Operator Spotlight: Microsoft VP of Customer Success, Azure Data & AI Rashida Hodge

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who build them – operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game – building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next. 

This month, we spoke with Rashida Hodge, Vice President of Customer Success, Azure Data & AI at Microsoft. Rashida is a technologist and executive leader at the forefront of AI and emerging technologies that are changing how businesses operate. Currently she leads the Data and AI Customer Success Worldwide Commercial Business at Microsoft, accelerating data-driven digital transformation for customers through a differentiated and connected customer experience.

A former Fortune 40 Under 40 recipient, she leads technology innovation strategy, develops diverse teams, and orchestrates global technology transformations. 

You’ve held big roles at big companies. Where have you made an impact in your field? Have you broken any rules that led to interesting results? 

RASHIDA: AI is a technology that has been around for a long time. But, over the last several years, it has become more consumable, scalable and accessible. 

Very few people were paying serious attention to AI when we launched the IBM Watson business unit. Now, it’s top of mind across board rooms, typically included  in every client discussion on emerging technologies, and it brings forth a discussion of curiosity at family dinner tables.  Over the last 10 years, a much richer and broader understanding of the technology has surfaced and we have a better understanding of how AI can and should be applied.  Honestly, living in the heart of this transformational shift has been incredible. 

Today, we have robust platforms, repeatable patterns of success, and industry differentiation. To know that my early experiences and engagements – both successes and learnings –  informed the industry and shaped the use of technology across companies and platforms is extremely humbling. 

What’s something people often get wrong about customer success? 

RASHIDA:  Many  enterprises underestimate the  value that customer success brings to the core strategy, growth, and sustainability of the enterprise.  Customer success is the heart of understanding the why, builds the fidelity to determine the what, and delivers the how in execution.  As we continue to mature and grow in the world of cloud, customer success will more and more be seen as a required function.

Not everyone gets dubbed the “Superhero of IBM Watson AI”! Share how your interest and expertise in AI came to be.

RASHIDA: Honestly, I wish I had a cool, sexy story to tell you about how I planned this out entirely but life is a mixture of hard work, perseverance, grit, timing, and a dash of luck.  And I ended up in the AI space based on a combination of all those factors.  When IBM decided to commercialize Watson into its own business unit, I had the opportunity to work closely with the senior vice president, Mike Rhodin, who was tasked with gathering a core set of leaders to create this business unit from the ground-up.  I was fortunate enough to build out the technical delivery team to deliver our early engagements.  Through this experience, I had a front row seat to the roller coaster ride of bringing a product to market, aligning customer expectations to the journey, and bringing the value of this technology to life for our clients globally.  And frankly, one of my clients gave me that nickname because of how intimately I advocated for them through this journey. I will always treasure this designation because it represents what I love about serving my clients – helping them achieve success, value, and meaningful impact for their business. 

A move to a new company after 19 years is a big shift. What was a key learning you uncovered during that transition? 

RASHIDA: I am just thrilled to be at Microsoft.  To have the opportunity to work for a company where we are focused on empowering every person and every organization to achieve more is remarkable and aligns with my passion for doing meaningful work and enabling customer success.   The key learning for me during the transition is that we are lifelong learners; and regardless of our experience and previous performance, there is always more to learn. During this transition, I realized that pivoting not on what you have done in the past, but instead indexing on the pace at which you can learn, the comfort in being uncomfortable and being open to feedback are the real winners in being successful. 

What are some of the influences that led you to your views on how culture and diversity are the keys to commercial success? 

RASHIDA: Now you have hit a nerve, and a passion for me indeed.  

As a black woman in tech, I understand the reality of what happens when we neglect to do the work of having inclusive and diverse environments. For a large majority of my career, I operated under the “tax”; and partially still do.  

I’m black, a woman, and some say I look “youthful”. We have to remove the unspoken taxes that put undue pressure and burden on a particular identity, because we need the room to be colorful, varied and full of richness. 

For me, commercial success starts with talent – diverse talent from all angles, lenses and perspectives. It is important for us to pay attention to how and who we recruit, because technology mirrors our society. And when we do, we must focus on retention. Diversity equals seeking out the talent and providing the right atmosphere to retain the talent. I describe this often as inviting a bunch of cool, interesting people to a party only to have a lame party. The food is bland; the music is a snooze; and zero effort was put into these phenomenal people having a great experience. So, yes, who is going to want to stay at that party? Surely not me, or anyone who wants to have a good time. We need to do the work to find the talent and then ensure we have a fabulous party! 

If we have learned anything over the years, it is that technology is not just a business imperative but a humane imperative.  So, as we architect, build, and implement technology solutions, we need to ensure diverse talent is in the mix and technologies are relevant and applicable to broad, varied groups of people.  

What’s something you’ve done successfully, personally or professionally, to empower the next generation of underrepresented leaders? What’s one thing you want to take on next?

RASHIDA:  A few years back, I heard a message that challenged me to think about the difference between significance and success. It pushed me to think deeply on “my why”. Why do I show up day after day and work hard with grit and passion? After much thought, I walked away with the reflection that success is about choice and decisions for our own personal benefit; while significance is about choosing a life and decisions that benefit others. In the early stages of my career, there was a burning passion to make my successes meaningful.  But over time, I learned that we have a role to play in contributing to and supporting the environments that shaped us.  

As a child of teenage parents who totally relied on scholarships to afford college, I took the bold step in 2012 of starting an endowment at North Carolina State University to provide need-based aid to women and people of color studying in Industrial Engineering. This was not financially easy, but I believe it was a necessary sacrifice. I wanted to offer to others what was offered to me – the opportunity of an education. 

It would have been much easier for me to make this level of a contribution once I had made much more money, reached some greater pinnacle of success, or donated as part of a trust once I passed. But it was important for me to establish significance now;  because we cannot wait for the perfect moment to act, and establishing significance requires real sacrifice.  My goal and desire is to continue to live a life of significance by enabling advancement and opportunity for others.  

What’s your secret super power? 

RASHIDA: My ability to build from my circumstances, which was learned and adopted from my dear mother. My mother gave birth to me as a teenager, and endured not only her own shock, but the shock of many others in our family and community. Through the crushing pressure of disappointments, family whispers, and her newfound love for me, my mother made the decision to be relentlessly resilient in spite of her circumstances.   She refused to allow her circumstances as a teen mom to stop her from getting her education and rising through the ranks of our local hospital and becoming the VP of Engineering Operations. Through her experience, she equipped me with my super power of building from your circumstances.  My mom’s teenage mind bore out a resolve that imprinted on me a tenacity and vigor for life; and I firmly believe it is up to us to take the resources present and finesse them into our own personal greatness. 

 

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are the keys to building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Meet Faros AI: the EngOps company connecting the dots for engineering leaders

New to the scene but hot out of the gate, learn all about OpCo portfolio company Faros AI.

