Why we’re amped about Amplitude

There was a time it felt like everywhere we turned, someone was telling us to take a look at Amplitude. This was coming not only from our network of Operator LPs at larger enterprises, but also startup founders in our portfolio. Folks were raving both about how Amplitude’s analytics platform provides step-by-step data on the performance of a digital product, as well as how particularly thoughtful and values-driven the Amplitude founders are. When we met co-founder and CEO Spenser Skates, we knew we wanted to be a part of Amplitude’s journey.

The company: Amplitude

Amplitude is the first unified product analytics system that brings together an entirely new depth of customer understanding with the speed of action needed to optimize experiences in the moment. A pioneer in digital optimization, its software enables organizations to see and predict which combination of features and actions translate to business outcomes — and then intelligently adapt each digital experience based on these insights.

Why you should pay attention 

In a pandemic world, companies no longer have much of a choice about whether to invest in digital transformation — they need amazing digital products in order to survive. Even before COVID-19, analysts were predicting that companies would deploy over 500 million digital apps by 2023. They’re now expecting 65% of the global economy to be digitized by next year. And the next frontier of digital transformation is digital optimization.

Although the revenue center for most companies is shifting from sales and marketing to product, many of the teams building these products still rely on their intuition to analyze performance. That approach just doesn’t cut it anymore. In order to keep up with the pace of disruption in our more digital-than-ever landscape, product teams require a fundamentally new approach. They need 360-degree insight into the entire digital experience. Only then can they make data-driven bets that transform customer value. Enter Amplitude’s digital optimization system.

The details 

Amplitude has changed the game for more than 1,200 organizations, including B2B software companies such as Atlassian, Intuit, and Hubspot, as well as consumer brands like Twitter, Walmart, Instacart, and Spirit Airlines (along with 26 of the Fortune 100). Its digital optimization system is the “Moneyball” brains behind 45,000+ digital products. Amplitude’s software helps these teams innovate faster and smarter by giving them fine-grained performance data that goes way deeper than the basic ad clicks and page views of previous decades. 

It shows them exactly how specific combinations of features and user actions translate to customer retention, loyalty, lifetime value, and other business outcomes. With this data, they can make strategic decisions — like whether to launch a big feature or change a distribution channel. They can experiment, see what’s working and what isn’t, and make changes to their product based on real-time behavior.

How it works

Amplitude’s platform tracks 900 billion customer behaviors each month in a privacy-conscious way. It aggregates all this data and uses machine learning to segment users, predict outcomes, and uncover relevant patterns throughout the digital journey. For example, Amplitude’s product analytics help teams find ways to quickly reduce friction and double-down on features that increase revenue. Earlier this year, the company also launched new solutions to help product and marketing teams easily personalize digital touchpoints and test experiences with key segments.

All of these solutions are powered by Amplitude’s proprietary behavioral graph, which was invented by company founder and chief architect, Jeffrey Wang. Built for the complexity of modern digital products, its native query engine and machine learning algorithms correlate every individual action taken across a digital product to understand and predict which behaviors are indicators of certain outcomes. 

Amplitude’s origin

Amplitude was founded in 2012 by former MIT alums (and Battlecode competition opponents) Curtis Liu and Spenser Skates, along with Stanford grad Jeffrey Wang. Curtis and Spenser had actually taken a stab at another startup (a voice recognition app called Sonalight) before that but decided it was a little too early for its time. However, they realized the product analytics tool they had built to better understand how customers were using Sonalight could actually be more valuable. Clearly, they were right about that, and Amplitude has been a rocketship ever since, culminating in a successful direct listing last month. 

Get involved

To find out more about Amplitude’s digital optimization system, explore its product demo or customer stories. And while you’re there, it’s worth a look at the company’s many career opportunities

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

Operator Spotlight: Finance Leader Elena Gomez

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke with Elena Gomez, CFO at Toast and the newest member of Operator Collective’s Board of Advisors.

Congratulations on Toast’s IPO last month. Tell us about the company, and what it was like to join at such a pivotal time for the business.

ELENA: I’m super excited to have joined Toast earlier this year and helped shepherd them through an IPO process. But in reality, the IPO is just a stop on our journey. I’m even more excited for what’s to come for Toast. We have big ambitions to continue to grow and power restaurants of all sizes on our platform. 

For those of you not familiar with the company: Toast is a cloud-based, end-to-end platform that is purpose-built for the restaurant industry. We have almost 50,000 restaurants on our platform. Restaurants are complex businesses with a lot of moving parts. And by working with them and understanding their needs, we’ve built a comprehensive suite of subscription services, hardware, and financial technology solutions. We aim to help restaurants of all sizes streamline nearly every aspect of their operation. 

You’ve worked for wildly successful public companies like Zendesk and Salesforce. What are some key practices or learnings that you took forward into your new CFO role at Toast?

