Office Hours Session Notes – Culture Scaling

It’s not the foosball table. 

Intentionally scaling culture is the secret weapon that separates truly great companies from the rest. Creating exceptional culture goes far beyond HR, and gone are the days of free snacks keeping employees happy and engaged. How values are lived – or not – has an impact across the entire company. We gathered three exceptional operators who have mastered the art, strategy, and storytelling of culture to share with our founders lessons learned – from the earliest days of company building through IPO and beyond. 

Office Hours are interactive, candid Q&A conversations and are not recorded. We capture the bottom line in a “Session Notes” format.

The Speakers:

  • Dini Mehta, Chief Revenue Officer, Lattice, 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. Was her college mascot! 
  • Tracy Williams, Chief People & Diversity Officer, New Relic, has transformed culture through a strategic partnership with the CEO. Is a sneakerhead and loves her Jordans. 
  • Nairi Tashjian Hourdajian, VP Communications, Content & Community Marketing, Figma, has been at the intersection of storytelling and culture for nearly a decade, from early days at Uber to Figma. In her next life will be a hip hop A&R exec. 

Culture means a lot of different things to lots of different people. What is culture and why does it matter? 

  • It’s the set of shared practices, norms, and how you make decisions
  • It’s why people feel engaged – it’s how you scale
  • Invest in your people and they’ll invest in you. People strategy is how you achieve business strategy. Culture eats strategy for lunch
  • If you’re not intentional, you’ll work really, really hard – or you’ll fail
  • Everyone in a company wants community, growth, and purpose 
  • Culture and values are like an OS for a company – when done well it brings and fosters efficiency. You’ll move faster

How to make values really lived? 

  • Build them into company kickoffs and all-hands 
  • Operationalize them: make them a part of the hiring process, review cycles, compensation objectives, etc. – if the operational side gets lost, values become just words on a page
  • Consistently talking about what’s important to you as a company aligns everyone on an ongoing basis 
  • Think about and balance what values mean externally, how they show up to customers and partners 
  • Values often sound like they could be for any company – make them unique and they’ll stick. Make sure people know what they mean and how they are lived 
  • Recognize and reward moments/people when the values are clearly lived – from micro-moments like praise when values are lived to peer reward systems

Culture building in a remote/hybrid world: 

  • All people managers need to be on the same page. Enable, empower, and coach
  • View culture as a product: what’s working, what’s not?
  • At first, we were all skeptical that you could have a “real” culture remotely, but it’s been a total 180. It’s about how work is part of your life and not just adding to your day-to-day
  • Create intentional moments to show who you are, and have some fun. Creative ways to connect and reward your team: company-wide week off in summer, a digital scavenger hunt, sharing a picture from your childhood – all ways to build real, human connection and have fun
  • Adopt a decision-making framework so it’s clear how new ideas can be surfaced. When you go from 150 to 600 employees in a year, it’s natural that the early folks have earned trust and new folks may not feel engaged yet. Example: SPADE really helps in an async environment
  • Create space for community conversations about what’s happening in the world – no agenda, just safe space. Exec team shows up and participates

How to balance culture and speed: hiring in hypergrowth

  • You have to build an org where you value both. It’s easy to say that you have to grow at all costs. But it’s a short term win and ultimately not the right thing for your metrics
  • Give people space to execute – sometimes you have to go slow to go fast. But it pays off – you’ll go faster in 6 months as a result
    • You have to have full alignment from the board to the exec team to the people managers – otherwise, it’s a recipe for failure
    • If you slow down in order to do things right, you’re not slowing down
  • The hiring process as you grow needs to include questions about values to see if there is alignment. One strategy: ask candidates to share stories that show how they embody a particular value
  • There’s no separate culture interview, it’s embedded into every interview
  • Intentionally focusing on hiring talent from diverse backgrounds Does. Not. Slow. You. Down. If you want diverse talent, you need to go to diverse channels for sourcing

How do you reinforce values during the onboarding process and in the first 90 days, especially when 75% of the company has been hired in recent months?

  • Find ways to constantly and creatively reaffirm your values – a welcome package with stickers, notebooks, etc. Onboarding buddy has a script to talk about them and what they mean at work. Show new people stories and examples in a sizzle reel pulled from All Hands and Off Site meetings
  • New Hire welcome meetings: the CEO should talk about the values, then people will understand how important they are to the organization from Day 1

Hiring a sales org: 

  • Sales orgs are hard – a lot of practices are based on scarcity and fear-based incentives. What’s the org you want to work for? You don’t have to do it the way others have done it 
  • You as leaders own this – when it comes to culture and values you want sales folks to be aligned to you. Don’t be afraid to call it out like you see it – do not let moments of misalignment pass. Don’t compromise. You can’t make someone mission-aligned
  • It’s common to think of sales people as mercenaries not missionaries. That’s why you see such high attrition, but don’t view sales people as quarter-driving machines
  • You have to walk the walk as a leadership team. If a deal is good for sales but not for the company, walk away

On culture add vs. culture fit:

  • Hire with intention. If you don’t want everyone to be the same and think the same, then you have to hire people who may not come from the same background or the same friend circle
  • Unconscious bias seeps in. What does a “fit” mean? Think about whether they align to your values 
  • You also can’t just throw different people together and assume everyone will get along and it’ll all work out – people need to understand context and have a safe space to talk about differences. Create space for people to disagree
  • Hire for competencies you know you’re going to need way before you need them, that’s what builds the engine 
  • The important work starts after you hire someone, so make sure people are included and feel like they belong
  • Make your intentions as a leader known – repetition is key. If you say it three times a week, it’ll stick maybe 70% of the time. Have leaders truly understand the CEO/founder’s individual, real values – it takes time
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: Waymo co-CEO and Intuit board member Tekedra Mawakana

“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 Tekedra Mawakana. She’s co-CEO at autonomous driving technology company Waymo (an Alphabet subsidiary), board director at Intuit, as well as an advisor to Boom Supersonic and — luckily for us — Operator Collective

Last year, you stepped into the co-CEO role at Waymo. There are lots of opinions about the role and title what is your thinking and approach? How do you make it work? 