The company: Faros AI

Faros AI is an operational data platform that brings all engineering data into one place to give engineering leaders a single-pane view of their entire software development lifecycle. It takes the guesswork out of planning so that a team can make decisions, allocate resources and improve productivity based on actual data. EngOps is officially here.

Faros AI’s origin

Co-founders Vitaly Gordon, Shubha Nabar, and Matthew Tovbin are machine learning pioneers. They met while building Einstein, Salesforce’s machine learning platform. While enduring struggles of a rapidly growing engineering org, they realized that their counterparts in Sales, Marketing and Finance were incredibly data-informed about their operations. They were modeling and measuring the impact of changes, and moving efficiently. Meanwhile, the engineering side of the office was flying blind. Seemingly simple questions about engineering velocity, security, compliance, or cost required an extreme amount of effort to solve. Relevant data would take weeks to compile, and by the time analyses were complete, the data would be unusable. The team learned they weren’t alone, either: when they spoke to engineering teams in other organizations, it was the same story. Thus, Faros was born.

Why you should pay attention

Faros is making big moves. This March, Faros AI raised $16M in seed funding and has partnered with leading companies like Box, Coursera, GoFundMe, and many more to help their engineering teams move faster. The team has also developed an open source version of the product called Faros CE (Community Edition), which they launched on Product Hunt and is available to install from their website for free.

The details

Based in Sunnyvale, CA, Faros AI is on a mission to help engineering leaders gain unprecedented visibility and insight into their operations with data that is automatically extracted and synthesized from all relevant sources. As a result, teams can ship quality software quickly, efficiently, and reliably. 

How it works

Faros does what no other program has done before and connects engineering systems like Jira, Jenkins and GitHub, including an intelligence layer to make logical connections across the data that they could deliver to customers in a dashboard. The program can trace a project across systems, allowing for much quicker access to data. The team has built over 50 connectors to connect typical engineering tools, but also allows for the tech to be open source so engineering teams can connect to any system, regardless of whether Faros supports it natively or not.

Why we’re obsessed

Faros AI is the first truly holistic view into customers’ engineering operations in a noisy space with lots of point solutions, but no real platform. The founders are recognized across the industry as some of the best and are building out a world-class, innovative team, including many who have worked for them before. We’re confident their EngOps platform will become only more and more necessary with the remote/hybrid future of work where engineering processes are more diffuse.

Get involved

You can download the free version of Faros, Faros Community Edition, or inquire about the Professional or Enterprise editions on Faros.ai. Faros is also hiring! Join here.

From the Collective: On Community Part 2 – It’s Not Community, it’s Culture

Welcome to Part 2 of a three-part series focused on community. In my last post I talked about using frameworks to build your community and the limits that we all face when we rely on just that method. For part two I want to focus on how we can all build and sustain communities that go beyond the numbers to unlock a member’s full potential.

HOW TO BUILD A LONG-LASTING COMMUNITY

First things first, we’re building a culture, and that’s important for our own framing. The frameworks I mentioned in my last post can and will help you build your community at a high level, but none will tap into the core wants, needs, and desires of the collective. Those frameworks, as great as they are for structure, were not created to build a culture as much as they were to support a member/customer. 

That being said, customer communities do in fact have cultures. The best ones have very intentional cultures, which is why they’re successful! Think about Salesforce’s customer community: Trailblazers. They’ve built a deep culture where members help each other and they celebrate their success. It’s less about a transaction and more about getting people what they need and supporting where they’re trying to go. They even have their own terminology, which further strengthens the collective community and makes people feel like they’re truly part of something bigger (which they are).

Hubspot is another incredibly successful community that intentionally built a culture where knowledge flows freely, support and praise are given loudly, and togetherness is baked into the core. They’ve also managed to create subgroups for members to dive deeper into more specific topics and areas, without fragmenting the community as a whole (which is not always easy to do). At the same time, people love Hubspot’s community so much that they’ve become organic brand ambassadors inviting new people in. So how do they do it?

Both of the communities I referenced have been around for over a decade, and that’s important to note. Community is not an overnight success. Ambitiously launching with a handful of programs doesn’t guarantee success of any of them, because nurturing humans takes time. Fostering a culture of trust and belonging takes time. And testing programs, gathering feedback, and tweaking as needed all takes time.

Can you see where I’m going with this? Even if you replicated each community program offered by any successful org, there’s no promise that your replication will drive value, deliver joy, and meet your members’ needs. So how, then, do you do it? It takes a lot of work, commitment, and buy-in, and when done right, will support itself in the long run. Here are my 5 tips to building your community and creating a long-lasting culture:

1. Take the Time

A while ago someone started a rumor saying communities could be launched in 90-days and it caused a lot of company executives to believe that something so grand could be built in such a short time. I’m here to say that while you can certainly build something in 90-days, it won’t be a long-lasting community with the needed support to succeed. Communities take time because people take time, and they’re the one variable your community is built with and around (people being your potential members AND your company leaders). Give yourself time – 6-18 months – to really understand who you’re building with and why. This doesn’t mean you do absolutely nothing in the meantime. It means you use this time as a discovery phase and to build with intention. 

Keep existing programs running but revisit if they’re relevant anymore. Dream up new projects and see where they fit in the business and community itself. Connect with leaders in the company to understand their org’s needs and share how a community can be built to support them. This time is foundational to setting your community up for longevity.

2. Get to Know Your Current & Ideal Members

Use your discovery phase to get to know your members. For current members, reach out. Schedule small group sessions or 1:1s with those who are most active, least active, most in favor of, and most opposing. Why such extremes? Because those are the people who care and those are exactly the people you want to learn from and build with. I promise you, even the person who hasn’t logged into the community in months cares because at some point they joined, and were looking for something. Your job is to find out what that was and how come it never happened.

If you’re building a community from scratch and don’t have members, even better. Use this time to map who those ideal members are, find them, and talk to them. Start with community personas and use this time to really imagine who you’re looking to bring into the space. Understand who they are, what they like, and what they’re in need of. Roughly outline what you hope their community journey will look like, when they join (before or after sales?), and what that onboarding can look like. This plan doesn’t need to be ready for action, it’s more of an ideation phase to help you imagine what you can and might build. You may even find that the community you thought you wanted to build actually morphs as you start to understand who’s going to be in it and how they’ll use it.

3. Uncover the ‘Why’ for Members and the Business

This is crucial for foundational development and internal alignment. In your discovery phase, ask yourself ‘why’. Why does this community have to exist? Why does the business want to support it? Why do members join, contribute, stay, and bring others in? Alternatively, why do they leave, go inactive, or just stop showing up?