ELENA: There are several learnings but I’ll boil it down to three: 

  1. Putting the customer at the center of what we do. Customer success is a key principle at Toast. Similar to Zendesk and Salesforce, we put the customer at the center of all of our decisions. We want to help restaurants in our communities thrive especially after the tough last 18 months of Covid. I personally look forward to meeting customers and understanding how we can make their businesses more successful. 
  2. Building a world-class organization with an eye towards diversity. It’s a hot market and we are living in an unprecedented time. But nonetheless, we have big ambitions at Toast to continue to grow as restaurants come out of the pandemic stronger than before. To achieve our goals, we will continue to add employees to the Toast family. Hiring diverse talent is a key part of the playbook at Zendesk and Salesforce, and it has been a game-changer. One of the reasons I joined Toast was because they value diversity as well. This week I joined a fireside panel with our Latinx employee resource group, “Migente”. I was excited to see over 100 Latinx Toasters participating on the call.  
  3. Staying agile and scrappy. If there is anything I learned at Zendesk and Salesforce it is to stay agile and scrappy. Even the best of plans can have a curveball thrown in the mix. For many of us, Covid was a major curveball. Customer expectations will continue to go up and evolve, so staying agile/flexible/current on all fronts is very important. The great news is the team at Toast is battlefield-tested. They’ve survived through Covid and given back to restaurants during this time.

What do you advise early-stage companies with IPO aspirations to be thinking about at each point in their trajectory? Any tips to help support financial IPO readiness?  

ELENA: Look for talent with public company experience, especially in finance and legal. Don’t wait too long to hire your CFO, VP of Finance, and Controller. Oftentimes, founders hire one leader to figure out the accounting side and expect that same person to do the finance side. I believe you need both or you will never get the headlights out further because the finance leader will be stuck closing the books. 

In terms of financial IPO readiness, I would make sure you deeply understand the path to sustainable growth. This means knowing the metrics and assumptions of what will drive durable growth, and ensuring the critical exec team is bought off on them. Next, I would understand some of the basic hygiene things in finance — how well the team closes the books, how they do their forecasting process, etc. And of course, pick your board carefully. Find a balance of operators and ex-operators. 

You’ve led finance in SaaS businesses for more than a decade. Which company-level metrics do you tend to monitor most closely? 

ELENA: Love this question. First and foremost, I look for growth across the board. But metrics I pay a lot of attention to are: ARR Growth, Net Retention and Churn rates, CAC, and Payback periods. If you can drive healthy NRR with solid unit economics, you will continue to sustain durable growth over time. 

You are a board member at PagerDuty and Smartsheet as the audit committee chair. How do you measure your success in that role? And what advice would you have for someone in that position for the first time? 

ELENA: I focus on making sure I continue to add value for Jen and Mark and to their management teams. In order to do that, I stay current on key themes, read all the board materials, and often connect with other board members or management in between board meetings to get a pulse of key issues or themes emerging. As a board member, you will be exposed to many different topics, and there will be great quarters as well as tougher quarters. Being a steady sounding board through all of it is important. 

But even more important, is to not be afraid to offer constructive feedback. Most CEOs want a board that is willing to lean in and offer a balanced outsider perspective. As a new board member, I would encourage you to build a relationship with another board member outside the boardroom. Over time, the relationships will build naturally but I found it super beneficial to have a board member I could call when I didn’t understand something and/or someone I could debate a specific topic with outside the board room. 

In your opinion, what are some ways the tech and venture industries could do a better job of empowering the next generation of diverse leaders?

ELENA: Well, I have to say this is so so hard. We have a pipeline problem. I would love to see venture and tech firms partner with local universities and colleges to change the diversity of graduating students. Even the best of companies — that are looking for diverse talent and have great intentions — don’t have the pipeline to succeed. 

In addition to fixing the pipeline problem, we can initiate change in the workplace as well. Some ideas that come to mind are focusing on funding startups with diverse founders, coupled with placing diverse talent across tech (startups and large tech). One of the reasons I joined Operator Collective was because I admire the ambition of changing how venture is done. Operator Collective is just one example of how we can begin to make the change we need to see.

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

ELENA: One job I had was helping my mom with her AVON sales. She sold AVON to her family and friends so we could have extra money. I helped her write out the orders, deliver the catalogs, and sort the purchases when they arrived. Technically it wasn’t a paid job, but my mom loved the help. I learned to organize my tasks but also observed my mom juggle two jobs. That work ethic has passed on to me now. 

Another job I had was working at Longs Drugs (now CVS). I was a checker and occasionally worked the inventory on the floor. Sounds silly, but at 16 I knew that inventory on the shelves had to be found easily by customers or they wouldn’t buy it. Kind of reminds me of conversations I have now around taking friction out of the buying process. I enjoyed being friendly to my customers and checking them out quickly, and learned the most basic customer success skills. All of my happy customers kept coming back! 

What’s your secret super power? 

ELENA: I can connect the dots and have fairly decent emotional EQ. This has helped me tremendously in my career. As a leader, connecting people and insights across an organization just makes your job easier. In addition, understanding people’s emotions can help you resolve issues faster, connect with a customer or employee, and have greater empathy for them.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Supercharge sales productivity with an all-in-one “Scratchpad”

Meet Scratchpad, the digital workspace that puts an intuitive interface on top of Salesforce

The company: Scratchpad

Nearly all account executives use Salesforce, but most of their work is done in other places such as spreadsheets, note-taking apps, task managers, and calendars. This leaves data spread across tools and apps that never finds its way back to the organization. Scratchpad is the first workspace built for sales to solve this problem. It combines everything a rep needs for their daily work in a single intuitive interface. In less than 30 seconds, revenue teams can set up Scratchpad and start improving their data flows and forecasts to consistently attain quotas. 

