8 ways our community is fighting COVID-19

As the world works to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, our own community has gone into overdrive. We’re so proud of our Operator Collective LPs for leading this charge. Here are some of the ways they’re using their platforms, tools, and networks to help. 

  • Eric Yuan, Kelly Steckelberg, Janine Pelosi Zoom
    In today’s everything-from-home economy, Zoom has become the de facto tool for communications, virtual meetings, remote work, family chats, and more. But what about our schools? As educational institutions shut down around the world, the Zoom team truly stepped up, offering its video conferencing tool free to any K-12 school.

  • Rachel Carlson Guild Education
    Rachel Carlson has emerged as a persuasive voice in the coronavirus crisis, imploring her fellow business leaders to #StopTheSpread. She co-wrote a letter imploring Americans to take “bold action” to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and then a more direct ask to corporate leaders. By circulating the letter, Carlson hopes business leaders can remove some of the burden from local, state, and federal governments.

  • Kimber Lockhart One Medical
    One Medical is a membership-based primary care practice. In addition to offering same-day appointments, providers offer 24/7 video visits. One Medical has also created a Coronavirus Help Center with resources to help everyone stay up to date with the latest information.

  • Nihal Mehta – Eniac Ventures + Reshma Saujani – Girls Who Code
    Nihal Mehta recently launched Help Main Street, a crowdfunded platform to keep shops, restaurants, and industry workers afloat via gift card sales. Want to help your local favorites? Go to helpmainstreet.com to purchase gift cards to provide critical cash support during the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • Jennifer Tejada – PagerDuty
    PagerDuty is a platform that helps companies manage the full spectrum of their digital operations. As healthcare organizations struggle with demand and stress, they need to stay prepared and “always on.” To that end, Tejada and PagerDuty recently announced an offer for healthcare organizations: 20 PagerDuty licenses free for six months.

  • Christina Kosmowski Slack
    Slack has seen huge increases in paid customers since the coronavirus outbreak, offering plenty of content to facilitate remote working (including this Guide to Working Remotely in Slack). They’ve also announced free upgrades to teams working to solve the crisis.

  • Michelle Zatlyn – Cloudflare
    Cloudflare accelerates Internet properties, helping businesses stay productive from any location. Early in the coronavirus outbreak, Zatlyn and team made their enterprise-grade features available to small businesses at no cost, offering unlimited seats of Cloudflare for Teams through September 1.

  • Lexi Reese – Gusto
    Gusto is an automated platform for payroll, HR, and employee benefits, aimed specifically at small businesses. They’ve recently launched a COVID-19 Resource Hub to offer small businesses the most updated news, information, and advice.
We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

It’s uncomplicated: Why we’re crazy about DataGrail

The company: DataGrail 

DataGrail is a privacy platform that simplifies compliance with GDPR, CCPA, and similar privacy regulations. In this Age of Privacy, DataGrail is helping companies stay in line with regulators while building trust with their customers by driving new standards of transparency and accountability. 

DataGrail was built on the principles of diversity and inclusion from the very beginning. About 40% of the company is female (a percentage which has never been below 30%), 50% of the board members are female, and 11% of employees identify as LGBT+ or gender non-binary. Read more about DataGrail’s commitment to supporting workplace diversity in their recent blog post.

Why you should pay attention 

The rapid-fire expansion in privacy regulations combined with the dramatic explosion in data collection is creating major turbulence for businesses. The average enterprise has 88 different systems that could contain personal data, and Gartner predicts that by 2023, 63% of the planet’s population will have GDPR-like personal data protection (up from 10% today). Yet DataGrail’s recent consumer survey shows 83% of Americans expect to have control of how businesses manage their data. Companies clearly need help navigating this landscape, and DataGrail is leading the way.

The details 

The issue is clear: privacy is a fundamental human right and essential to democracy. So in 2018, Daniel Barber, Earl Hathaway, and Ignacio Zendejas launched a business built on this covenant of trust. With 200+ pre-built connectors, the DataGrail Privacy Platform gives a 360-degree, real-time view of the applications a business uses, then maps personal data associated with each of those systems. Customers can manage their privacy request workflows and email preferences across applications.