TEKEDRA: The question about co-leadership is really fair. In many circumstances I can understand why it would be very difficult, and unfamiliar. However, my co-CEO, Dmitri Dolgov, and I have worked closely together for years now and bring very complementary skills to the table. Dmitri has been working on this engineering challenge his whole career. Thus, he focuses on the development of the Waymo Driver, and I focus on how to commercialize and deploy the tech, as well as build trust with the communities in which we operate and whom we serve. We jointly consider the best strategy and rollout, and strengthen our Waymo team and culture along the way. It’s been a great partnership and I feel very honored to lead the company of Waymonauts alongside him. 

Waymo is tackling a world-changing opportunity. It’s big and hard not the kind of thing that happens overnight! How do you think about creating a long-term roadmap for something like employee retention? How do you know when to stay the course, or when to adapt?

TEKEDRA: It’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint. We’ve been at this for over a decade now, have tested in more than 25 cities and driven more than 20 million miles on public roads. We understand deeply how challenging it is to introduce autonomous driving technology to the public and are committed to progressing safely as we continue to deploy our tech step-by-step. When it comes to our employees, it’s a really fantastic team of over 2,000 people who want to make a difference in the world and are here because they believe in the mission and the impact that this technology can have over the long-term.  

We’ve had the opportunity to bring in professionals from all over the world, with incredibly diverse expertise and points of view. They have come together to provide guidance for any number of different areas of our fully autonomous service and the technology behind it, including regarding key deployment decisions. Doing something like this that hasn’t been done before requires a lot of humility and tremendous openness around learning. And so that is how I approach things. I learn, listen, and make a decision. That learning journey is really core to how we approach things here at Waymo. 

Global policy issues can make or break tech companies. How could the next generation of tech giants benefit from bringing in operators with deep experience navigating complex legal and regulatory situations?  

TEKEDRA: One of the most interesting aspects of mission-driven tech is the broad opportunity for impact, and with expansive impact there will likely be questions about regulations. For that reason, I really hope new entrants will always consider how to apply policy, legal and regulatory expertise at the start to help protect investments, create industry norms, and ultimately deliver on the promise of the tech. 

At Waymo, we work with regulators and policymakers at every level of government to help ensure understanding of our fully autonomous driving technology. We consider Waymo to be an industry leader in this regard, in terms of transparency and engagement with governments. I’m really proud of the work of our team to advance our mission and help shape the future!

Describe a pivotal moment in your career that was truly defining for you — an opportunity that changed your life or a moment where you recognized defeat and changed course.

TEKEDRA: My decision to join Waymo was exciting to me because it was a chance to build from the ground up. I always loved being in big tech companies — I navigated them well for career success and personal enjoyment. But after a while, I really wanted to use my skills as a builder. Since joining Waymo, I have had the challenges of my career. From helping ensure our first commercial service was successfully launched to helping shape the type of company culture we want, it’s all about building with great intention, clear priorities and humility in leadership. 

What is one big lesson you’ve  learned from your career path? 

TEKEDRA: For more than two decades, I advised some of the best-known consumer technology companies working on advancing their business interests around the world.  Early in my career, I focused on transactions within the regulated technology and telecom industries, and rose up to advise CEOs navigating growth and turnaround strategies. Prior to Waymo, I led global teams at eBay, Yahoo, AOL and Startec Global Communications and I started my career at the DC-based law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP.  When I think about my career path, it’s been anything but linear. A lesson I embraced early on is that often the best move for my career has been to take a role that requires a bit of a step back in order to move forward, and that it’s actually quite common for so many of us to see our careers take that kind of trajectory. 

What’s your secret super power?

TEKEDRA: My secret power has always been my willingness to speak up. It sounds easy, but it actually can be really challenging, especially when you look around the table (or video conference as the case has been through the pandemic) and find yourself to — for example — be the only woman present. While I may need to take a deep breath in sometimes before I speak up, once I start to speak, my super power grows as I am reminded of the importance of ensuring my voice is heard.

What’s one thing 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?

TEKEDRA: Through my life and career I’ve learned the importance of giving back. I realized that — at a very early and important stage in my career — people along the way took a special interest in me, even though they were not mentors and coaches. This inspired me to start something years ago I call “Givebacks.” It’s a simple thing:- I committed to connecting with three women and people of color each quarter who were looking for guidance, had a question (typically about breaking into tech), or just were looking to build their network. We meet for coffee or lunch or video call, and each time I’m reminded of the importance of accessible leaders. If I am seen as an example to another young woman, or another person of color, of what they are capable of, I’m honored. 

I’ve also been able to use my space in tech to give back through angel investing and joining a women-led fund, like Operator Collective (!!!), which is dedicated to driving more diversity among both women and people of color in venture.

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: Lattice Chief Revenue Officer Dini Mehta

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who run 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 Dini Mehta, ​​Chief Revenue Officer of people management software company Lattice, and now an Operating Partner here at Operator Collective as well. She’s passionate about building diverse teams and has tons of experience scaling go-to-market engines from Series A, all the way through the growth stage to unicorn+ status.

You just made an uncommon move, joining a VC (lucky us) as operating partner, while continuing on in a c-level operating role. What prompted you to make that change and how do you do it all?

DINI:  Mallun! 🙂 In all seriousness — I have felt like an outsider most of my life, which has fueled a lot of my career decisions. For example, I’ve spent most of my career in tech sales and moved into people management to help others see sales as a viable career option. That drove me towards senior leadership, so I could reimagine how revenue orgs are built. Venture Capital has felt like a black box over the years. While I LOVE being an operator, I also get a lot of energy from working with founders and helping them scale companies!  As I learned more about OpCo’s mission and the operating partner role, I knew I wanted in. 

What kind of impact are you most excited to have at OpCo?

DINI: OpCo uniquely has the power to connect the best operators in Silicon Valley to passionate founders working towards a brighter future. I am excited to play a part in unlocking the collective magic of this community while also making the world of venture a bit more accessible to other operators like me! 

You’ve rapidly moved up the revenue ranks within several hyper growth startups. As someone who’s teamed up with multiple tech founders along the way, what’s one piece of advice you’d share about the partnership between product development and go-to-market in a company’s early stages?