Why you should pay attention 

While Salesforce is a powerful database, it doesn’t make it easy for day-to-day users to stay organized, manage meetings, update and share sales notes, follow through on next steps, set tasks, or collaborate. Instead, many AEs hack together general-purpose tools that usually remain completely siloed from each other and the system of record.  

With dozens or hundreds of tasks each day, every click matters. On average, sales professionals spend only about a third of their time selling. By eliminating duplicative data entry, Scratchpad helps AEs spend more time doing what they do best: selling. And because it’s seamlessly connected to everything they need in Salesforce, Scratchpad transforms CRM from tedious to delightful.  

The details 

Scratchpad empowers sales reps to do their best work by reducing the number of hoops they have to jump through to get their work done. With this modern workspace, AEs, account managers, and sales engineers at great companies like Algolia, Autodesk, Lacework, Productboard, Segment, Snowflake, Splunk, and Twilio are reducing drag in their sales organizations and helping more reps attain or surpass their quotas.

Scratchpad’s founders recognized early on that CRM was at the center of most revenue teams and always would be, so they thoughtfully designed every feature and interaction with front-line reps in mind. The solution is all about bringing Salesforce to where AEs need to be (whether in their calendar, email, anywhere on the web, or other sales tools) in ways that fit their existing workflows and help increase adoption of the CRM system.

How it works

Scratchpad brings a salesperson’s notes, tasks, customer context (including emails, calendar events, and activity history), spreadsheets, Kanban boards, search, and collaboration tools into one simple view. With this suite of tools, reps have everything they need to manage their day just one click away, so they’re no longer bouncing back and forth from a calendar, to a note-taking app, to tasks, and then to Salesforce. 

Users can quickly and easily update important fields for each opportunity, link their notes, create tasks or contacts, and view contextual data from Salesforce — all from Scratchpad tools embedded into their existing apps. For instance, with the product’s most recent update, they can launch Salesforce data directly from a calendar event view so they always have the full picture they need in order to take action. 

Why were obsessed 

We’re crazy about Scratchpad because the team recognizes that sales is a craft and reps are people like everyone else. Rather than painstakingly updating records, their time should be spent on moving deals forward, building customer relationships, and quality family time! Scratchpad is turning the notion of “boring” enterprise B2B tools on its head and bringing joy and delight into what can be an emotionally taxing job. This means sales managers get better visibility into pipeline health so they’re more efficient with coaching, and revenue operations leads no longer have to rely on best guesses for forecasting. 

Scratchpad’s origin

Serial entrepreneurs Pouyan Salehi and Cyrus Karbassiyoon co-founded Scratchpad in 2019 after observing the challenges salespeople were experiencing in their day-to-day workflows. The pair had previously co-founded another sales technology company, PersistIQ, where they developed a deep understanding and appreciation for the work of a salesperson and the challenges of working within a sales organization. 

Get involved

If you’re interested in learning more about Scratchpad, install its Chrome plugin or sign up for the web app in less than a minute, listen to the team’s Beyond Quota podcast, or check out the company’s many job openings.

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

Operator Spotlight: Lucid Co-founder and CEO Karl Sun

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke with Karl Sun, co-founder and CEO of Lucid Software.

Your company has been on quite a ride over the last 10+ years and just tripled its valuation. Describe what Lucid does and the problem it’s solving. 

KARL: The Lucid business is built on our foundational mission to help teams see and build the future. As we see it, there is a massive shift happening in the way that teams work together to build new products, new processes, or new strategies. These activities require that teams be able to work side-by-side to understand how their business works, and how to make it better.

We provide a unique approach to collaboration. Instead of relying on endless text to get a point across, our applications allow teams to work together on a shared canvas from anywhere in the world. Many have turned to our products, Lucidspark and Lucidchart, to bring their teams together virtually, and in so doing have discovered that this new way of working and collaborating is even better than what they were doing before. 

COVID has forced us all to rethink workplace collaboration and given rise to new ways of working. As a visual collaboration suite, how does Lucid fuel the future of work, while avoiding the trap of zoom/slack fatigue?   

KARL: Sometimes communication and collaboration are talked about synonymously. But the truth is many companies are acquiring tools that optimize for communication and hope that those solve their collaboration problems. In the context of a hybrid workforce, the power of a common visual language breaks down physical and digital communication barriers so teams get the big picture, achieve a shared understanding and align on next steps. The Lucid visual collaboration suite gives teams the chance to work side-by-side, no matter where they are located.

Right before Lucid, you were at Google for several years. What was the biggest mindset shift you had to make going from a $23 billion company to starting from scratch as a team of two?  

