15 tried-and-true tips for working from home

The coronavirus outbreak has highlighted our need for flexible work structures, with many organizations mandating remote work this month. Certainly distributed teams and satellite offices have grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to the wonders of high-speed Internet, cloud applications, and fancy collaboration tools, but it’s been something of a learning experience for this surprise new WFH-force.

Perhaps you’re still in the honeymoon phase, that blissful period when you realize you no longer have to wear pants with zippers, but the psychological aspects of remote work may set in before long. We’re here to help. Our Operator Collective team is fully distributed – from New York to Berkeley, Vancouver to Houston – so we’ve had to figure out what works for us. Here are our top tips for getting into that remote work groove. We’d love to hear your tips for working from home, too – Please share them at @OperatorCollect.

Mallun Yen, Founder and Partner

  • It can be easy to forego exercise. Two mornings a week, we block out time for exercise and don’t schedule meetings until 9:45. But don’t cheat – Sign up for classes in advance to keep yourself accountable.
  • Keep your video on when you Zoom into meetings (try these tips). It keeps everyone on task and connected. 
  • Look to the pros. Zapier, a pioneer in distributed teams, has been sharing tips for a while.

Leyla SekaPartner

  • Make your desk area beautiful. I cover mine in flowers and things that make me happy.
  • Get moving! I try to walk 10K steps around my house before noon. I may look crazy yapping on the phone as I circle the house like a shark, but it keeps me sane.
  • Do something for you. My friend April suggests growing a vegetable garden. I dress my cat up in costumes (a lot), but you could try learning a language or making every recipe in a cookbook. 

Ambrosia Vertesi, Operating Partner

  • Reserve the first five minutes of a virtual meeting for watercooler talk. At Duo, Dug Song would start meetings by sharing appreciations which helped build connectedness.
  • Play Team Chatroulette to connect with people outside your immediate orbit.
  • If you don’t schedule snack breaks and bathroom breaks, nobody will. 

Ruthie Miller, Head of Marketing

  • Create a basic schedule and stick to it. Resist the urge to sleep til noon.
  • Don’t work from your bed. As tempting as it is, that’s a slippery slope.
  • Use your regular commute time to do something for yourself – read, send a card, get an #OfficeDog.

Marley Sarles, Events and Operations

  • Don’t forgo team building. Use Zoom for a team coffee, happy hour, or remote dance party.
  • Throw in a load of laundry between meetings. You can be so productive at home!
  • If you don’t have a lot of calls, switch things up by working at a coffee shop or restaurant.

Your turn! Please share your tips for working from home with us at @OperatorCollect.   

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

Growing up on HBO: The early feminist movies that inspired me

For several years now Hollywood has been engulfed in a trend of remakes, redoing the old movies we loved in our youth in hopes of giving them new life as modern-day classics for a new generation. Most of these remakes have fallen flat for me, but I have to admit I was pretty excited about the new Top Gun

My husband and I decided we should show our kids the original movie so they can see its greatness for themselves and note the differences. Old versus new fight scenes! Bigger, badder explosions! More beach volleyball! We knew they’d love the both versions.

Top Gun movie imageBut 20 minutes into the classic, my 12-year-old turns to me and says, “Mom, I can’t believe you like this. These guys are sexist jerks. This movie is awful.” I was totally caught off-guard. Yet as I continued watching, his point became painfully obvious: inflated male egos everywhere, a cocky student hitting on his female teacher, testosterone to the max. Afterward, my 9-year-old commented: “The only good part was the end when they finally started blowing things up.” 

How did I ever think this movie was great? As I thought more about it, I began to realize that Top Gun is a classic snapshot in time. It was, unfortunately, where we were as a culture in 1986. I loved Top Gun back then (and still love The Hunt for Red October now), but the basic message I got was that the men were out there doing things and in charge… and the women weren’t. 

My parents are foreigners; my Dad left early every morning and came home late, while my Mom worked to keep the home running smoothly. From my own house to the Brady Bunch, I saw the way the gender roles stacked up. Fortunately one day my parents invested in a new invention – The Home Box Office – and that’s where I connected with some key movies that helped me find my place in the world. So in honor of Women’s History Month, I’d like to share a few of the feminist movies that defined me.

Women dominating the working world  

9-5 movie imageThe number of working women has steadily increased since WWII, but there was a seismic shift in the 80’s with movies that portrayed women as taking control, rising through the ranks, or becoming entrepreneurs. 9-5, for example, tells of a gaggle of secretaries who scheme to transform their office into an inclusive workplace that offers flexible hours, equal pay, and onsite daycare. In 1980! Companies still struggle with those things today! 