DINI: Prioritizing the right initiatives across the company and sequencing your GTM and technical team’s resources for sustainable growth. Typically when a company is in growth stage you are constantly building the plane as you fly it — scaling what’s working while laying the foundation for future bets (product, geo, vertical, segment) to stay in hyper growth year after year.  A lot of companies tend to become siloed in their strategy and decisioning as they scale, leading to misaligned initiatives across departments. How, and when, you prioritize growth bets across GTM & Product can become your execution superpower.

What are a few critical elements to get rapid growth in a tough market to sell into like HR tech? 

DINI: 

  1. The team you build is the company you build – hiring the right folks that are stage appropriate and making them successful is critical to build & stay in hyper growth, which should be the ultimate goal in the first 5-10 years of the business. 
  2. Play the long game, stay focused on your mission & your customers – It’s easy to get distracted by what a competitor is doing, or by a huge contract that isn’t a great product fit today. Staying disciplined on your priorities, especially in the early days, will drive focus and improve your ability to execute effectively. 
  3. Stay nimble – While you need to have a plan and stay focused, staying agile and making changes as things evolve is just as important, especially in a fast-moving market like HR tech.

You emphasize the importance of people over pipeline. Tell us about a time when you had to make that tradeoff. How did you influence other stakeholders to see the long game?

DINI: Two truths that help guide my decisions: 1) Everyone (even quota-carrying sales people) wants the same things out of work: community, growth and purpose. 2) If you take care of your people, your people will take care of your company. These are simple concepts to understand, but difficult to live up to. 

One example where I faced the tradeoff was when we launched the quota relief program at Lattice in 2020. We had always offered unlimited PTO, but realized that quota-carrying AEs found it difficult to unplug and take advantage of our vacation policy. As a way to help folks take a real break from work and avoid burnout, we chose to give ramped AEs one month of quota relief every year.  As a revenue leader with aggressive goals, taking ramped quota capacity off the field was an unorthodox move that technically sacrifices pipeline generation (for the relief months) to optimize for people’s well being. 12 months into this program, there has been no impact on performance and we’ve improved our team’s engagement levels. In fact, we’ve maintained less than 2% attrition rate as a department. 

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

DINI: I grew up in India and moved to the US at the age of 18 to go to the University of Kansas – Rock Chalk! My first job was working in a campus cafeteria kitchen. Spending 5 hours a day operating the fryer in the kitchen taught me the importance of hard work, and that showing up with a great attitude makes the biggest difference.

What’s your secret super power?

DINI: My ability to stay paranoid short-term while being fiercely optimistic long-term. As an immigrant that has moved countries, careers and industries, you learn to embrace uncertainty with optimism. A paranoid short-term lens has served me well in scaling companies.

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

DINI: Managing people is an art and a privilege that takes time to master. My 3 pieces of advice for new people managers: 

  1. Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
  2. Coach people to their potential – especially for high performers.
  3. There are multiple paths to the same destination, and the best managers help their teams find the one that works best for them. 
We believe culture, diversity, and operational excellence are keys to building truly great companies. Learn more on our website or on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Meet 9 amazing women shaking up tech & venture

Women’s History Month serves as a great opportunity to celebrate amazing trail-blazing women. It’s also a stark reminder that there’s still a lot of work to be done to reach gender equity in our lifetime. Women stand to lose $400,000 over a 40-year career based on today’s wage gap, and the gap gets significantly wider for women of color. 

We’re thrilled to recognize some of the most successful, respected executives in the tech industry — who also happen to be women. We’re honored that the leaders below have joined us as operator limited partners (LPs) and/or portfolio company (PortCo) founders on our mission, along with so many others (it was challenging to narrow this list to single digits!). Each of these women contribute greatly to the Collective Venture Model, which is all about bringing together founders, operators, and investors from diverse backgrounds to supercharge rising companies and create mutual value. 

Together, we’re rebuilding venture from the ground up, with the world’s best operators at the forefront, including:

Bonney Pelley
New Relic Senior Vice President of Strategy & Operations

At New Relic, Bonney has held several product and business operations roles over the past 6+ years, helping the company achieve nearly 5x revenue growth post-IPO. She’s known for building high-performing teams that excel at turning strategy into execution because they are connected to company goals, driven to make an impact, and have fun along the way. 

Claire Hough
Carbon Health Chief Technology Officer

A 25-year technology industry veteran, Claire has helped several startups (including one of her own) grow and scale their teams — while committing to diversity, equity, inclusion, and servant leadership. After leading engineering teams at Netscape, Napster, Udemy, and others, she recently joined Carbon Health to help democratize healthcare through technology. Claire is an active mentor for engineering managers and product managers, and participates in the Persistence community for women leaders across tech.

Erica Ruliffson Schultz (@efr_schultz)
Confluent President of Field Operations

Erica is consistently recognized by her peers as running the most effective revenue organization and engine in enterprise software. She has a deep understanding of how to scale through all types of change, having experienced it at Confluent, New Relic, and Oracle. She creates a culture of respect, authenticity, transparency, inclusion, and accountability, and is a great advocate for women in tech. We are extremely lucky to have her on our own board of advisors, helping position Operator Collective portfolio companies for success.

Jenn Knight
AgentSync Co-Founder & Chief Technology Officer

Jenn was one of the very few female developers specializing in Salesforce when she joined LinkedIn as the company’s first Salesforce engineer. She went on to lead technical teams at Dropbox and Stripe before co-founding insurtech unicorn AgentSync. There, she has focused on building a diverse team since day one (her current engineering org is majority female) because she fundamentally believes teams, products, and companies are all better when there’s a diversity of voices, thoughts, opinions, and perspectives shaping them.

Michelle Grover (@Jcmish)
Former Twilio Chief Information Officer

As Twilio’s first CIO, Michelle helped the company uplevel its technology systems and processes to drive innovation and growth — making her one of Insider’s 100 People Transforming Business. She also has a deep-seeded passion for fostering diversity and inclusion in tech leadership, and serves an advisor to Techtonica, a nonprofit that helps guide women and non-binary individuals into the technology industry. Previously, she helped grow TripIt from a 25-person startup to a key product for SAP Concur, where she became senior vice president of software development.