KARL: I actually came on initially as the first investor, but then my co-founder Ben (who was still in school at the time) eventually coaxed me into joining full-time. We worked out of a student apartment for a while — it couldn’t have been more different than what I had just left at Google. With a brand like Google, we could get any meeting with anyone. Starting from scratch with an unknown brand, we had to be a lot more scrappy to get any kind of attention. The product really had to speak for itself, so we spent most of those initial years making sure it was so good that people couldn’t ignore us. 

Another thing is, in a smaller company, you have to focus on the most essential projects that produce results and lead to progress. There’s an incredible need for everyone on your little team to be accountable and have a drive to do their best on every single project. 

Lucid had wild success with its freemium product before moving towards B2B SaaS. What advice would you give to other founders following that path? 

KARL: As we thought about growth, particularly before we had a sales team, we focused on three things. 

  1. End user outreach: We put a lot of effort into making sure that current and potential users understand we can solve a need that they have. This involves a few things, but one of the biggest factors is our focus on SEO. We rank for over 1000 keywords and phrases.
  2. Joining ecosystems: One of the main tenets of our products is that users can use Lucidspark and Lucidchart in the systems where they work. To enable this, in the beginning we worked really hard on our integrations and being available in different ecosystems. Having Lucidchart included in the launch of the Google Chrome Web Store and Google Apps Marketplace and being able to grow up in the Google ecosystem was huge for us early on. But now you can also find and use our products within Atlassian’s ecosystem, Microsoft 365, and Slack, to name a few. 
  3. Sharing and collaboration: Because of our focus on collaboration, we also see a lot of users come in through their exposure to a diagram or board that someone else has created and shared with them. Better collaboration not only makes for a better experience for the user, but it also then becomes something that they want to share with others to solve their same pains. This exposes more and more people to our products.

If products are conducive to these three things, there’s a lot of potential for going the freemium route.

There are many ways for CEOs to evaluate business success in a SaaS context. What are the most vital company-level metrics that you personally rely on?

KARL: In the early days, it was definitely user numbers. The main goal was to get more and more people into the product and just increase our general product awareness. More users in the product also meant we were able to collect more feedback to help make things better. As we started to mature beyond that, we started to focus more on usage and conversion rates. Those metrics helped us know we were making a product that was compelling enough that people were paying for it. 

Now, we’re focused on successful users. There are a lot of factors that we evaluate to determine whether a user is successful or not, such as how much time they spend in the product, whether they get to an outcome, etc. 

You’ve shared great insights on the people side of entrepreneurship. What have you done to maintain lasting connections with employees in today’s virtual world? 

KARL: Our company was office-based prior to the pandemic, so the shift to remote work was new to us and we really did have to rethink how we made sure employees still felt connected, especially to our leadership team. So we made it a goal to over-communicate as much as possible and bring our employees along with us as we made decisions. 

We increased the frequency of our company-wide emails and all-hands meetings. We also added a slack channel to these meetings to promote interaction and connection across the company as we adjusted to our new way of working. 

We tried to transition as many of our engagement activities to a virtual setting as possible. For example, we have an internal talk show called The Oatmeal that two of our employees started as a way to learn more about employees across the company on a personal level. We utilized that platform to help employees engage with leadership by interviewing a new executive team member each episode. This type of interaction is really foundational when building lasting connections between leaders and their teams. 

In your opinion, what are some ways the tech and venture industries could do a better job of empowering the next generation of diverse leaders?

KARL: Even though we have a lot of work to do with diversity in general in the industry, there is usually even more of a diversity problem in leadership positions compared to entry-level roles. So, I believe it’s really important to actively identify those diverse employees who are earlier in their careers, and are top performers or have high potential, and actively mentor them to be leaders in your organization.

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

KARL: I learned important lessons from my first three jobs. 

My first job was reclaiming usable old bricks from demolition piles and stacking them on pallets. This taught me that sometimes the work isn’t fun, but it still needs to get done. It also taught me the benefits of a desk job and gave me an appreciation for air conditioning. My second job was bagging groceries at the supermarket. This gave me experience in direct customer service, and was also where I learned the importance of mastering every job, no matter how small. 

My third job was working at a summer camp for teenagers and my favorite part about that job was being exposed to so many different kids and counselors who had such unique interests and talents, and watching them come together to create some pretty amazing things. It gave me exposure at a formidable time in my life to the good that can be done when people with diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and experiences come together.

What’s your secret super power? 

KARL: I think I’m a good judge of talent. Part of that is identifying people who aren’t obvious fits (seeing beyond work history or experience) but have something in their background to suggest they have high potential. I also believe in looking at a group as a whole and understanding what needs to be added to the mix, whether that’s skills or personalities, to really complement the group and help the entire team be successful. 

The flip side of that is I also think I have a good BS detector 🙂

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Our virtuous cycle: when operators do venture

I had ulterior motives for starting Operator Collective back in 2018. 

Sure, the core idea was always to bring together as limited partners (LPs) active operators from diverse backgrounds who had built the world’s most admired companies. They have the very expertise founders need as they grow and scale their companies, and the most relevant contacts with both potential customers and future employees.

They also bring their operating talent and outsider perspectives to shake up the venture world. After all, what operators do best when they see a problem is come up with a solution, and then execute the hell out of it.