And then there’s Baby Boom. Should women have to choose between having a kid and having a job? Not Diane Keaton and not me. Melanie Griffith was Working Girl, which postulates that just because someone starts out answering phones, doesn’t mean she’s going to end up answering phones. And finally, Selena, the biographical story of the Tejano mogul who sang, danced, and toured her way to a clothing line and cult following. 

Women breaking cultural archetypes 

Princess Leia imageThe movies of my youth also started to break the archetype of the frail, incapable woman. First there’s Private Benjamin, which shows Goldie Hawn join the Army on a whim and discover the value of inner strength. The lesson? The life set before us is not the one we have to lead; we are tougher than we think we are. And then there’s She-Devil, which portrays women not as helpless victims, but as clever and resourceful opponents. Perhaps a Vesta Rose is what the technology industry needs right now. And my absolute favorite, Star Wars, which created the ultimate feminist idol, the woman who took absolutely no sh*t and ruled the galaxy: Princess Leia.

Behold the power of female friendships

Waiting to Exhale imageOf course, there were plenty of feminist movies that depicted the power of friendships among women, like Waiting to Exhale, which shows how women watching out for each helps them build power. We all need those trusting relationships in our lives.

At the time, grief was still a matter largely kept private, but thank goodness for two classics – Steel Magnolias and Beaches – who opened us up to emotion. Those movies highlight just how much we need to rely on our friends when the going gets tough. Truly they both are tearjerkers that present the comic with the tragic in a beautiful way.

Inspiring a new generation of women

These old storylines, which were totally outnumbered by slapstick comedies and male heroes, came at just the right time to launch a new generation of feminism. We began to see what was possible, what could happen when women take charge. As a result, the women who watched those movies are now pushing for equal pay in Hollywood, amplifying the #MeToo movement, and working for greater diversity and more representation

They’re also bringing women into venture capital, helping women invest, leading companies, starting companies, and running for office in record numbers. And now that we have models for what these roles actually look like – on the big screen and in our very own world – the girls of today will know what’s possible. There is no limit to what we can do.

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

Why we’re obsessed with Guild Education

The company: Guild Education

Guild Education is a female-founded, Certified B corporation that’s on a mission to educate America’s workforce. Guild seeks to do well by doing good, offering a full-service platform that lets companies connect their employees to amazing education benefits.

Why you should pay attention 

Companies like Walmart, Disney, Discover, Lowe’s, and Chipotle have already realized jaw-dropping results with Guild’s end-to-end platform for education benefits and tuition assistance. (Disney reports record-breaking engagement with its Guild offering, while Chipotle reports 90% higher retention among employees who participate in the education benefits program. Whoa!) 

The details 

There are 88 million Americans who need upskilling or reskilling in order to compete in the future of work (64 million of whom haven’t completed college). Those were some of the facts compelling co-founders Rachel Carlson and Brittany Stich to shake up the traditional model and create a business for change. The resulting company, Guild Education, tackles the problem by helping Fortune 500 companies provide debt-free pathways to college for their employees. 

Why were obsessed 

Guild turns the traditional tuition reimbursement model on its head, reimagining a system that’s well meaning, yet antiquated and ineffective. To do this, Guild connects companies to a network of nonprofit, accredited universities and learning providers curated to provide the best outcomes for working adults. Their innovative tuition assistance model allows students to pursue associate’s, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, as well as a wide variety of certificates and credentials without having to pay *any* upfront costs. (Students can also participate in English as a second language, high school completion programs, and college prep.) By removing that initial cost barrier, Guild’s model allows more employees to take advantage of the benefit + helps more employers realize a positive impact.

How it works

First the Guild team works with individual companies to build a customized education program and benefit policy that supports the company’s strategic goals, including objectives for recruitment, retention, and upskilling. Once the program is in place, Guild offers a team of coaches that works with individual employees to identify the right programs for them, then help with enrollment, coursework, and accountability. Completing the circle, Guild’s automated platform features dashboards and analytics to help companies track engagement, performance, retention, and overall results. 

Get involved

Ready to reimagine your company’s education benefits and increase employee retention, engagement, and success? Great idea – Get in touch with Guild Education now.  