Meghan Noel
Amplitude Global Vice President & Head of PreSales

Meghan has led sales, presales, solution sales, marketing, product, and customer success teams at digital, SaaS, and cloud businesses for over 25 years. She drives organizations to outperform revenue expectations while maintaining focus on product strategy, customer value, and the customer experience. Prior to joining Amplitude, Meghan held a variety of leadership roles at SAP Concur over the course of her 12 years there, including senior vice president of global SMB presales and general manager of digital media solutions.

Melanie Fellay (@melfellay)
Spekit CEO & Co-Founder 

Melanie is a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree who, along with her awesome co-founder, Zari Zahra, is changing the way companies enable employees to master their tech stacks, unlocking exponential increases in productivity. She also takes her role as one of the too-few female entrepreneurs in tech very seriously. In Melanie’s own words: “We need more women in leadership, we need more women breaking glass ceilings, we need more women starting companies and to do that, we need more young women believing that they CAN and SHOULD shoot for the moon.” That’s exactly what she herself is doing, as evidenced by Operator Collective portfolio company Spekit’s meteoric growth

Rashida Hodge (@RashidaHodge)
Microsoft Vice President of Azure Data & AI Customer Success

Rashida is a powerful advocate for women and people of color in tech and investing. She’s a big believer in authenticity and bringing personal nuance to your work, as well as in the value of strong communities and developing next-generation leaders. Rashida is a board member at Girls Inc., and founder of the Real Hope for NextGen Engineers Endowment at her alma mater, North Carolina State University — in addition to being one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 in Technology

Magdalena Yesil (@MagdalenaYesil)
Informed Executive Chair & Broadway Angels Founder

Last, but light-years from least, Magdalena is an immigrant, serial entrepreneur, board member, author, and “Alpha Girl” who’s best known as the first investor and a founding board member of Salesforce. She was an early pioneer in the commercialization of the Internet and her latest startup, Informed, is using AI to change the way the financial industry processes consumer applications. Magdalena founded Broadway Angels, a group of female venture capitalists and angel investors, and we are endlessly grateful for her continued support on Operator Collective’s investment advisory committee.

 

These values-aligned women are part of the reason we’ve been able to create a multiplier effect in our community and grow our investment network by 50% in just the last year. In fact, of the referrals we’ve received to companies with one or more female founders, almost three-quarters were made by women. It’s a testament to what happens when you intentionally expand and diversify your investor list, especially in an industry where less than 2% of enterprise software funding goes to companies with at least one female founder.

We can’t wait to see where the Collective Venture Model takes our community next.

In Operator Collective's portfolio, 48% of companies have a female founder, 38% a female CEO, 30% a female tech exec, and 20% all-female founders.
Operator Collective Portfolio Companies through 2021
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.

Meet Xata: a developer’s dream database

Yesterday (International Women’s Day!), Xata announced its Series A raise and an all-woman board of directors. We’ve been wildly impressed by Xata founder Monica Sarbu since early last year, when we were eagerly awaiting her to incorporate the company so we could invest. We couldn’t be more proud to continue to back her vision — to make databases a joy to use and increase diversity in tech.

The company: Xata

Xata has created a serverless database service for Jamstack apps that just works. It combines the power of a traditional database with the usability of a SaaS spreadsheet app, all behind a single API. And since it was built to work with developers’ workflows, Xata makes it dramatically easier to securely store, manage, and consume data — freeing developers up from common backend development headaches so they can focus on building great apps.   

Xata’s origin

Back in 2013, Monica co-founded Packetbeat, a popular open-source project that now has 300M downloads. It was acquired by Elastic, where she eventually led four teams as director of engineering. After Covid-19 hit, Monica decided she wanted to parlay her own personal success in the tech industry into something that could help others. She launched Tupu.io, a free platform to connect women, people of color, and the LGBTQ+ community to mentors. 

As she built the nonprofit’s app, she ran into a hurdle: finding a serverless database service with a good developer experience. Recognizing there was a gap in the market, she built it — and Xata was born. She notes that being your own first customer has tremendous advantages. Monica said, “We deeply believe in dogfooding our products, and we do it with every opportunity. What better way to improve things for your customers than by improving things for yourself? Tupu.io is a great source of ideas for Xata and keeps us grounded.”

Why you should pay attention 

Of course, Monica isn’t the only developer with backend frustrations. Tech teams everywhere are looking for easier, faster, and more scalable ways to build new apps. Most are turning to Jamstack architectures, serverless platforms, no-code/low-code development, and edge computing to develop all kinds of digital experiences. However, these powerful technologies can be hampered when the underlying database is overly complex and hard to manage (think scaling nodes, maintenance downtime, caching, monitoring, etc.), or overly simplistic and unable to scale (due to rate limits and lack of schema constraints). 

Monica believes it’s time to think differently about databases, and she brings just the right vision, technical expertise, and developer network to flip the script. Her deep experience in the open-source community gives Monica a unique perspective. She shared, “Three of the key values I bring with me are providing as much value to our users as possible, genuinely caring about the problems our customers are solving, as well as maximizing the number of people for which our product is useful.”

The details 

Jamstack is a modern web development architecture based on client-side JavaScript, reusable APIs, and prebuilt Markup. Since these apps are deployed on a global edge network with most logic handled by API calls, they load quickly and can handle a lot of traffic. Fun fact: 32% of today’s Jamstack developers are building for millions of users. With Xata’s serverless database under the hood, developers can get more flexibility and power at a lower cost so they can build and scale app functions in Jamstack faster. 

The benefits of this approach are getting noticed across the industry, including by Jamstack platform providers such as Guillermo Rauch, founder and CEO at Vercel. He noted, “When I started Vercel and Next.js, I dreamt of a data layer that’d be friendly for devs and non-devs alike. It’s finally here: Xata delivers on a great developer experience and a gorgeous admin UX.”

How it works

The Xata service basically runs your database for you and turns it into a powerful API so you can query and update it from a serverless app. It also provides a simple, spreadsheet-like user interface so you can interact with your data directly, via a web browser. This no-code/low-code approach makes it easier to iteratively build a database schema as you add sample data. And after adding new tables, columns, data, queries, or views, Xata creates code samples ready for use in your application. 

Xata gives developers flexibility in the early days of building an app, while ensuring a strict schema that will keep data safe and correct as the app grows. It combines a document database with relations, an analytics engine, and a free-text search engine. And the enterprise-class service is designed to effortlessly support preferred development workflows, such as creating on-the-fly database branches; pushing to deploy, preview, and test; or merging to deploy to production.