Building trust through transparency. Taking complicated out of compliance. DataGrail is changing the game.  

How it works

At the core of the solution is DataGrail’s Live Data Map, which provides a continually refreshed blueprint of where data lives in the organization. Any changes made to the systems are reflected automatically. Privacy requests are streamlined, eliminating human errors and reducing risk. And DataGrail’s hundreds of pre-built integrations (Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, AWS, and more) streamline the onboarding process, making data discovery almost instantaneous. This makes sure companies not only achieve compliance, but are continuously compliant over time as regulations change externally, and business systems, fields, and owners change internally.

Why were obsessed 

Today trust is a currency, and DataGrail is here to help companies grow and manage this business-critical resource. DataGrail clients like Overstock.com, Restoration Hardware, Revolve, Databricks, and more rave about how the company helps them manage data privacy risk and compliance (simplicity, automation, and real-time insights are the common refrains). By taking on the complexity of the continually shifting regulatory landscape, DataGrail is simplifying compliance and helping its clients stay ahead of the curve. 

Get involved

Ready to supercharge your company’s privacy disciplines? Let DataGrail handle your compliance needs. Get started here now. 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

5 tips for building a thriving community from scratch

Those pics up there? That was me when I was a kid. I was the third of four children born to immigrant parents who still don’t speak much English. We were just trying to make ends meet, and life was pretty simple – food, school, and of course piano.

American ways were quite foreign to us. I still have to make my fingers into a “b” and a “d” to figure out where my bread plate and drinking glass go, and I was told Westerners weren’t trustworthy since they often said things they didn’t mean, like “Let’s have lunch” and not follow through. Or “How are you,” but not wait for an answer.

In 8th grade I was 4’6” with a home perm, heavy bangs, and thick glasses. We didn’t have much money, so I had three outfits; I wore each for two days in a row before rotating. There are kids who don’t mind these “limitations,” but I wasn’t one of them. I desperately wanted to fit in, but this was tough: even beyond my awkwardness, I was pretty unremarkable. I’m one of the few people I know who had virtually no activities in high school (I do know every episode of Gilligan’s Island, though). Plus, as with many families back then, parents didn’t talk about “adult things” to kids. All this means I didn’t really begin to interact comfortably with adults until I was about 30. 

Fast forward to today: I’m on my fourth startup, all of which have incredibly strong communities with networking that’s core to their success – ChIPs (5,000 members and 19 chapters around the world), RPX ($0 to $100M and IPO in less than three years), SaaStr (world’s largest b2b software community), and Operator Collective. How does someone so socially awkward build such thriving communities? In many ways not being a cool kid growing up was the perfect training ground for constructing communities and building startups. Here are five tips.

1) Find your niche

Communities and products succeed because they have a focus. People need a personal connection, which might mean choosing an area that’s ignored or overlooked. ChIPs started out hyperfocused on women in patent law (there weren’t many of us). Only after nailing that niche did we expand to women in law, tech, and policy. The venture world typically revolves around VCs and founders – so at Operator Collective, we put operators front and center.

Think about my awkward former self who just wanted to fit in. What if I’d had a community of Gilligan’s Island Aficionados Who Love Velour? I would’ve fit right in and had a core group to identify with. Find an initial niche or addressable market and expand from there.

2) Start with the bellwethers

The first thing everyone wants to know is who’s involved. Having not naturally been a people magnet, I learned to involve the people others do want to hang out with, and build from there.

If you’re hosting a conference, the obvious way is to begin with the speakers. Find an anchor and build around her. How do you get that first speaker? Try starting with a “two-fer” – find two speakers with a connection or friendship. If someone can combine a speaking engagement with seeing people they don’t often get to spend time with, they’re more likely to say yes. At Operator Summit, we invited fantastic speakers, but paired them each with a friend – like Eric Yuan with Jennifer Tejada, and Claire Hughes Johnson with Leyla Seka. This also applies when building a customer base: Garner a few respected companies/leaders as early adopters.