Even though these incredibly talented executives are critical to the success of startups, they have largely been left out of the venture world. Traditional venture is rigid, competitive, and not team-oriented. It’s just not friendly nor particularly appealing to operators—especially in the case of our Operator LPs, 90% of whom are women and 40% people of color. The doors to venture have long been inaccessible to people from underrepresented groups.

Leyla Seka has always called herself an accidental venture capitalist. She first joined Operator Collective as a founding LP while still an EVP at Salesforce. She famously built and scaled the AppExchange, launching thousands of startups along the way, and was the first to champion equal pay, setting off the wave across the tech industry and beyond. After leaving Salesforce, Leyla was considering CEO positions as her next move. When I asked whether she’d be open to help build Operator Collective, I’m grateful she agreed to come on board.

Operator Collective was created, among other things, to serve as an anchor for active operators at the top of their game to engage in venture in a way that is collaborative and flexible, with aligned incentives. A place where they could not only continue to operate or ponder their next career move, but contribute to what we’re building, deepen their investing acumen, and have a supportive community of operators. Oh and have fun along the way.

Enter the virtuous cycle. I share with mixed emotions that Leyla is returning to a full-time operating position as COO of Ironclad.

She’s also transitioning to a new Operator Collective role as Chair of our Board of Advisors. Leyla joins Erica Ruliffson Schultz, Stacy Brown-Philpot, Claire Hughes Johnson, Tekedra Mawakana, and our newest Board member, Elena Gomez (welcome Elena!). I’m thrilled Leyla will remain a close part of the Operator Collective community, leading this group as they advise me, Operator Collective, and our portfolio founders.

Our model was designed to include active, current operators. Operator Collective and the venture world are better off today because Leyla Seka brought her operator lens to all that she learned about venture, and then ran with that knowledge to create a better ecosystem. Her substantial understanding of the enterprise software world helped Operator Collective make better investing decisions, and she leveraged her years of experience advising AppExchange startups to support our portfolio founders on how to scale.

One of these companies, of course, is Ironclad, which has built an extraordinary and beloved digital contracting platform. Working closely together for almost three years, Leyla and CEO Jason Boehmig very quickly developed a special bond, and it became apparent that she was uniquely situated to vault Ironclad forward in a way no one else could. Closing the loop on our virtuous cycle, Leyla is returning to her operator roots as Ironclad’s COO.

She has already made a huge impact on the industry, and she’s just getting started. Her relationships, outsider’s view, and execution also led her to create a long-lasting and game-changing institution called the Black Venture Institute, with a goal to increase the number of Black checkwriters in venture. This curriculum-based program has graduated 100+ fellows, including eight Operator LPs to date.

Leyla, my friend, I couldn’t be more grateful for all that you’ve contributed to building the heart, soul, and engine that is Operator Collective. Nor could I be more proud of how you took on the venture world and made lasting change during your time as an accidental venture capitalist. I can’t wait to see what you do next and am excited to be right by your side as you keep shaking it up.

5 actionable tips for DEIB recruiting

Countless research shows that diverse teams are better-performing. Harvard Business Review has demonstrated that what’s good for diversity is good for organizational performance. And according to global talent solutions firm Allegis Group, a diverse workforce and inclusive culture is one of the most in-demand asks from candidates. That’s important to recognize, since we all know how competitive it is to attract talent right now.

As the co-founder of a recruiting software platform Searchlight.ai, I have a lot of conversations with people and talent leaders. What’s become clear is that creating a diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) strategy is a top priority for any company that hopes to be competitive. Many of these businesses are turning to recruiting as the place to start moving the needle on diversity.

In the words of Michael Kieran, Operator Collective LP and head of talent at Tray.io, “Recruiting is the front line where we can make the most impact on diversity. It’s our responsibility and a privilege to put DEI strategy in place and then tactically execute to improve what hiring practices look like.”

Read on for five actionable recruiting tips that will bring you closer to your DEIB goals.

1. Set one data-driven target at a time

Being focused is critical to changing behavior quickly. At Tray.io, Kieran says he cuts through the noise by choosing a main single target to aim at. His current metric focus is the percentage of the employee base that is non-male and non-white.

Be data-driven when crafting your diversity targets and customize them based on your company’s customers and mission. Zapier’s recruiting operations lead, Supreet Hundal, recommends investing in data hygiene and talent analytics software to measure demographic numbers. “Without data, it’s hard to know where we actually are against where we should be,” Hundal shared. “But with benchmarks, we can create targets and align on which groups to partner with, [and] which communities to invest money in.”

2. Define candidate success criteria based on competencies and capabilities

Jeff Diana, chief people officer at Calendly and former recruiting leader at Atlassian, says, “One of the fundamental truths about human psychology is that we’re drawn to people who look like us. We also know that organizations today are not diverse, especially in leadership. So it’s a fact that, despite our best efforts, there’s already all kinds of bias in our organizations.”

One way to counter these natural biases is to define objective, competency-centric hiring criteria. “Defining success criteria is key to successful hiring – period,” Diana says. “Getting scientific on the capabilities that make people successful at our organization helps us avoid screening people out on superficial attributes.”