Why were obsessed 

Because enterprise databases take a lot of work, many developers start out using a simple online database, like Airtable, as their first backend when prototyping a new project. However, that data management model quickly hits rate limits and isn’t able to scale indefinitely if your app’s user base explodes all of the sudden. Xata’s developer-centric database, on the other hand, is as easy to use as newer online spreadsheets, yet scalable, secure, and production-ready so developers can rely on it over the long term.

Just as important, we’re inspired by Monica’s thoughtful approach to building the company from her home base in Berlin. When asked how she’s cultivating Xata’s culture in a globally distributed, “work anywhere” context, Monica says it’s all about learning how to make decisions and share knowledge in an asynchronous environment, while making space for video meetings where possible. She explained, “In the end, if you use the tools right, you will get more inclusive decision making, better documentation for past decisions, more thoughtful conversations, and ultimately better outcomes in the long term.”

She’s also committed to making sure diversity and inclusion are part of Xata’s DNA from the start as she firmly believes that friendly, diverse, and inclusive environments make the best teams. Monica is the kind of leader that top talent wants to work for, because she hires people who believe in the mission, gives them autonomy, and lets them experiment. 

Get involved

Xata is currently available as a private beta and will be released more broadly later this year. If you’d like to try Xata, sign up for the developer waitlist in the meantime. 

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.

The Ins & Outs of SaaS Metrics: Mastering the SaaS Magic Number

We started our SaaS metrics blog series with finance leader Christina Ross (CFO turned CEO/co-founder of Cube) on the topic of measuring customer retention and growth. This month, we turn to a central key performance indicator that every enterprise software company should look at: the so-called “SaaS magic number.” While it might take some magic to nail this target, you don’t have to be Harry Potter to learn how to analyze and optimize for it.

Below, Christina shares her plain-speak explanation and some handy tips for calculating and interpreting what is considered by many investors to be the most predictive measure of SaaS success.

At a high level, what is the SaaS magic number and why does it matter?

CHRISTINA: The SaaS magic number is a starting point for determining when an enterprise software company is ready for explosive growth. The TL;DR is that it signals your preparedness to go full-steam-ahead and spend more on sales and marketing. 

This metric uses monthly recurring revenue (MRR) to analyze your company’s health by asking, “for every dollar we spend acquiring new customers, how much revenue do we create?” For those of us growing (or investing in) SaaS businesses, knowing when it’s time to pour resources into growth is a crucial insight.

Of course, equally important is knowing when to pause and reexamine marketing and messaging. A founder who knows her metrics has more control and advance warning of potential bottlenecks such as market calibration, sales adjustments, or cost reduction.

Walk us through the magic number calculation.

CHRISTINA: The standard formula to calculate your magic number is: 

Magic Number = 4* (QR[X] – QR[X-1]) / Sales+MarketingExpenses[X-1]

Where: 

  • QR[X] is the current quarter’s revenue
  • QR[X-1] is the preceding quarter’s revenue, and 
  • Sales+MarketingExpenses[X-1] is all of your sales and marketing expenses from that same preceding quarter.

For instance, if your company’s third quarter was $100M, and sales and marketing expenses for that period came in at $50M, and then your fourth-quarter revenue hit $115M, your current magic number would be 1.2. [(4 * ($115M – $100M)) / $50M = 1.2].

So, how should an operator interpret that magic number? 

CHRISTINA: Basically, a magic number over 1 means it’s time to spend more for growth. When raising capital, most firms want to see a SaaS magic number at or above 0.75. Here are some basic guidelines to help you interpret your own magic number:

  • ≤ 0.75: You’re definitely not ready to put more money into growth. Focus on optimizing your existing spend. 🛑 
  • ≥ 0.75 but ≤ 1.0: You’re probably ready for growth, but there are still a few things to optimize. ⚠️ 
  • ≥ 1.0: Time to increase your sales and marketing spend and grow! ✅ 

If a company’s magic number is below 1, what are some specific steps they can take to improve it?

CHRISTINA: Since the SaaS magic number is a simple metric, the ways to improve it are also pretty simple: either earn more revenue or optimize your sales and marketing spend. Ideally, you want to do both. 

Here are four strategies that I’ve seen work well: 

  • Expand with existing customers. The cheapest customer to acquire is the customer you already have. If you can deliver more value from an upsell or a cross-sell, these expansions will boost your MRR (which directly boosts your SaaS magic number). 
  • Shorten your sales cycle. Sales efficiency is incredibly important for growing SaaS businesses, since longer sales cycles are more expensive and limit how quickly you can grow. That said, shortening your sales cycle can lead to higher churn since you might end up selling to unqualified leads, so it’s important to continuously refine your approach. 
  • Invest in low-cost, high-yield marketing. Your best marketing ROI will come from content marketing, SEO, and cultivating a healthy relationship with the non-buyers on your email list. Quality evergreen content can deliver a steady, high volume of qualified leads and pay dividends for years to come. 
  • Slash underperforming paid channels. Ads work, but it’s easy to overspend on ads if your ROI isn’t as high as it needs to be. Think about simplifying or consolidating your ads. Optimize your ad spend by repeating what works and spending less on what doesn’t. 

Some companies seem myopically focused on their magic number. What are the potential blind spots?

CHRISTINA: That’s very true, and the SaaS magic number isn’t a silver bullet to unicorn status on its own. Like any metric, this one has its limitations, so we need other KPIs to give it context and uncover the full picture. The SaaS magic number is merely a flag (red, yellow, or green)—not a deciding factor. Your gross margins anchor your reality and are a huge factor in how quickly you actually can grow. You should also consider your runway, your customer acquisition cost (CAC) payback periods, churn ratios, and overall cash flow

Since the magic number only uses MRR, you don’t know if that revenue is due to expansions or to new logos. If the bulk of your revenue comes from expansions, then your strength in acquiring new customers could be questionable. Likewise, if most of your MRR comes from new bookings, you need to look at your NRR to understand how well you’re retaining customers and revenue.

What’s the difference between this and the Bessemer magic number?