Unlocking the internal motivators and intrinsic drivers of your members is going to unlock the programs, events, content, and offerings you’re seeking to build. On the business side, it’s going to ensure deep alignment with business goals and set the community up for greater success. If the business does not support the community, it will fail, and that’s a fact. Communities take resources, and if you’re short on them, it’s the members who suffer. Ensure the community is aligning with the goals of the business before you launch, otherwise it will be an uphill battle from day one.

4. Experience Life Together

There’s a reason people use the phrase ‘comrades in the trenches,’ and it’s because experiencing life together can bring people closer. Now, I’m not saying we should jump to a trauma-inducing activity, but yes, let’s live a little together. Go for a hike, meet up for a drink, edit a resume together, or enjoy a small group dinner. Whatever it is, it’s crucial to move beyond the operations and metrics and tap into what makes everyone a full human being.

It’s not fluff either. As you work through the steps and do your diligence, you’ll see and hear from members about what it is they like and want in this life. You may learn who’s a parent, who has pets, who travels all of the time, etc. From there, you have the opportunity to craft moments that allow you to share those experiences. These are the intentional details that build a culture. And building this culture will provide value and community for members. You need both to be successful.

5. Build With, Not For

I saved my favorite for last. You may have noticed me mentioning ‘building with’ some of the best communities in the world. Notice I didn’t say I built some of the best communities in the world, because that would be a lie. As a community creator and leader, my job is to listen, uncover the gaps for both the business and the user, and find a way forward for all. In order to shift from building for your ideal member to building with them, you’ll need to remind yourself that at the end of the day, it’s their community. 

You cannot create something great ‘for’ them if you do not include them in what’s being built. For anyone afraid of giving up control or losing the community’s focus, this doesn’t mean you share a blank canvas and leave it up to them. Communities need leaders, and as one, your job is to source as many insights as possible, put them together like the puzzle pieces they are, and present it back to the community, reiterating what you heard and how you’re approaching it. Behind the scenes, if you’re honoring your discovery phase, that’s where you’re gathering community input before making your best recommendations. Community is a two-way street between the organizers and members, and if you can’t hear their asks, how will you ever give them what they need? 

These 5 tips, in addition to a solid framework, will guide your community from ideation to launch and help set you up for success. When in doubt, remember that your people want to be there because they took action and showed up. Those early adopters, highly-active members, and natural evangelists are the ones you want to connect with and want to build with. Tap into them as part of your team and build something great together.

It’s always worth remembering that building a community takes a lot of work, commitment, and support, but the rewards are limitless when done right. In my next and final post of this series, I’m going to talk a bit more about how to get your community a seat at the table in your company, and what it takes to be community-first. 

The Ins & Outs of SaaS Metrics: Measuring Sales & Marketing ROI

We always love to share helpful insights from our amazing community — both from operator investors and founders alike. This month, we’re wrapping up our three-post series with finance leader Christina Ross (former serial CFO turned CEO/co-founder of Cube). She’s already provided great tips around how to interpret SaaS metrics, including customer retention and the SaaS magic number. This month, we’re excited to share her valuable advice about using customer lifetime value and acquisition costs to measure a company’s return on its sales and marketing spend. Another way to think about this is the rate at which revenue is staying with the business over time, or “net dollar retention” (NDR). 

Anyone who’s watched Shark Tank knows that investors often obsess over customer acquisition cost (CAC). Why is this metric so crucial in enterprise software?

CHRISTINA: Well, it’s super important for any business to earn more from its customers than it spends to acquire them. CAC measures exactly what you’d think: how much do we have to spend (on average) in order to acquire a customer? To calculate this, you take your total sales and marketing spend for a given period and divide it by however many new customers you acquired in that same period.

CAC = (Sales + Marketing Spend) / # of New Customers Acquired

Now, most SaaS companies have several different groupings of customers, some of which are more expensive to acquire than others. For this, cohort CAC analysis is extremely valuable in helping you get specific insights into a targeted subset of customers.

How should companies think about customer lifetime value (LTV)?

CHRISTINA: This is the amount of revenue you expect the average customer to generate during their time as your customer. But there’s actually no universally agreed upon way to calculate this common SaaS metric. So unless you have a specific need for a different formula, I always recommend keeping it simple:

LTV = Average Revenue Per User (ARPU) * Average Customer Lifetime (LT)

To get there, you’ll of course need to calculate your ARPU by dividing monthly recurring revenue by your number of users. The length of time you expect a customer to stay with you can be a bit trickier, especially if you’re a newer company that doesn’t have years of historical data to reference. The easiest way to approximate this is to base LT on your churn rate.

Customer Lifetime = 1 / Monthly Churn Rate

For example, if you see 1% churn each month, then your LT = 1/0.01 = 100 months (8 years and 4 months). And to get your LTV from there, you just need to multiply ARPU times that LT number. So if your average monthly revenue per user is $100 and your expected customer lifetime is 100 months, then LTV = 100 * 100 = $10,000.

What’s a good LTV/CAC ratio?

CHRISTINA: The baseline ratio for early-stage, high-growth companies is 3:1, meaning an LTV that’s 3x your CAC. Knowing this ROI on your sales and marketing spend is key because it tells you how sustainable your business model is. If your LTV/CAC ratio is above 3:1, then you probably have the funds to expand your sales and marketing team and go after some tougher-to-acquire customers. On the other hand, if it is below 3:1, then you’re either spending too much on sales and marketing, or you need to increase the LTV of your existing customers.

How can companies use the LTV/CAC ratio to understand their different customer segments?

CHRISTINA: In aggregate, this metric tells you how on-track you are as a company and gives you helpful insight about your “average customer.” However, all of your customers are probably not the same, so the LTV/CAC ratio is most powerful when you segment it. By digging into individual cohorts within your customer base, you can benchmark each group to your average. 

The Pareto principle tells us that a subset of customers (say, 20%) are responsible for the majority (maybe 80%) of a company’s revenue. Analyzing your LTV/CAC ratio by cohort helps you identify exactly who those most profitable customers are, as well as which customers you might be spending too much on acquiring.

What are your tips for improving LTV/CAC ratio?

CHRISTINA: If a company’s LTV/CAC ratio is low, that either means its CAC is too high or its LTV is too low. There are several ways to reduce the costs of customer acquisition, such as:

  • Focus on more efficient channels: Content marketing, ad retargeting, email marketing are all cheaper (and more efficient) marketing channels than running ads to a cold audience. 
  • Go after different customers: Is there any low-hanging fruit you haven’t gone after? Could you be using better prospecting tools?
  • Increase your conversion rates: Find ways to convert more customers for the same amount of spend, perhaps by investing in user research and copywriting. 
  • Simplify your sales cycle: If your sales cycle is lengthy, that usually means it’s also more expensive, so you’ll want to look for ways to speed it up.