3. Reinforce fair and consistent evaluation methods

While at Google, SVP of People Operations Laszlo Bock found that interviews were not actually that predictive of future performance. Recruiting teams need to get creative and look for new ways to accurately assess which candidate is the best fit for the job based on the objective success criteria set in step two.

“We must use frameworks and rubrics to keep our ratings consistent,” John Foster, chief people officer at Truecar, says. “Using a disciplined, pre-defined set of factors with clear definitions will result in less biased decisions and more objectivity. It will allow us to overcome gut instincts with numbers and science.”

One way to counteract subconscious bias is to corroborate what the candidate highlights in their resume and interviews with their prior on-the-job contributions. LinkedIn reports that reference checks can make your interview process more predictive. When reference data is compared with resume screens and interviews, hiring teams can confirm or disprove assumptions from interview feedback.

Some tips for fair and consistent evaluation include holding structured interviews, building diverse hiring panels, leveraging talent software, training interviewers, and building reinforcing mechanisms into your process.

4. Actively source from historically excluded communities, don’t rely on inbound

Once you’ve set your candidate success criteria and evaluation process, you’re ready to screen your pipeline. But the resume screening process for inbound applicants is often rife with inconsistencies that can lead to discrimination. By investing in outbound sourcing, you’ll have an ethical path to getting more diverse candidates into your funnel.

Sourcing is also a great way to remove barriers that have traditionally faced underrepresented groups. To bolster this strategy, experts recommend tapping into new sourcing channels, nurturing relationships with communities that work with historically excluded groups, and investing in software to support your sourcing strategy.

5. Tackle post-hire metrics together – especially quality of hire

“Sometimes recruiting is silo’d from the rest of HR, but that’s the craziest thing ever,” Diana believes. “You have to cross over to HR and see which candidates are actually successful. If recruiting doesn’t measure post-hire outcomes like quality-of-hire, you can’t show the positive impact that increasing diversity has on the business.”

Quality-of-hire (QoH) measures the value a new hire adds to your company, and gives recruiting teams data-backed answers around which candidates become top performers and which skills and competencies are predictive of performance during the interview process. Yet, how to properly track QoH is a long-standing debate amongst recruiting and HR leaders given the difficulties in effectively measuring it.

Despite this history, QoH is powerful for increasing DEIB for two reasons. First, it can scientifically show the benefits of hiring diverse talent. Secondly, by understanding which competencies and skills predict on-the-job experience, teams avoid over-indexing on prestige markers and familiar credentials. It’s not surprising that nearly 40% of talent acquisition leaders list tracking QoH as their top priority.


Brandon Sammut, chief people officer at Zapier, says, “DEI is DNA.” The world’s leading companies know this to be true, but making a sea change takes time. I believe that the quickest path to action is to embrace the reality that all humans have biases. Designing recruiting systems with the five core elements I’ve shared can create an engine for faster, fairer diversity outcomes.

Anna Wang is the co-founder and CTO of Searchlight, a critical piece of talent software for companies serious about hitting their diversity targets and increasing talent density.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Operator Spotlight: Marketing and eCommerce leader Richelle Parham

Looking for practical help and advice on an operational area that may be outside your realm? Each month we spotlight one of our talented operators, who’ll share their expertise and offer insights and ideas that may help improve your own operations. This month we spoke to Universal Music’s Richelle Parham.

You’ve just joined Universal Music Group as President of Global eCommerce and Business Development. Can you walk us through your new role? 

RICHELLE: I am so thrilled about the new opportunity with Universal Music Group (UMG). The role is overseeing UMG’s global eCommerce strategy and business development across the company’s iconic labels, publishing company, operating units, and territories. I am able to use my eCommerce, consumer marketing, audience growth, business development, and direct-to-consumer experience to elevate UMG’s artists and drive the UMG vision of a holistic fan-centric ecosystem that complements partner platforms.

You’ve had such an impressive career in marketing and strategy spanning consumer, tech, and most recently venture capital. What inspired the move to the music industry?  

RICHELLE: I have had a tremendous career and a lot of fun! I was not looking for a new role, however, the more I learned about Universal Music Group and the opportunities to drive eCommerce in more impactful ways (with music as the foundation), the more excited I got. A lot of my focus is around building an ecosystem that connects fans to the artists they love, whether it’s through offline or online experiences, value added content, or merchandise. What has been great about my career is the expertise that I have gleaned over the years can be applied to most industries. I love music, and now I’m able to take my extensive eCommerce, marketing, and consumer knowledge and apply it to the music industry.

What advice would you give someone looking to navigate their next career move into a new industry or function? What are some strategies for evaluating new opportunities? 

RICHELLE: The advice I often give is to be a master in your field and understand how what you do well applies to the new industry you’re interested in. Take the time to learn the industry, ask good questions, and make strong connections.

One of the lessons I’ve paid attention to in my career is not being afraid to learn something new and ask questions. A lot of people feel like asking too many questions makes it seem like they don’t understand. But I actually find that the person in the room who’s willing to ask questions is seen as inquisitive, creative, and innovative. They’re able to see the world in a different way. It’s so critical to have a healthy curiosity and hear other people’s perspectives and viewpoints.