CHRISTINA: What some folks call the Bessemer magic number is a CAC ratio that tells you how efficiently you can acquire new customers. It specifically looks at how quickly your gross margin pays for new customers. This is important context because the standard SaaS magic number doesn’t account for the expense of running a business. You can calculate it as follows:

Bessemer CAC Ratio = (Gross Margin * New Annual Contract Value[X]) / CAC[X-1] 

If your ratio is over 1, it means you have room to keep investing in sales and marketing. But if it’s less than 1, you need to continue to monitor your spending.

To learn more about the SaaS magic number and other important metrics, check out Cube’s recent blog post on what they consider “The Single Most Important Growth Flag in SaaS.”

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.

Get to Know 12 Black Operators at the Top of Their Game

A core part of Operator Collective has always been to bring together active operators from diverse backgrounds who are building the world’s most successful companies. Besides having the exact expertise and contacts founders need as they scale their companies, they also bring their outsider perspectives to shake up the venture world — the doors to which have long been inaccessible to people from underrepresented groups. 

To celebrate Black History Month, we are highlighting 12 incredible Black leaders in our community who have joined us on this journey and are crushing it day in and day out. You need to know these exceptional executives who are changing the game and the face of tech for future generations.

Ebony Beckwith (@EbonyBeckwith)
Salesforce Chief Business Officer & Chief of Staff to Marc Benioff

Ebony is all about mentoring others, especially those who may be following a nonlinear path to leadership like her own. With two decades in operations and tech, she holds an influential role at Salesforce, where she’s responsible for aligning the company, operationalizing core values, and leading all strategic projects, relationships, and initiatives of the Office of the Co-CEO. She also oversees the company’s global philanthropic strategy as CEO of the Salesforce Foundation, and sits on the boards of Poshmark and Warriors Community Foundation.

Stacy Brown-Philpot (@sbp04)
HP, Noom, Nordstrom & StockX Board Director

As former CEO of TaskRabbit (leading the company’s acquisition by Ikea in 2017), Stacy has a deep understanding of what it takes to be an exceptional CEO. From building the Black Googler Network, to serving on the board of Black Girls CODE, to more recently becoming a founding member of SoftBank’s Opportunity Fund (which invests in Black, Latinx, and Native American founders), Stacy is also passionate about creating diverse and inclusive opportunities for others. We’re incredibly lucky — as are our portfolio founders — to have her on our very own Board of Advisors

LaFawn Davis (@lafawn
Indeed Senior Vice President, Environmental, Social & Governance

LaFawn 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)
Facebook (Meta) Public Policy Director

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.

Michael Kieran
Tray.io Head of Talent

Michael believes companies need to show genuine empathy, care, and concern for their greatest competitive asset — their people. At Tray.io, he’s leading DEI efforts and growing the tech company with an eye on not just being a great place to work, but also a great place to be from. Previously, he headed up recruiting for information security leader Duo, scaling the company’s team 10x while building a new c-suite and new generation of executive hires.  

Danielle Lee
Warner Music Group President, Warner Music Artist & Fan Experiences

Danielle is an accomplished marketing executive who’s been widely recognized as a change agent for some of the world’s most respected brands. In addition to her current position leading a centralized, in-house creative agency for the Warner Record Music roster and third party artists, she led brand and multi-platform fan marketing globally at the NBA and served as Spotify’s global vice president of partner solutions as the company grew from $3B to nearly $30B following its IPO. She’s also on the board of Bath & Body Works and American Documentary. 

Anita Lynch (@LynchAnita)
New Relic Chief Data Officer

Anita’s passion is scaling businesses that bring tech, strategy, and people together for innovation excellence. As New Relic’s first chief data officer, she’s focused on extracting business value and competitive advantage from data to drive long-term growth strategy. She also led successful data science, analytics, architecture, and governance teams at Yahoo, Amazon, and Disney, as well as strategy consulting at Bain and global business operations and expansion at Apple.

Tekedra Mawakana (@TechTekedra)
Waymo (Alphabet) Co-CEO

In addition to leading overall strategy for the autonomous driving technology company Waymo, Tekedra is a board member at Intuit, as well as an advisor to Lyte, Boom Supersonic, the Consumer Technology Association, and of course Operator Collective. She’s an expert in navigating complex high-profile issues and previously led global teams across five continents at eBay, Yahoo, AOL, and Startec. 

Richelle Parham (@RichelleParham)
Universal Music Group President, Global eCommerce and Business Development

Richelle has a wealth of experience in eCommerce, consumer marketing, audience growth, and business development, with a track record of leading high-performing business and marketing teams. She is also an active board director at Best Buy, Elf, and LabCorp, and previously held key roles at eBay, Visa, and WestRiver Group. 

Merline Saintil (@msaintil)
Fortune 500 Board Member & Black Women On Boards Founder

One of Merline’s mantras is ‘lift as you climb,’ and she does just that every day with words of wisdom for our community and well beyond. Earlier this month, the organization she co-founded in 2020, Black Women on Boards, rang the Nasdaq opening bell. Merline is also a lead board director at space exploration company Rocket Lab, as well as on the boards of TD Synnex, GitLab, Evolv Technology, Lightspeed Commerce, and Alkami Technology.  

Bonita Stewart (@BColemanStewart)
Gradient Ventures (Google) Board Partner 

Bonita has been with Google for over 15 years, following long tenures at both Chrysler and IBM. She’s currently the board partner for the company’s venture fund focused on early-stage AI companies. Previously, she oversaw Google’s partnerships with the largest US publishers across search, news, media/entertainment, commerce, and mobile apps. Bonita serves on the Deckers, PagerDuty, and Volta Charging corporate boards, and recently co-authored the book, A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower and Thrive.

Tracy Williams
New Relic Chief People and Diversity Officer

Tracy oversees New Relic’s people and DEI strategies in support of the company’s business goals, culture, and core values. She leads all people programs with an eye on ensuring representation of diverse perspectives and experiences — through talent acquisition and org design as well as rewards, operations, and social impact. Tracy has more than 15 years of HR experience including leadership positions with Target (Mervyns) and Michaels Arts & Crafts stores.  

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: AdRoll President Roli Saxena

“How did they do that? How did they get there?” Companies succeed because of the people who run 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 Roli Saxena, president of marketing technology company AdRoll and board member at Culture Amp, an employee listening platform.