When it comes to increasing customer lifetime value, start by reducing your customer churn or increasing the average customer lifetime. Of course, increasing average revenue per user will also increase LTV. Here are a few things to try:

  • Improve customer success: By investing in customer success and ensuring you offer a great support experience, you’ll keep customers around longer. 
  • Experiment with pricing: Consider raising your prices for new customers (as long as that doesn’t also increase your churn rate).  
  • Focus on expansion offers: Up-sells, cross-sells, and expansions are all powerful ways to increase your ARPU.

What pitfalls of the LTV/CAC ratio should people watch out for?

CHRISTINA: It’s easy to miscalculate or misinterpret your LTV/CAC ratio if you’re not comprehensive in your approach. In particular, misrepresenting CAC might inflate your LTV/CAC ratio and paint a much rosier picture than reality. When calculating CAC, you should include more than obvious paid advertising costs. Be sure to factor in other sales and marketing spend like creative (design, copywriting, content marketing), acquisition-related employee salaries, software (such as website hosting costs), and lead scoring and strategy as well. 

In addition, since not all customers are created equal, don’t forget that LTV/CAC ratios will differ by cohort. For example, if a small subset of customers are wildly profitable but your largest customer cohort only has a LTV/CAC ratio of 1:2, that’s a huge insight that should be incorporated into your growth strategy.

We’ve talked a lot about LTV and CAC, but you’ve hinted that NDR might be the more favorable metric. Tell us more. 

CHRISTINA: Across our customer base, NDR consistently comes up as the revenue metric investors are watching. Over the past few years, there’s been an ever-growing focus on retention, engagement, and customer loyalty. NDR, sometimes referred to as net revenue retention (NRR), shows you how well your business keeps, engages, and upgrades your customers. It measures how much of your annual recurring revenue (ARR) or monthly recurring revenue (MRR) your business keeps over a time period, and includes expansions, contractions, and losses. The bottom line here is that creating a positive customer experience is a proven way to maximize NDR.  

What does NDR tell you and why is it important to track? 

CHRISTINA: NDR can help stakeholders gauge how well a business is retaining and growing customers. It signals how well cross-sell and upsell strategies are working.

NDR > 100% indicates growth.

NDR = 100% means the business is static.

NDR < 100% indicates decline.

A high NDR means customers are climbing the value ladder. You’re offering the right things they need as they grow. Meaning: keep doing what you’re doing. If it’s low, it could signal that you’re not offering the right upgrades, the customer success experience is difficult, or a need to build brand loyalty. Across the board, these are all business health essentials to constantly monitor especially in an ever-changing market like today.

 

Thanks to Christina for sharing all of these best practices around SaaS metrics! If you’d like to learn more about the LTV/CAC ratio, check out Cube’s blog post on the topic.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are keys to building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Office Hours: Building Your GTM Machine

Building a go-to-market engine to fuel growth and carve a path to profitability is critical for success, but rarely a straight line. We gathered two of our stellar Operator LPs who are scaling iconic companies to share their inside track on cracking the GTM code with OpCo founders, CEOs, and GTM leaders from our portfolio. 

The Speakers: 

Heather Akuiyibo: VP Sales, Databricks.  Heather has been at the helm of Databrick’s sales since 2017.  She didn’t just navigate through the pandemic, she crushed it.  At the end of 2021, Databricks reported $800M in ARR, a NRR of 150% and over 7,000 customers, making it one of the top 10 most valuable companies.  

Olivia Nottebohm: Chief Revenue Officer / Advisor at Notion. Olivia grew Google’s Cloud Business internationally before joining Dropbox as COO, and most recently oversaw Notion’s entire marketing, sales, customer support and customer experience function, propelling the company to new heights. 

Here are the GTM gems they shared: 

Two key things to nail.

  • Hiring profiles for right now. Every single role should have a strong sense of what key skill sets are most important for this point in time. The AE  you needed two years ago is not the AE you need now, and won’t be the AE you need in two more years. Constantly ratchet up the skill sets, and tweak and fine tune the target profiles. 
  • Enable your people. Find out what makes the first, or the best, sales person tick and codify it. Just get it on paper, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Train everyone on the path to success.

Mistakes not to make.

  • Reinventing the wheel. Value propositions for the customer can be standardized based on pattern recognition: stages of customer, business problems they face.  Don’t allow too much deviation from the core fundamentals, and reel it in if it gets too far. Creative  sales scenarios often come at the opportunity cost of sales for more standard applications.
  • Not serving the customer. Obvious one, but customer success needs to happen at a particular scale whether they ask for it or not. A lot of research can be done online and self-served. But if they don’t get helped after a certain level of spend, expect dropoff. 
  • Not asking for executive sponsorship: if sellers don’t want to ask for help, by the time the executive relationship comes through it can be too late. 
  • No champion, no deal. Find out who the power users are quickly, and reach out to them. You can help change the profile of someone on the customer side by giving them things to do, things to advocate for, and making them stand out as a champion.

Just start documenting.

  • Surprise! There is no one right way to GTM. There’s no exact model that will work perfectly for your specific team and company.  And it will change as you grow.
  • Start writing down what works so people can learn from each other in the early days. Some salespeople are better at getting new logos, others are better at account management. 
  • Document who is responsible for what. How to use the tools. Explain management dashboards and why they’re important. Make it easy to search.
  • Start early with executive alignment so everyone knows when, where, and how it happens with every deal.
  • Having a playbook that evolves with you will always keep people in the loop about expectations and what good looks like. 
  • Capture videos and recordings from the best sales people. Having a library creates transparency and increases productivity. There’s nothing wrong with the beg, borrow, steal approach when it comes to best practices – and it’s important these sellers have the time to do what they do best versus onboard new people. 

Stay scrappy. 

  • Needs constantly change – internally, externally, different geos, etc. Stay flexible. 
  • Some things should work on a repeated basis, but have a tolerance for experimentation and empowerment. Never stop experimenting. 
  • Even the most sophisticated companies do things like a LinkedIn mosh on customers to find the relationships that can open doors and make the difference between a win and a loss. Relationships truly matter, even in PLG sales motions. 

Build your technical & data backbone before you think you need it. 

  • Get your systems right and invest in them early. Make sure you have your tech stack architected in a way that will scale overtime. If you’re not getting the inbound right now, a downturn can be a great time to do this properly. 
  • Data and storytelling are key components of realizing value. Decide what pieces of data matter, do the right tagging, and at the end of the day, data is where the answers lie. 
  • Get the balance of data and storytelling to drive the insight you need to prove.
  • When you don’t have enough clear data, listen to what the customer is saying and what the sales reps are saying. Keywords you hear can be a way into a story that wasn’t previously obvious.
  • Know what growth metrics matter to which teams like customer success and engineering, and think about what kind of north star internal metrics tell the true value. 

You’re probably going to be wrong 20% of the time. 