You’re also an active board director at high profile companies like Best Buy, Elf, and LabCorp. Do you have any tips for operators seeking their first board position? 

RICHELLE: It’s probably the same advice as changing industries. Be very clear on how your experiences, expertise, and background can be beneficial for the board and the company. Leverage your network to make connections and get to know the executive recruiters who focus on board opportunities.

It’s also important to build your legacy every day. You have to put points on the board and have key accomplishments that people will remember. Make sure you think about the impact you’re going to leave on any business you work with. 

In your opinion, what are some ways the tech and venture industries could do a better job of empowering the next generation of diverse leaders?

RICHELLE: Companies have to be deliberate about bringing in diverse leaders and elevating diverse employees. The power and opportunity comes when you have diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, and thought in the room. 

For example, from a venture perspective, we built diversity right into our strategy upfront in my last position at West River Group. Each one of our sectors was co-led by a man and a woman, because we really wanted to create change. We were doing something different by investing in the folks that don’t generally get the money. If you have diverse people allocating capital, they will allocate to diverse teams.   

AOC often talks about the skills she picked up as a bartender, and others talk about what they learned working retail. What were some of those formative jobs for you?

RICHELLE: When I was a student at Drexel University, I was also interested in fashion and did three 6-month co-op jobs working for Valentino in New York. I was the Assistant to the National Sales Manager. One of my roles was being responsible for placing the multi-million dollar orders for major retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. One order would take days to input into the computer system because, for example, it would be an order for all the Neiman Marcus stores across the country. I would input the order, then I had to check it two times before submitting it. From that role, I learned how to be incredibly detail-oriented and I learned how to hone my process management skills. Those skills have been essential throughout my career journey.

What’s your secret super power? 

RICHELLE: I am a great connector. I pride myself on being a good listener and through hearing people’s stories figuring out who they need to know. I love connecting people who can open doors for one another and support each other. 

For even more great wisdom from Richelle, check out her recent interview on the Potential to Powerhouse podcast.

We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Searchlight: Unearthing new insights to hire top performers

Searchlight team

The company: Searchlight

Searchlights performance-driven hiring platform helps companies leverage references to scale winning cultures. The company’s scientific reference assessments evaluate candidate competencies and working styles in a way that is faster, more accurate, and less biased than interviews. Over time, Searchlight’s talent analytics create a dynamic model of a company’s top performers. This closes the loop between recruiting and hiring outcomes, and teaches organizations how to improve diversity and quality-of-hire.

Why you should pay attention 

Boards always ask their CEOs and leadership teams: “How do we know we’re hiring the best talent?” There’s been no data-backed way to answer this question, until now. Searchlight is built by operators for operators who recognize that measuring and improving hiring quality is a competitive advantage.

Forty-six percent of all hires fail within their first 18 months, costing an organization 1.5-2X their salaries in compensation, lost productivity, and missed deliverables. Teams that rely solely on credentials and interviews are unable to get the full picture of a prospective hire before making their decision. While interviews aren’t predictive, feedback from prior colleagues can be. References, if used correctly, are a secret weapon to hiring better and building a structured trove of data to drive a vast array of smarter talent decisions.

The details 

Searchlight’s solution starts with a reimagined reference check process that is predictive and easy-to-use. The platform assesses candidates objectively, putting greater emphasis on reliable indicators of top performers like real-world feedback on strengths and weaknesses that might not come through in a resume or interview. Searchlight’s visually compelling reports deliver consistent, structured, and honest data that changes the way companies make hiring decisions.

Using Searchlight, companies like Zapier, Discord, TalkDesk, Coda, Snapdocs, and Udemy are saving thousands of hours, reducing time to hire by 45%, improving their quality-of-hire by more than 20%, and increasing the number of hires they make from underrepresented backgrounds. But the team is just getting started. Beyond references, Searchlight aligns recruiters and hiring managers and surfaces predictive recommendations for future hiring. With verified data on historical hires over time, the software suite provides intelligence at both the start and end of the hiring process, so it can continuously improve hiring outcomes.

Why we’re obsessed 

In order to create a more diverse and equitable future, companies need to rethink traditional approaches to hiring. Thankfully, there’s still tons of untapped potential in the recruiting process, especially around talent intelligence. Searchlight provides both the data and analytics to help recruiting teams hire more top performers—without adding steps to the recruiting process. 

The key to merit-based hiring that moves the needle for diversity is uncovering new data points (outside of credentials) that offer a holistic understanding of a prospective employee, and then tying them to real performance outcomes. We believe Searchlight will set a new standard for companies serious about hitting their diversity targets and increasing talent density.

Searchlight’s origin

First-generation Asian American twins Anna and Kerry Wang decided to create Searchlight soon after they graduated from Stanford, with bachelors and masters degrees in computer science and artificial intelligence. During their own job searches, they saw several shortcomings in how organizations evaluated their (nearly identical) resumes—noticing that the unique competencies, working styles, and strengths that set them apart were overlooked. 

Natural entrepreneurs, they set out to fix that by making references a central part of the hiring process and started out their journey with Y Combinator. They’ve since been recognized on the Forbes 30 under 30 list

Get involved

Curious to see what your next reference check will find? Join Searchlight’s candidate waitlist so you can set up your own profile. If your company is hiring, give Searchlight a try and let us know what kind of difference it makes.

