
Ryan heads the creative development, strategy and distribution of Tugboat Institute’s curated content, research, education, and Certified Evergreen programs. More
Maria engages purpose-driven leaders in the Evergreen movement, recruits new members, builds community, and promotes programs and events to serve the Tugboat community. More
Jenn contributes to building the Tugboat Institute community and developing meaningful connections with current and prospective members. More
Susanne leads Tugboat Institute’s marketing, public relations, and communication efforts along with strategic partnership programs. More
Annie oversees Tugboat Institute Events, Tugboat Forums, and Tugboat Institute member relations. More
Nani spearheads and executes Tugboat Institute events in-person experiences such as the Fall Exemplar Visit, Gathering of Teams, and the annual Tugboat Institute Summit. More
Dave founded Tugboat Institute in 2013 to connect, support, and inspire purpose driven leaders of Evergreen businesses. Dav More
Fellows & Chairs
Dan serves in an advisory capacity to The Tugboat Group, including Tugboat Institute, Tugboat IP and Tugboat Ventures. From 2016 to 2021, Dan served as the CFO of The Tugboat Group and also led several key business and operational initiatives. Prior to joining Tugboat, Dan held multiple financial roles at Fortune100, public, and venture-backed companies in the U.S. and Europe, including Intel, Affymetrix, and NuGEN Technologies. Dan holds a BS in Math and Operations Research from University of California, Los Angeles.
Michelle manages financial reporting and payroll for Tugboat Institute and contributes to a variety of operational and programming projects, including Certified Evergreen. She appreciates the opportunity to see Evergreen 7Ps principles at work in member companies and learning how those principles impact Evergreen employees and communities. Prior to joining Tugboat, Michelle served in corporate accounting roles in various industries, including insurance, retail, and senior living services. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from York College of Pennsylvania.
Ryan heads the creative development, strategy and distribution of Tugboat Institute’s curated content, research, education, and Certified Evergreen programs. Prior to joining Tugboat Institute, Ryan converted his experience in product management, technology and data analysis into executive positions in operations and human resources at Willis Towers Watson, Restoration Hardware, and Blue Shield of California. Playing the long game resonates with Ryan especially when you consider the important milestones in life. As a native of Hailey Idaho, Ryan is overjoyed to bring his wife back to his home state to raise their young son in the same Wood River Valley where his family still resides. An avid cyclist, Ryan enjoys viewing the world from two wheels and seeing life all over again through the eyes of his son. Ryan holds a BS degree in Business Administration and an MBA from University of Redlands in California.
Maria engages purpose-driven leaders in the Evergreen movement, recruits new members, builds community, and promotes programs and events to serve the Tugboat community. She loves connecting with the inspiring leaders who make up Tugboat membership and providing opportunities for the tribe to learn and share insights with one another for the benefit of their Evergreen businesses. Prior to joining Tugboat, Maria served for 10 years as Vice President at The Advisory Board Company, where she managed a sales and member relations team and engaged in marketing, business development, and sales management before serving her community for eight years as a Governing Board Member for the Menlo Park City School District. Maria holds a BA in History/American Studies from Princeton University.
Jenn contributes to building the Tugboat Institute community and developing meaningful connections with current and prospective members. She is committed to helping to create programs and events to serve inspiring Evergreen® leaders and to continuing to grow the Evergreen movement. Prior to joining Tugboat Institute, Jenn spent several years in sales and marketing roles. She holds a BA in History from Hillsdale College.
Susanne leads Tugboat Institute’s marketing, public relations, and communication efforts along with strategic partnership programs. Prior to joining Tugboat Institute, Susanne held executive communication positions at The Idaho Foodbank, Pixar Animation Studios, The Walt Disney Studios, and DreamWorks. Her experience in the nonprofit sector and Hollywood instilled in her an appreciation for purpose driven work and the desire to make a positive impact–or at the very least make someone laugh. Susanne believes that everyone has a compelling story to tell and counts herself lucky to be able to listen. Susanne earned a BA degree in American Studies at the University of California, Davis.
Annie oversees Tugboat Institute Events, Tugboat Forums, and Tugboat Institute member relations. Annie is inspired by the purpose-driven leadership, sharing of insights, and authentic connections she sees at each gathering and deeply enjoys serving Evergreen leaders and businesses. Prior to joining Tugboat Institute, Annie contributed to a variety of digital and print content platforms as a freelance writer and editorial consultant, with a focus on the outdoor industry, and also spent four years as a professional ski racer. She graduated from Middlebury College with a degree in Philosophy before completing the summer Bridge program at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.
Nani spearheads and executes Tugboat Institute events in-person experiences such as the Fall Exemplar Visit, Gathering of Teams, and the annual Tugboat Institute Summit. Nani thrives in the event planning environment where no two days are alike and applies the Aloha spirit of her home state of Hawaii to ensure our members receive warm and relatable experiences. Prior to joining Tugboat Institute, Nani was the owner and founder of two textile-based companies and also spent several years as an Artist Manager for Live Nation Entertainment. Coming from a family of private business owners, Nani grew up with roots deeply planted in Evergreen principles and is proud to be serving the movement. She earned a BS degree in Music Business from Northeastern University in Boston.
Dave founded Tugboat Institute in 2013 to connect, support, and inspire purpose driven leaders of Evergreen businesses. Dave is responsible for all aspects of Tugboat Institute including setting strategy, curating experiences and developing relevant programming along with championing and celebrating the importance of Evergreen companies. Dave believes Evergreen leaders and their businesses are simply capitalism at its best. Prior to founding Tugboat Institute, Dave founded Tugboat Ventures in 2006 and co-founded four companies, including drugstore.com and Good Technology. Dave holds a BS in Engineering from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford GSB. Dave and his wife have been happily married for over two decades and count themselves lucky to have raised their son and daughter in Sun Valley. Dave is also a voracious reader. When he puts down the books, he can be found hiking, golfing, and cycling with his family.