  • Don’t let perfection get in the way of good. Paralysis is the enemy of GTM success.
  • In a world where you don’t have perfect information, just make some bets. 
  • 80% of the best practices should be repeatable, 20% needs to be adapted. It’s easy to get stuck in old ways. Develop the muscle to recognize what’s repeatable, and what kinds of investments don’t have a return. Which is where culture can make a huge difference…

Keep it real, make it fun. 

  • Culture matters. There will always be deals that don’t go your way. Rather than trying to solve it yourself or run away, “embrace the suck”. From the CEO down, open and transparent communication informs teams about what’s really happening, and you can have a productive conversation about what is, and what is not, in your control to do differently. 
  • No support question is just a support question. All of the GTM functions work in concert with each other, and when something goes off the rails it shows up in other areas. It’s easy to point fingers, so always reinforce that the team is in it together. 
  • Spiffs and other incentives keep sales people engaged. Make it easy to participate, nominate each other, and celebrate as one team.
  • When there’s a big loss, talk about it. What are you going to lean into, what are you going to stop. Learning the hard way is valuable and should go into the playbook.
  • Map your successes to your values and customer needs.

 

Operator Spotlight: Credit Karma Co-Founder & Chief Revenue Officer Nichole Mustard

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who build them – operating leaders who grow businesses to new heights and make decisions every day that can impact entire industries. Each month, our Operator Spotlight gives you the inside track from one of our incredible Operator LPs (Limited Partners) who are changing the game – building and scaling some of the world’s most successful companies. Read on for lessons learned and mistakes made, perspectives from the top, practical advice, and ideas on what’s next. 

This month we spoke with Nichole Mustard, Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Credit Karma, which was acquired by Intuit in 2020 for $8.1B and has more than 120M members globally. The company operates independently. A true customer champion, Nichole is the architect of Credit Karma’s win-win-win business model and has been instrumental in scaling it, finding the right mix of financial partners, and optimizing data science capabilities to ensure members and partners get the most value from their products and services. 

Credit Karma is built to last and has been through a few evolutions in its 15 years. How has your role changed since you first took the CRO seat in 2014? 

NICHOLE: In the early days of Credit Karma, I was doing marketing, data partnerships, even PR–I had many jobs back then. I worked in the trenches signing partners and maintaining those relationships and ensuring our business model put equal emphasis on helping our partners’ bottom lines while putting the member first. I still do all of that in my oversight of our data partnerships, which is really the foundation of our business but I now also have helped build our international footprint. 

My day starts somewhere between 7-8 a.m. on business review meetings with our international team to help localize the successes of Credit Karma in the U.S. to Canada and the U.K. and innovate in those geographies. I have learned so much in this role, I really believe the U.K.’s technology is far ahead of the U.S. with things like Open Banking. When I am wearing my data partnerships hat, a big part of my job is maintaining those relationships with the bureaus that I put a lot of energy into forging some 15 years ago. It’s a unique opportunity for me to help usher them towards being digital-first. One of the most fun things for me is when I have the chance to work with a relatively unknown data provider and we get to work together to solve complex consumer problems. Due to the sheer scale of Credit Karma with more than 120 million members, those startups then become the most advanced, most compliant data providers setting the benchmark for the next generation of technology. 

What are 3 key traits you hire for when building out a sales org? 

NICHOLE: 

-Be authentic: Don’t try to be something you’re not. Business prospects –and employees–will see right through it. You can stay true to yourself while still selling your business. 

-Being data-oriented is key: No matter what your business is, analytics matter. Those who can speak data will always have an edge on my team. 

-Be empathetic: The numbers are important but don’t lose sense of the people. You’re doing well if the person you’re working with is getting promoted. Never lose sight of what matters in the big picture. 

What are the sales metrics you pay most attention to, and why? What’s the first thing you look at on a dashboard? 

NICHOLE: At Credit Karma, it’s less about sales metrics and more about how we are giving our members the best available data to make smarter financial decisions. One key metric I track very closely is what we call share of wallet–essentially, are consumers taking out financial products at Credit Karma or elsewhere? We are building a platform that is valuable to our members and keeps them coming back. We want to be the destination where consumers engage, transact and ultimately, make progress. 

Where have you made an impact in your field? Have you broken any rules that led to interesting results? 

NICHOLE: One of the things that we did early on that isn’t touched on often but I think is worth calling out is our transparent business model. We built a really great business by doing right by our consumers and partners. We believe high value experiences for consumers lead to exponentially better business outcomes. This was unheard of when Credit Karma was founded in 2007. In the end, that transparency has paid off in dividends. We proved that you can build a successful business free of “gotcha!” and that paved the way for other companies to follow suit. 

Beyond that, Credit Karma is in a very unique position from a regulatory perspective. We sit in between the financial institutions and the member but we are not a bank or a financial institution – a lot of the rules don’t always directly apply to us but the spirit of them very much does. It’s worth noting that a lot of rules in the industry were written at a point in time when fintechs didn’t even exist or were a novelty. Those rules haven’t necessarily aged well with technology. Technology is constantly innovating and evolving so there is a need for a lot of fintechs to interpret the spirit of the law and work with partners to be on the same page. We can’t pick and choose to suit a given situation. An enormous part of Credit Karma’s success lies in the trust we have in our members so we always prioritize doing what’s right so as not to jeopardize that, without exception. 

Having been in a visible leadership role over the years, what’s a key piece of advice for founders who are leading through uncertain times? 

NICHOLE: So many times when you are building a business, you utilize optionality to make a decision at the last moment. But during times of uncertainty, focusing on your employees, members and partners is the most critical thing. Never lose focus on that sacred trifecta. Avoid the knee-jerk reaction to make fundamental changes to your business during times of duress. During the last recession, there were opportunities to increase revenue by changing our revenue model but we were steadfast in doing right by our members and partners. That continues to pay off for us as a business in the trust we have with our members. 

Be crystal clear in your prioritization, be clear on the why and over communicate to your employees and partners. 

What was one of your first jobs and what’s one big lesson you learned? 

NICHOLE: I worked at the beach water park in Cincinnati as a lifeguard for several summers. It taught me to be nice to people, everyone is doing their best. I made $5 an hour and was just trying to do my job and keep people safe but many blamed me for what they deemed unfair rules, even though I had zero say in making those rules. Looking at it from another lens, it helped me realize what people have control over and what they don’t. That translates now as an executive who works for the employees, not the other way around. For that reason, I try to always take a coaching over yelling approach to leadership. 

What’s the best advice you’ve received – or given – about how to manage people?  

NICHOLE: Remember that every person is different. Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated, treat them the way they want to be treated. 

Also, you have to let your team get to know the real you and in turn, you must get to know the real them. As a leader, I try to make myself vulnerable to my teams. If there is something I want to actively work on, I ask my team to hold me accountable. On the flip side, with getting to know your employees, instead of asking yourself whether you want to work with someone, I always ask myself if I would want to travel with a person. I don’t have to be their best friend but would I learn something sitting across from that person at dinner on the road? Caring about a person is critical at the manager and leadership level. 