You’ve had incredible success with high growth companies across a variety of industries and sectors, from LinkedIn to to Brex, and now AdRoll. What’s the thread that pulls them all together? 

ROLI: There are a few common threads across all these experiences. They all were in big markets and solving real pain points for their users. And that’s why they each had strong traction in the market with their flagship product and were transforming into multiproduct companies. They also have hybrid business models with both subscription and usage-based pricing. This not only provides the predictability of a SaaS company but also brings an upside with the ability to ‘land and expand.’ 

Customer success and product usage is a strong revenue growth driver and my experience building that at LinkedIn, along with building customer-centric sales organizations, attracted me to each of these opportunities. In my current role, I bring the same level of customer centricity across product, design, revenue, and marketing.

How did your experience in different functional areas prepare you for a major operating role like President? 

ROLI: I am a business leader with go-to-market (GTM) expertise. My first 7-8 years were in product and more recently I’ve spent 10-12 years in a variety of GTM roles — marketing, sales and success. Each of those transitions were motivated by the opportunity to solve big meaty problems and to learn. As an engineer by training, all these experiences have helped me become a systems level problem solver — addressing the problem at the first principle level. A great benefit of all these changes is that I am not afraid of new challenges or of testing new ideas in a structured way. 

Over the years, I have learned that what scales you as a leader is intellectual curiosity and hiring and developing talent. Your job as a leader is to bring strong leaders around the table, set the direction, and give your team space to go execute to that common goal. The collective power of a team with strong aligned conviction is magical.

Which aspects of finance, product, and marketing are most crucial to nail as AdRoll continues to scale? 

ROLI: AdRoll’s mission is to create a level playing field for ambitious ecommerce brands of all sizes. We built our strength in advertising, data, and machine learning and now offer a multi-channel campaign management and attribution platform that enables marketers to attract, engage, and retain their shoppers all from within the AdRoll platform. We also deliver real-time analytics and insights to marketers to best optimize their marketing budgets. Given where we are in our transformation, we have to nail continued product innovation. We are in a highly competitive space and so velocity of innovation is critical for us to keep our lead and gain share.  

What kind of impact do you want your leadership and work style to have on the teams at Adroll and the company overall? 

ROLI: As an introverted woman of color, I am very focused on building a culture of diversity and inclusion. I am fortunate to be working for a company that has prioritized DEI efforts at all levels, including our Board of Directors where we have three independent members who are women. 

Outside of our culture of inclusion, I am invested in building a culture of rapid decision making and accountability. Companies in our stage often lose their startup agility and speed of execution because of fuzzy lines of accountability and stalled decisions. We have adopted the Bain RAPID framework to help us make high quality decisions quickly and consistently. In addition, we run bi-weekly Business Review Meetings (BRMs) with leaders in the business to drive accountability on key priorities. These meetings also create transparency within the organization and space for healthy collaboration.

You’ve also been a board member at Culture Amp for several years now. What advice would you give to other operators considering their first board seat? 

ROLI: If you are considering a board role, be honest with why you want to be on a board. Being on a board is a time commitment and it is something that you need to evaluate how it fits into your personal and professional commitments. Assuming you have the bandwidth, deeply understand what value you will bring to a board and are able to articulate that effectively. For me my motivation was to leverage my experience in scaling GTM functions to help CEOs and founders that have found product market fit operationalize to scale. Once you have strong value prop, let your network know that you are looking for a board role and you will find opportunities come your way.

When you land your first board position, I would recommend avoiding the first time board member mistake that I hear many of us have made. As a first time board member, you are anxious to show your value and often lean too much into advising the management team on how to run their business. The CEO and the management team are closest to their business and have reasons for their decisions. The best board members ask open ended questions that shine a light on an area the management team isn’t thinking about or challenge their assumptions. Additionally, as a board member your role is not only to have fiduciary responsibility for the company’s operations but also to be their cheerleader. Running a company and operating a business is hard and having partners on your board goes a very long way.

You’ve given excellent advice about guarding your time. Can you summarize some of your best tips for prioritization? 

ROLI: I put boundaries on my calendar and manage them ferociously. I spend time on Sundays writing down the 1-2 things I would like to accomplish that week. Then I make sure I carve time out on my calendar to work on them. Finally, before signing up for a project or priority, I ask myself two questions:

  1. Where does this fit into our business or my personal priorities? If it’s high on the list, why does this activity/project need to happen now?
  2. Am I the best person to do it?

I often find that by the time I am done answering these two questions, my to-do list is much smaller than what I started with.

What’s your secret super power or your biggest kryptonite? 

ROLI: One of my super powers is building authentic relationships quickly, which over time has translated to a large network. I am always happy to help connect people within my network. My kryptonite is not being able to disconnect after work or on weekends. In the short run, it works fine, but if left unchecked it leads to burnout.

What’s one thing you’ve done to empower the next generation of underrepresented leaders?  

ROLI: There are a few things I am proud of — one is leading and building the LinkedIn Women in Leadership Network, along with a few of my colleagues. The program was launched in 2013 and it is great to see the impact it has driven for raising women in leadership roles. The second one is launching a fund (Neythri Futures Fund) with 90%+ of LPs who are women operators from South Asian descent. I find it fascinating how many South Asian men participate in venture as VCs or LPs, compared to very few women. Creating economic opportunity and access for that group has been fun so far.

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.

Syndio: the secret to workplace equity success

The company: Syndio

Syndio is the first people analytics platform that helps companies attain — and sustain — equal pay for equal work. Its real-time software enables rapid, dynamic pay and opportunity gap analysis, without bias. By empowering companies to go from fixing equity issues to proactively monitoring and preventing them, Syndio helps businesses show employees they’re valued. 

Syndio’s origin

The company was founded in 2017 by Zev Eigen, a former law professor who wanted to bring the best technology, lawyers, statisticians, labor economists, and data scientists together to solve hard problems that make the world better. After years of applying machine learning, econometrics, and statistics to help clients audit their pay gaps and other HR risks, he realized he could spark real, lasting changes by automating this complex work for continuous analysis. He brought on Smartsheets co-founder (and mother of seven) Maria Colacurcio as CEO in 2018, and the company’s impact has mushroomed ever since.