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


If you do benefits, you need Noyo

The company: Noyo

Noyo is the company transforming data exchange across the insurance ecosystem by delivering the universal API for embedded benefits. By building the connections gateway that allows for fast, accurate, and secure data exchange, Noyo is helping benefits software companies and insurance providers deliver next-generation benefits experiences to their customers. 

Why you should pay attention 

Co-founders Shannon Goggin (CEO) and Dennis Lee (COO) are leading a team that’s powering the age of connected insurance, where it’s as easy to access benefits as it is to connect to a bank account or make a payment online. Leading insurers including Unum, Humana, Ameritas, Beam, Principal, Sun Life, and Brella are using Noyo APIs to power their data exchange and meet the demands of the digital age. The industry’s most innovative benefits software platforms, including Zenefits, Rippling, Namely, and Sana, are using Noyo to deliver a new era of seamless benefits experiences. But the biggest beneficiaries of Noyo’s innovation are the people that these companies serve, consumers who can now expect insurance data to move freely, giving them easy access to the benefits they need, when they need them. 

The details 

Noyo’s APIs for benefits administration cover the entire lifecycle of a policy. APIs for member enrollment changes facilitate sending transactions, receiving confirmations and automating accuracy. The  verification API helps principals confirm enrollment status for any member at any time. And the Noyo 360 end-to-end APIs bring benefits full circle by streamlining installation and renewal. Noyo has delivered a fast, intuitive developer experience that lets leading insurers and benefits platforms redefine what’s possible for open enrollment as they transform their digital strategies and accelerate growth. 

Why we’re obsessed 

Health insurance is a trillion-dollar industry running on disconnected and outdated systems. Technology is reshaping how people engage with health insurance, with a new generation of software emerging to modernize how people shop for, enroll in, and manage their coverage. Behind the scenes, though, insurance is administered by a tangle of disconnected systems stitched together by manual processes. Noyo is upending this status quo by building the infrastructure that will power modern insurance distribution.  

Get involved

Whether you’re building, upgrading, or scaling a benefits offering, Noyo can help you get there. Want to lead in the age of connected insurance? Get started with Noyo

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

How to get started with angel investing

*WARNING* What I’m about to say about angel investing will annoy the heck out of professional investors and rightly so. I am an amateur shooting from the hip, but I’m happy doing so. 🤠

Investing money is just one type of investing to me. It’s no different than spending time, sharing your brain power, advising, supporting, or advertising. All of these things are limited resources. 🧠 When I was at Microsoft, for example, the “investing” I did was in recruiting, onboarding, and development: I was a person you could go to for hugs and cookies 🍪, cheerleading 📣, and championing. I have always tried to put my resources where my mouth is, to solve problems worth solving. And those are to create more time ⏳, freedom 🆓, quality of life 🥂, and joy 😄 for more people. Isn’t that what tech is all about, to create tools for people to solve problems?

To me, angel investing is enabling a person with an idea to 3D-print it herself. I particularly enjoy being an enzyme 🧬, a catalyst 🧫, that first follower who endorses and lends credibility to a thing. Therefore I invest in people doing things I think are cool and making the world be more the way it ought to be, and where I think I can be useful. It is a relatively new tool in my toolbox 🧰, one I started using in 2019 when I really began digging into startups and entrepreneurship. I wanted to learn from people who were doing what I dreamed of. 🏫 Plus it seemed a great way to give, not just to take. But it’s also direct and visceral. 👼🏼  Many people with world-changing ideas can’t afford to quit their day jobs and work on their ideas full-time — not without money. And it’s hard to raise money unless you’ve already raised some money. 💱 

To be an early-stage people-and-idea investor is to be a gardener. 👩🏻‍🌾 And I don’t mean growing blackberry bushes, which grow here in the Seattle area no matter what you do. It’s more like olive grove or grapevine gardening. 🍇 You don’t just plant and harvest. You have to cultivate and tend, age and develop, and support and water for years. It takes a long time and you need to love it. 🌸

My biggest tips for operators who want to get into angel investing:

  • Figure out what problems drive you crazy and what areas you love, and invest there.
    You’ll have better intuition and help more on things you care about and understand. You are also more likely to connect well to people working on those things. 💖
  • Find or build a community.
    Join an existing angel syndicate, a group or conference (like Seattle Angel Conference or Alliance of Angels), crowdfund (Backstage, Hustle, and Rarebreed have them), or pull together a group of friends who want to get into it too. 🤝🏽
  • Make an investment and put it in your LinkedIn/Twitter bio.
    You’ll bring awareness to the thing you invested in, but it will also make you visible to those looking for investors. Try it. Seriously, put “Angel Investor” in your activity list on LinkedIn and see how many messages you get from founders looking for investors who find you in a search. 🤯
  • Leverage your superpowers.
    Part of investing is to change the probabilities of good outcomes. Anything you can do to nudge one bit left is helpful and it adds up. So why not invest where things you are great at and come easy to you can change the result for the better? 🦸‍♀️
We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are a key part of building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.