What’s your secret super power? OR What’s your biggest kryptonite and how do you manage around it? 

NICHOLE: I always try to work myself out of a job…almost! I remind my direct reports that if you delegate and empower your own teams then you have the opportunity to work on things you hadn’t considered working on or maybe didn’t have bandwidth to prioritize. That helps scale your business, grows your people and allows them to be bigger owners in the organization. Everybody wins.

 

6 LGBTQ+ Operators to Know

To celebrate Pride month, we’re highlighting some of the most successful, respected LGBTQ+ executives in the tech industry. Get to know (and follow!) these exceptional LPs, leaders, and operators:

Angie Coleman (@angieidunno)
Director of Community, Operator Collective

It’s me! I’ve led and developed communities for nearly a decade, spanning B2B product spaces and peer social groups at companies like Snowflake, Lesbians Who Tech, Zendesk, and Dropbox. We’re talking all about my learnings and how to build communities that matter on the blog this summer. Outside of OpCo, you can find me supporting my local QPOC, LGBTQ+, and techie communities, or enjoying nature – hiking, kayaking, or overlanding off the grid. 

Christine or Chris Heckart (C_Heckart)
Co-Founder and CEO of Xapa World

Christine Heckart is the non-binary, genderfluid founder and CEO of Xapa World and board member of Contentful and SiTime. With over 25 years of leadership experience in tech, including as CEO, GM, president, and CMO in industries like entertainment, SaaS, data analytics, security, networking, and storage, she has been there and done that. Married for 35 years with three grown children, Christine writes, paints and follows leading science research in her spare time. 

Emily Heath (@CISOEmilyHeath)
Board Member, Norton LifeLock and LogicGate and Former SVP, Chief Trust and Security Officer, DocuSign

Emily is consistently recognized as a top CSO operator, and has deep experience leading complex, global F100 organizations through technology and cultural change while building highly motivated teams. Prior to DocuSign, where she was the Pride Executive Sponsor, she was VP, Chief Information Security Officer at United Airlines. Emily is passionate about empowering creative and diverse teams, mentoring, and leadership- most importantly, growing leaders. 

LaFawn Davis (@lafawn)
Senior Vice President, ESG, Indeed

LaFawn, #6 on Fast Company’s Queer 50 list this year, has led diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives for more than 15 years, championing the “culture add” of bringing in talented diverse professionals as opposed to focusing only on “culture fit.” In addition to her role at Indeed, she’s currently an advisory board member at Lesbians Who Tech and PowerToFly. She previously held key senior leadership roles at global technology companies like Google, Yahoo, PayPal, and Twilio. 

Monique Dorsainvil (@MoDorsainvil)
Public Policy Director, Meta

Monique spent seven and a half years at the Obama White House, and during that time was named a World Economic Forum Global Shaper. Now at Meta, she engages with third-party think tank and advocacy organizations and was a part of the core team that spearheaded the company’s Civil Rights Audit to look at policy and product from an anti-discrimination lens. Monique also serves on the boards of Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation.

Nichole Mustard
Co-Founder and Chief Revenue Officer, Credit Karma

A true consumer champion, Nichole is the architect of Credit Karma’s win-win-win business model and has been instrumental in scaling it, finding the right mix of financial partners, and optimizing data science capabilities to ensure members and partners get the most value from the financial platform’s’s products and services. Under Nichole’s stewardship, Credit Karma has served more than 120M members globally and was acquired by Intuit in 2020 for $8.1B in cash and stock. Credit Karma operates independently and has tracked back-to-back record growth since the acquisition. When not building successful technology companies, Nichole lives with her wife and four children in Northern California.

 

From the Collective: 5 tips for fueling product-led growth

A primer from OpCo PortCo Demostack

Every company I talk to is focused on sustainable growth. SaaS founders and revenue leaders are all looking for new ways to stand out amongst their crowded markets. And competition is only getting more fierce as digital transformation accelerates. ​​Gartner forecasts that the enterprise software segment will experience the highest spending growth amongst IT categories this year, exceeding $670 billion.

In this context, one topic that keeps surfacing is product-led growth (PLG). This business strategy drives all user acquisition, expansion, conversion, and retention primarily through a product itself. It tends to create company-wide alignment across teams — including sales, marketing, product, and engineering — around the product as the single source of sustainable, scalable business growth.

Product-led growth is important because B2B buyers now have different purchasing preferences (increasingly similar to how they buy in their normal, business-to-consumer lives) that sellers must adjust to if they want to be successful. 54% of prospects want to learn how a product works on the first call, yet only 23% of sales reps plan to cover that. And nearly 75% of enterprise buyers say they’d rather buy through an app or website, rather than a salesperson.

The power of PLG 

Any enterprise SasS company looking to grow its customer base, retain its current users, and scale more efficiently should be thinking about product-led growth. PLG delivers faster growth because it lowers barriers to entry and acquisition costs, while increasing customer retention and upsells. When your product fixes a true pain or serves a true need, it will grow nearly virally, all on its own. You’ve likely heard of Calendly or Zoom because someone sent you a link to schedule or host a meeting. After experiencing tools like these, you like them so much, you want to use them too.

In a PLG model, acquisition costs are lower because your product has its own methods of capturing paying customers, without requiring marketing spend, sales development support, or an Account Executive. And the best PLG strategies involve products that are incredibly easy to start using in minutes, with little to no setup. Further, most users begin with a free (or very inexpensive) version of the product, rather than paying a larger upfront fee and taking days, weeks, or even months before they feel the return on investment. Because users simply pay when they are ready or when it feels like it is warranted, they feel satisfied that they get the right value for their money. Each of these factors help create a strong bond with the product and help adoption spread quickly.

Honing in on your Product Qualified Leads

Product Qualified Leads (PQLs) are people who’ve already signed up, used the product, entered their data, and become a committed user. Rather than filtering through thousands of prospects only to find the 20% who might be interested, your sales reps can work exclusively with users who already love your product and are probably ready to buy more. Identifying PQLs can also help your Customer Success team target the best upsell opportunities while increasing customer retention.

A cornerstone of product-led growth is the data that it provides about product usage. With this insight, customer success teams can focus on the best users of your product, or those who show the most potential for a potential upgrade or cross-sell. They can identify what features a user or team may benefit from, and inform them of how they can gain more value (this also helps with retention). And product teams can observe how users are integrating the solution into their workflows in order to spot ways they can make it even “stickier.” 

5 steps to jumpstart PLG

Now, all of that sounds great in theory, but product-led growth doesn’t just happen on its own. Here are five steps that help companies establish a successful PLG strategy:

1. Educate your team on product-led growth. Don’t be surprised if many of them are not yet familiar with PLG or its benefits. Even though most of us have experienced it as buyers by now, many B2B software teams are still set in the traditional rhythms of enterprise selling cycles. Before you can begin any sort of PLG transformation, you must first educate your team (both above and below) to garner support and understanding.