Why you should pay attention 

With the social movements of the past few years, pay transparency has become table stakes in larger conversations about workplace equity. Employees want to know that their company values their contributions, but 82% believe their work environment lacks fairness

Many of the world’s leading businesses are finally sitting up and taking notice. Hundreds of companies, such as General Mills, Nordstrom, and Salesforce (and 10% of the Fortune 200) use Syndio to measure the pay of over 2.6 million employees in the United States — proving to their employees, regulators, investors, and themselves that people truly are their most valuable asset. 

The details 

Syndio is the only SaaS platform that not only helps companies find pay disparities based on race, gender, ethnicity, or any other demographic designation, but empowers them to fix those issues and stay in compliance over time. Its suite of tools and services includes a feature that calculates a safe pay range for new hires in order to maintain overall equity, statistical analysis that compares organizations against their peers, and easy-to-understand dashboards and interactive charts to simplify the complexities of workplace equity.

How it works

The Syndio Workplace Equity Platform analyzes a company’s internal HR and compensation data in seconds, compares it to external benchmarks, and makes it easier for companies to understand inequities across pay, promotions, and more. Syndio’s team of expert advisors also provides legal best practices, analytics expertise, and communications guidance.

Syndio helps customers measure and improve all facets of workplace equity — from reducing pay gaps to hiring, promoting, and retaining employees equitably. Unlike a point-in-time analysis, Syndio’s patent-pending PayEQ™ solution provides an always-on-view of pay equity and real-time insights that guide fair pay decisions. And the company’s newest offering, OppEQ™, helps companies measure equity in career development, set realistic diversity goals, and prioritize their greatest areas of opportunity. 

Why were obsessed 

Zev and Maria have built just the right SaaS solution at just the right time. Companies can no longer ignore rising demands to overcome bias, increase diversity, and close gender and racial pay gaps. In order to measure, achieve, and sustain workplace equity, they need objective, data-based recommendations. However, less than a third of HR professionals say their organizations are good at making positive changes based on people analytics data.

With the “great resignation” underway, businesses simply can’t afford to allow biases to fester and increase costly attrition. Truly great companies are looking for solutions like Syndio that help them embed workplace equity into their core and build diverse, dynamic teams to achieve enduring success. That’s fueled the company’s tripling of ARR for the last two years running, and we’re thrilled to support the team in bringing pay equity to even more companies in the years to come.

Get involved

If you want to dig deeper into workplace equity at your own company, request a demo from Syndio and follow @syndioinc.

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.

OpCo Updates: Taking On 2022

As with any startup journey, the first phase is to prove that the core idea works. Product market fit, if you will. Coming out of 2021, we’ve invested in 42 portfolio companies (21 core, 21 supporting):

  • Six became unicorns and/or unicorns+ and one went public
  • There’s been a $12.7B change in valuation from our initial investment to the latest round
  • Our companies had 23 follow-on rounds, 16 of which were pre-emptions

Thanks to the many talented operators, founders, co-investors and collaborators across our collective, our model is working. Active operators who are building and scaling the world’s most successful companies like Cloudflare, Confluent, Zoom, Salesforce, and Stripe are now engaged in the venture ecosystem to accelerate the success of our values-aligned founders. We are so honored to be on this journey together.

The next stage of any startup? Double down on what works and then scale, starting with the key to it all: the team.

Platform

First, we’ve brought on a phenomenal team to channel and further amplify our operator community to help our founders accelerate. Welcome to the new Operator Collective Platform team! We’re so fortunate to have the best of the best leading the charge.

  • Pam Kostka (longtime OpCo LP, former SaaS CEO & All Raise CEO)
  • Caroline Caswell (former VP Marketing All Raise & Pramana Collective)
  • Angie Coleman (former Dir Community, LesbiansWhoTech & Snowflake) 

Operating Partners

Engaging active operators across our community is one of the most impactful value adds we offer. To help that value reach new heights, we created a new part-time Operating Partner role that allows active operators to dedicate time each week to advise our portfolio companies, unlock access to the secret sauce of our collective functional experts, and vet investment opportunities.

Ambrosia Vertesi has transitioned from full-time Operating Partner to part-time, and joined one of our growth stage portfolio companies as Chief People Officer. While many of our companies have been trying to recruit Ambrosia for years, here’s more on why Ironclad was the lucky one that got her and why the timing is now. We are so grateful to Ambrosia for being a key part of OpCo since the very early days, as an LP and then as our first employee three years ago – her impact has been enormous. We’re thrilled she’s staying connected to continue to support our portfolio founders on a more limited basis, and that the virtuous cycle between operating and venture is in motion. 

One of our most highly requested LP intros, Dini Mehta, is also joining us as an Operating Partner, while continuing as Chief Revenue Officer of Lattice. She brings a wealth of energy and expertise on scaling revenue from Series A through growth stage to unicorn+ status. One focus for Operating Partners will be to implement a model that efficiently and effectively engages our functional leaders as cohorts, allowing us to expand our founder support as our portfolio grows. Much more to come about this role and initiatives, upcoming events, and ways to connect in the coming months. 

Operations

We’re also delighted to announce Anna Jacobson’s promotion to VP, Operations & Data. She’s been an integral part of the team since joining almost two years ago. Read more about how we met here. And Guergana Tomova, our new part-time CFO brings a wealth of experience with a number of well established venture funds. 

Board of Advisors

We know that companies are successful because of the people who run them. We are honored to add more incredible talent to ours, and, alongside our Board of Advisors (Leyla Seka, Erica Ruliffson Schultz, Claire Hughes Johnson, Stacy Brown-Philpot, Tekedra Mawakana, and Elena Gomez) and longtime Investment Advisory Committee members Dan Scheinman and Magdalena Yesil, we’re ready for the next stage of our own startup journey. We can’t wait to share what’s next.

Operator Collective Board of Advisors
Operator Collective Board of Advisors (from left: Erica Ruliffson Schultz: President of Field Operations, Confluent; Claire Hughes Johnson: Corporate Officer and Former COO, Stripe; Stacy Brown-Philpot: former CEO, TaskRabbit; Leyla Seka: COO, Ironclad; Mallun Yen: Founder & GP, Operator Collective; Tekedra Mawakana: Co-CEO, Waymo; Elena Gomez: CFO, Toast)