3) Be deliberate from the first engagement

You always have to make people feel comfortable – including those who don’t often join in. Last September, we put together Operator Summit in just 4 weeks. We knew we wanted a high percentage of women and people from underrepresented backgrounds, so we were public with that intention and deliberately reached out to people in those categories. It wasn’t a women’s conference or one for people of color, but we ended up with 80% women and 50% people of color.

This was another place being socially awkward helped. What would it take to get me to come to an event that’s full of people I didn’t know? A personal invitation, first of all – not a bulk mailing. Plus we asked those who were coming for names of contacts who might be interested, and then specifically mentioned the referring friend in that invitation. By the time you get to a SaaStr Annual size of 20,000 attendees, personal invitations aren’t always possible, but you can still do it selectively. The same goes for selling a product. Each interaction should feel personalized, so every prospect gets the sense that you are connecting with them as an individual and understand their needs.

4) Make it easy to participate

When you’re selling a product, you make it easy to buy. When you’re putting together a community, you make it easy to join. Start with scheduling. We have a lot of women with young kids in our Operator Collective community, so we try to schedule meetings and events at family-friendly times. Operator Summit, for example, started at 10 and ended at 4:30. When we have update calls, we try to schedule them for when we know people have finished dropping off kids at school, over lunch, or during a commute time. If we’re scheduling a group, we’ll often send a poll to ensure a critical mass.

The other key is to give people a role. It can be scary to walk into a new meeting or conference, so introverts like me prefer to have a task. At SaaStr Annual, “braindates” are wildly popular. At Operator Summit, we encourage people to sign up for our small group Office Hours.

5) Obsess over every detail

No matter what you’re building, you can never assume people will buy, join, or participate. You have to make it worthwhile, which means obsessing over every detail. What’s the mix of people, who will they meet, and what will make them come back? What kind of content will you provide and where will everyone find value? What’s the reg process, what about dietary restrictions, and what kind of swag? Obsess over every detail, from how they buy to how the product is delivered to the entire user experience.

Get Building

From the day we enter the working world and actually well before the need to network is hammered into us. We have to put ourselves out there and expand our connections in order to advance our careers. But communities can be a haven for the socially awkward: a place for people to find their niche and feel comfortable. And if this kid can grow up to be a super connector who builds successful network-dependent companies, I’m here to tell you that anyone can.

P.S. If you want to see my awkwardness in action, join me on March 11 at SaaStr Annual, where Leyla Seka, Lexi Reese, Elisa Steele, and I will do battle in an unscripted debate to determine the #1 secret to building high-performance orgs. I’m terrified already. 

The outsiders are coming in: The origin of Operator Collective

For most of my life, I’ve felt like an outsider. Whether it was being raised by immigrant parents who didn’t understand Western social norms, or my years as an awkward kid picked last for everything, or being one of the few women Chief Intellectual Property Counsels in the niche-y field of patent law, I’ve always been most comfortable working quietly in the background.

When you’re an outsider, you spend a lot of time observing. I’m often told I think outside the box, to which I silently respond it’s because I’m not enough of an insider to even know what the confines of the box are. And when you’re an outsider, you sometimes don’t even realize you have skills that would be useful to others.

Here’s an example. In 2008 I helped launch a venture-backed company we took from $0 to $100M and IPO in three years but I was such an outsider to venture that I didn’t realize this was unusual. There were the inevitable and valuable lessons learned during that period, and we ultimately grew the company to $300M.

After we sold the company ten years later, I started to spend more time with founders and VCs, mostly as part of the SaaStr community, which I’d been involved in from the early days (I’m married to the founder). And of course, I spent a lot of time where I’m most comfortable quietly observing. Here’s what I saw:  

  • The venture world revolves around VCs and founders. 
  • Roughly 90% of VCs and founders are white males, higher when you look at enterprise.
  • VCs and founders tend to hang out with other VCs and founders, and their networks don’t overlap much with operators, much less with women operators. 
  • Most b2b startups eventually want to sell their products to enterprise.
  • The majority of VCs and founders have either never worked in enterprise, or haven’t done so in decades.  