2. Assess your starting point. Each industry and product will need to approach product-led growth slightly differently, but your foundation for a successful PLG strategy should include:

  • Excellent product functionality. Your product must be second to none, so when users try it, they can’t stop using it.
  • Frictionless user experience. Your onboarding and general navigation should be simple and easy
  • All-star product management team. You’ll need stellar product leads to drive the bulk of this effort.

3. Shift your team’s roles. PLG impacts the entire organization. Instead of your company’s revenue being primarily marketing-led or sales-led, it will become driven by the product. Instead of having your marketing team focus on driving marketing qualified leads towards sales, they should push any sort of potential user towards the product, and then focus on converting those users into PQLs. By allowing your sales team to only deal with the most qualified users, they can shift from worrying about sales development (outside of enterprise deals), and instead focus on converting current users into paying users. PQLs have a significantly higher conversion rate than sales qualified leads, even though they are lower-touch.

4. Gather PLG usage data. Just as marketing needs data around webpage visits, content downloads, event attendance, and referral sources, PLG requires product data to be effective. It’s important to track what users do within your product, including where they spend their time, what dashboards they look at, and what features they use. All of this will help you convert the right folks into paying users and improve your customer experience over time.

5. Measure and repeat. Once your product-led growth process is in place, it’s time to measure, establish goals, and repeat. See what strategies work and what don’t, and adapt your company’s approach accordingly. 

To learn more about this topic, check out our guide to product-led growth in 2022.

-Nick Cronin, Content Marketing, Demostack

From the Collective: On Community Part 1 – Hitting the Limits of Frameworks

Welcome to the first post in a three-part series about community from the one and only Angie Coleman, Director of Community at OpCo. Angie has led and developed communities for nearly a decade, spanning B2B product spaces and peer social groups at companies like Snowflake, Lesbians Who Tech, Zendesk, and Dropbox. In short, she knows how to build communities that matter. 

Outside of work you can find her supporting her local QPOC, LGBTQ+, and techie communities, or educating non-technical folks on the inner workings of Web 3 with her not-to-be-missed YouTube Series, Web3Weirdos. She’s also an avid nature fan and can often be found hiking, kayaking, or overlanding off the grid with her adorable pup Enzo. 

Angie is one of the most referred and sought-after community leaders in tech, and in this series she will take us on a deep dive into her world of community and offer practical advice on what it takes to bring people together in a brilliant way.

Hint: it’s definitely not a “build it, and they will come” thing. 

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The most boring phrase I continuously find myself saying is, “I’m Angie, and I build communities.” I’ve been saying this for years. It’s usually a reply to someone asking me what “building community” means. Now, because of the growth of the community industry and my own career, I have this exchange 3-8x/week (depending on how social I’m being!). The job is big, so when asked, I half-honestly respond with, ‘I create programming and events that bring people together.” 

It’s a reductive response. It doesn’t allow for any of the vastness, or the nuance, that is community. Community has turned into a buzzword, arguably one of the more popular tech ones in the last couple of years. 

Here’s a look at how I arrived at this blah definition – and importantly where I’m taking it next. It starts, as many things do, with the frameworks. 

How the Frameworks Work

If you were to ask me even just last year how to build a successful community, I probably would have rattled off something about The 5 E’s of Community, my personal framework, or pointed you to SPACES, or the 7 P’s, or maybe the Community Canvas. There are a lot of frameworks out there that claim to help you build a brilliant community. 

And they will, to a degree. All of those frameworks will help you create events and programming that bring people together. They will all take you from inception to proposal to execution and scale. They’ll help you map what’s important to your community, shape the type of community container you build, and explore KPIs and success metrics. They’ll outline touchpoints and events, along with user contributions, NPS scores, and active users in the space so you know where to focus your efforts. In short, the frameworks will help you build your community exactly as the industry has defined it.

But what if I told you that community can be, and should be, more than a series of operationalized events and programming? 

The Gaps in the Frameworks

I mentioned above that a framework can help you build a community ‘exactly as the industry has defined it.’ Some of these frameworks have been in rotation since before I got into the industry and a few have changed to adapt to the new ways people want to, and actually do, come together.

These frameworks were created with one specific goal in mind: measure the value. When asked about the health of a community, any community expert will be quick to tell you that it’s all about the metrics, the touchpoints, and big rocks we’re producing. Some may rely on NPS scores or benchmark surveys to help quantify the qualitative while others dig into customer testimonials and quotes to capture those warm and fuzzy moments. Beyond community health, the value of the community is often defined by how impactful the community is on business goals ranging from user acquisition to quarterly revenue. It’s actually not uncommon to hear community professionals lead with the metrics-driven business value to ensure the org has a chance to exist.

But I would argue the metrics are only one piece of the success puzzle. A community could measure 40 touchpoints in 1 year, 20 events, a 10% reduction in support tickets due to forum support, and a successful NPS score to boot, but never once ask the members how those touchpoints felt or why they responded the way they did. In short, so what? The focus on metrics as the one source of hard truth negatively impacts community growth and success in multiple ways: 

1. A framework reliant on metrics and numbers will influence community builders and managers to believe numbers = success and higher numbers = more success. For example, if you report that the community reached 2K monthly active users last month, what’s stopping an ask to push for 3K within the next quarter? While growth is usually a goal of communities, growing for the sake of growing vs intentionally nurturing existing members and allowing for a mix of organic and inorganic growth will cause tension for the members and stress for the staff. Bigger is not always better. 

2. What usually follows an aggressive push for metric-based growth is community attrition. While a community may already have a great group of active, excited members eager to contribute, when leaders shift their focus to hypergrowth, those existing members get a little neglected. It’s not intentional, just the outcome of focusing on acquiring new members vs nurturing the current ones. As those existing members take note of the new focus and actions supporting growth vs., say, focusing on improving the existing support forum functionality, they get fed up, and they leave. This member attrition then has a directly negative impact on the health and value of the community. With members no longer using the community features to support themselves and one another, they’ll move to external sources of support, which does two things: 1. It drives up customer support tickets as people seek help elsewhere, which in turn drives up the in-house cost for support and 2. Members gather in externally managed community platforms like Reddit or Twitter to seek additional support and create their own, niche, community. Neither outcomes support a healthy business community.

3. A community based on metrics prioritizes the transaction over the member experience. Now, I’m a big fan of measurable data, and I by no means think community needs to look like all of us holding hands and sharing feelings, but leaning on metrics falls so far to the other side, a non-human side, that it makes it impossible to successfully support and add value to your members’ lives (something every community wants to do in some capacity). Community-led Growth is gaining popularity as a new growth model for companies, but behind community-led is experience-led growth, and without a positive member experience, communities will never unlock organic advocates to share the value of their product/business/service within external circles of influence.

Okay, so we know we need metrics, but we also need something else…but what? I’d say it’s about time for a community mindshift. 

Expanding Community

Community is more than just the numbers. It’s how people feel and why they come back. It’s who they show up as and how they contribute. It’s beyond a transaction, an ask, and even a brand.

More specifically, community is how people come together (whether that’s 1:1 vs. in a group, for events and conferences, in public vs. private, virtual or IRL, etc.). How people come together stems from why they come together (what need or want is the action/program/event filling?). The why and how together create a culture, intentionally or not, and that culture is what creates a lasting community. When done right, it’s community first AND last.

I like to say community creators are building worlds for their members, because for many members, their communities become their worlds. It’s where they go when they need help, want to share news, or are looking for a resource. It’s who they share doctors and therapists with, where they highlight their favorite tools and gear, how they trade recipes or give backdoor referrals and recommendations for hire…the list could go on. 

Everyone, regardless of official affiliation, moves around and within a community (or multiple). Those communities create their own private, safe worlds for their members. It’s within those spaces that people are supported and empowered to do more, be more, give more. Some will even go beyond themselves. That is the power of community. 

As part of this 3-blog series, my next post will explore how we can build and sustain communities that go beyond the numbers to unlock a member’s full potential. Stay tuned for more or drop me your questions at angelica@operatorcollective.com.

AAPI Month: 11 Exceptional Asian OpCo Community Members 

We’re recognizing some of the most successful, respected executives in the tech industry this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. It’s a privilege to work with these folks and celebrate their contributions, particularly in a time where violence and hate towards Asian Americans remain far too high. We’re honored to do our part to increase visibility and encourage the tech community to not only keep talking about it, but walking the walk. Looking for inspiration? Here are 100 ways Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and allies have found solutions to racism and violence. 

Here are 11 exceptional Asian tech founders, CEOs, and leaders you should know (and follow!): 

Cai GoGwilt (@gogwilt)
Co-Founder and CTO, Ironclad

Cai GoGwilt is CTO and Co-Founder of Ironclad, the digital contracting platform that recently surpassed 1B contracts processed. A former software engineer at Palantir Technologies, Cai sharpens his technical expertise with… music. He’s a concert cellist, has played piano since the age of 4, and loves karaoke. 🎶

Caroline Tsay (@jacintatsay)
Co-Founder and CEO, Compute

Caroline is the CEO and Co-Founder of Compute, a cloud optimization software company. She’s also the youngest and first Asian American board member of Coca-Cola, and serves on the board of Morningstar. She’s spent time at IBM, Yahoo, and before Compute was the VP and General Manager of Hewlett Packard Enterprise. 🥤

Christina Liu
Chief Accounting Officer, Confluent

Christina brings more than two decades of finance leadership experience in building and scaling high growth companies. She’s taken two companies public – Zendesk (after scaling the accounting and compliance function from $70M ARR to over $1B) and Confluent. Christina is also passionate about supporting the next generation – serving as a mentor at Everwise and as the North America Vice Chair and mentor at the Tsinghua Entrepreneur & Executive Club. 💰

Dennis Lee (@dennisblee)
Co-Founder and COO, Noyo

Dennis is the Co-Founder and COO of Noyo, building the digital infrastructure to bring health insurance enrollment into the modern era (with $45M in fresh funding!). Dennis met his Noyo co-founder and CEO Shannon Goggin at Zenefits, where they shared frustrations with the available tech solutions. Together, they’re passionate about running an org that celebrates its people and prioritizes diversity and inclusion.⚕️

Dini Mehta (@dinimehta)
CRO, Lattice

Dini is the Chief Revenue Officer at Lattice. She’s passionate about building high performing, diverse teams, leading with authenticity, and sustainably scaling GTM engines from the ground up. As a result, Dini has accomplished the seemingly impossible –  scaling a sales organization from 7 to 120 employees with almost no attrition while building revenue from $5M to $100M+ in less than 4 years. 📈

Kerry Wang (@kerryxwang)
Co-Founder and CEO, Searchlight

Kerry and her twin sister Anna co-founded Searchlight AI, a talent intelligence platform that helps companies go beyond the resume by using behavioral reference data and analytics to assess potential candidates. They recently raised a $17M Series A and were recognized on the Forbes 30 Under 30 for enterprise tech. She’s an avid water enthusiast – she holds a sailing license and spent time as a windsurfing instructor. ⛵

Linda Lian (@LindaMLian)
Co-Founder and CEO, Common Room

Linda is the CEO and Co-Founder of Common Room a community growth platform which recently opened for general availability. Throughout her life and career she’s keenly focused on the how, not the what, of technology and community building, which has shaped her people-first leadership ethos. 👥

Linda Tong (@YayLT)
General Manager, AppDynamics

Linda is the General Manager of AppDynamics, the full stack APM and IT ops company acquired by Cisco in 2017, and recently joined the board of Prezi. Before AppDynamics, Linda ran product and innovation at the NFL, was an early member of the Android team at Google, and founding member of Tapjoy and Nextbi. She’s a truly inspirational leader, having grown product and innovation across industries with a focus on execution and empowering company culture of curiosity and experimentation. 💡

Nick Mehta (@nrmehta)
CEO, Gainsight

Nick is the CEO of customer success juggernaut Gainsight. He’s an author, magazine cover star, and passionate leader with a focus on building authentic cultures and driving alignment. He sure knows how to lead with style, look no further his SaaS rewrites of pop and rap songs — like this one #OperatorsRock. 🤘

Rathi Murthy (@rathi_murthy)
CTO/President of Expedia Services, Expedia Group

Rathi is the Chief Technology Officer and President of Expedia Services at Expedia, and board member of Pager Duty. She’s known for building win-win relationships with partners, stakeholders, vendors, and customers. Rathi’s technical expertise and world-class leadership has led her to top positions at Verizon, GAP, and American Express throughout her phenomenal career. Her  secret insight about engineering? It’s FUN. 🎉

Yongsheng Wu (@yswu)
VP of Engineering, Circle

Yongsheng is an executive engineering leader with deep technical expertise. He leads the infra & platform team at Circle, a global financial technology firm that’s bridging the traditional financial system with the world’s leading blockchains. He was previously a (self-described “failed”) startup founder & CEO, and an engineering leader at Pinterest, Twitter, and Salesforce. 💻

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Our community shares the goal of changing the game to create new access points so more people are included in the opportunities of the venture ecosystem. Studies indicate that funder diversity has a natural trickle-down effect on the companies and types of founders being funded – when you intentionally expand and diversify your investor list, it shows. We know that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are competitive advantages. They are core to our Collective Venture Model and the companies that will win. Together, we’re changing the face of tech from the ground up.