As I began to dip my toe in angel investing, I noticed something else: I was often the only woman on the cap table, and homogeneous groups were showing up again and again. I was bothered enough to ask a few founders if they’d noticed. These founders, to their credit, were horrified, and then even more distressed when they realized they hadn’t recognized it prior to my asking the question. They explained that they’d simply gone to their buddies for backing they didn’t know any women who might invest and could I please help.

The Buddy Syndrome strikes again
The fact is, they weren’t wrong. When you’re in the early days of starting a company, you turn to people you know the ones who trust you and are willing to take a chance. And people from your network tend to be people like you. (I call this the buddy syndrome.)

And beyond this, it’s a fact that fewer women invest. Women hold 71% of their assets in cash. They make up just 9% of venture decision makers and 22% of angel investors. And if you focus only on my area enterprise the numbers drop even more.

At the same time, I began asking my women friends: “Why don’t you angel invest?” Never been asked. Never had the opportunity. Didn’t occur to me that it was a possibility. No time to vet and not sure I know how to vet anyway.

Why aren’t more women investing?
I heard this over and over and from some of the most accomplished operators in the world, many of whom happened to be women… leaders who’d built the most successful tech companies in the world. In fact, many of today’s most respected operators are women.

Earlier this year one of our LPs, Reshma Saujani, Founder & CEO of Girls Who Code, released her book Brave, Not Perfect; this is based on the idea that from a young age, boys are praised when they take risks, while girls are expected to be perfect and steer clear of taking chances. Saujani’s experience is in the world of coding, but the translation to enterprise is clear: Women today are conditioned to be perfect at work, at home, and frankly in everything we do. As a result, we give 150% to our day jobs and 150% to our family and friends. We’re not looking to meet VCs and founders in the little time we have left over. Sprinkle in the gender pay equity gap and “gap table,” and the result is that most women don’t have the liquidity, much less the desire, to invest in people they don’t know and in startups they don’t have the time to vet. Yet they’re the very people with the backgrounds the venture world could use. So these women these ultra talented operators were also outsiders with no obvious path to get in.

On the flip side, there’s venture. Now the value of diversity has been well established, yet venture remains homogeneous not because no one wants the change, but because there hasn’t been a natural way for it to happen (birds of a feather, and all that). So what we wanted to do was help both sides of the equation: Give talented operators from diverse backgrounds a safe, comfortable way to join venture + make it easy for founders and VCs to bring in new experience and perspectives.

The origin of Operator Collective
The idea took hold quickly. Operators were thrilled at the idea (just look at the absurd amount of talent we’ve assembled), and they quickly referred their fellow operators. Even universities and foundations signed on as LPs, a rarity for a first-time fund. And of course as we operators have been trained to do, we built this fund to have immediate product-market fit to address that gaping lack of operational expertise in venture.

So here we go. The sidelines are bursting, and the outsiders are coming in.

Say hello to Operator Collective.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Infographic: The absurd amount of talent in Operator Collective

It’s no secret venture capital is an exclusive and homogeneous group that’s hard for outsiders to crack. Yet VCs and founders don’t build companies — operators do. So why don’t they have a bigger voice to decide which founders get funded and how they’ll be supported?

That’s why we created Operator Collective, a new venture capital fund with a community of ultra-talented operators built right into its DNA. Operator Collective is making venture accessible to exactly the people the ecosystem needs now: leaders from diverse backgrounds with deep experience from building some of today’s most successful companies.

Our limited partners include 100+ respected operators who bring decades of experience growing and running the world’s most admired companies — from Zoom, Stripe, and PagerDuty to Salesforce, Slack, and beyond. They have more than 1500 years of collective operator experience; more than 60 of our LPs have built unicorns, more than 35 have taken their companies public, and more than 80 have steered their companies through acquisitions. The amount of revenue they own and people they lead is staggering.

Learn more in the graphic below. What an incredible team to have on your side.

Operator Collective Infographic

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.