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

Everything you wanted to know about angel investing, but were afraid to ask

Thinking about angel investing? It’s a worthy way to spend your time and can be quite lucrative if you choose the right opportunities – but there’s also a great deal of risk. After my previous career in product at Salesforce and PayPal, I turned my technical experience into a sidegig as an advisor, where I reveled in helping driven founders and their teams succeed. Eventually I became an early stage investor, joined the launch of Backstage Capital, and recently joined the launch here at Operator Collective.

Now that I’m 5 years in, I feel equipped to share some knowledge, namely the answers that would have helped me as I started out. Here are the most common questions I get about angel investing (and special thanks to Courtney Broadus for sharing her considerable expertise and perspective here too!). Got a question I missed? Please reach out

What is angel investing? 

Angel investing is the term used when an individual investor gives money to startups or early stage companies in exchange for an equity ownership interest. This is often done using a SAFE note, which is a form of convertible note, that gives you the right to purchase or “convert” to equity partial ownership in the company at a future date and/or when other criteria are met. 

How is angel investing different from investing in a venture fund? 

Angel investing is done on an individual basis and requires considerable due diligence. Investing in a fund is putting your money in the hands of the fund managers, whose job it is to vet the companies and use their expertise and network to make sound decisions. Venture funds can be lower risk than direct angel investments, depending on stage, diversification, and sector; however, the whole category is high risk.

How do I get started with angel investing?

Start by choosing a focus. Operator Collective and many of our members focus primarily on enterprise b2b, but others prefer different areas – such as consumer, healthcare, edtech, or impact investing. As you think, determine what you’d like to learn about through the process + what area you’re passionate about (in addition to returns). 

Next, look for opportunities. Be intentional – Your network may not know you have expertise in scaling, hiring, or a particular technology. So let them know you’re looking to invest and the area in which you’d like to focus. Research the VCs in various spaces; then connect and find out who they’re investing in. Finally, offer yourself as an expert to startups to build a network. Use your knowledge of the industry, products and services, operations, hiring, and more. Always look for opportunities to develop your own career, network, and knowledge while you work with founders.

How do I set a budget for angel investing?  

Angel investing is a high-risk investment. Consider it money you may lose completely – and if you’re not ok with that, don’t do it. Once you’re willing to accept the risk, parcel out a piece from the high-risk portion of your portfolio. You may want to set a yearly spend or a total spend, or you might simply consider each investment individually to gauge your level of interest. Whichever direction you choose, think about the total loss you’re willing to accept and stay under it for at least the first few years. 

How much is a typical angel investment?

There’s such a broad range of angel investments that there’s really no typical amount. Investments can be in some instances as little as $5,000 at the low end and $250,000 at the high end, though $25k and $50k are more common. Amounts are negotiable, based on what you can offer in addition to money (like your subject-matter expertise or network).

What if I don’t have a lot of capital to deploy? 

Get involved in other ways! What skills do you have that might benefit a startup? You can ask for equity compensation for advising a startup, which is usually a fraction of 1% over a 18-24 month vesting term (0.10 is common, 0.50+ is often only given to someone with deep domain expertise and/or devotes a material amount of time, 1% is unusual but not unheard of). You can also use your network as your investment – Whom do you know that could help a startup? 

How do I manage risk?

If you’re risk averse or don’t have time to do full diligence, consider co-investing with a group; this gives you coverage in a broader range of areas. Peer validation of your investments also helps you make a more informed decision. Use deal diligence to mitigate risk; but understand that at the early stage there often isn’t a lot of information available about the company and its customers, since many are pre-revenue, pre-product. Evaluating the team and its ability to focus and execute is often the strongest indicator you have to go on (vs trying to learn everything about the particular business).

What do I get out of angel investing?

It takes 7-10 years for most funds and investment portfolios to move to final outcomes (called exits). Typical exits are:

  • Late stage buy-out: Modest gains of usually 1.5x-3x
  • Pro-rata and follow on: The opportunity to invest more money in the next round to maintain or increase your equity stake
  • Acquisitions and mergers: Company gets acquired or merges with another, which can range from barely a 1x return to 3-4x typical. Most common type of exit.
  • IPO: Usually the very highest return, 4-10x
  • Company folds: Often you lose 100% of your investment, but usually you can write 100% loss off in taxes

How can I increase the certainty of a solid angel investment? 

Again, this is a high-risk form of investing with no sure bets most startups fail. But if you want to increase your chances of success, you’ve got to put in a great deal of time. Find deals you like from founders you believe in. Vet the companies as heavily as you can. Once you’ve invested, don’t just walk away check in, help out, stay involved. 

How do I find companies to invest in? 

  • Use co-investing groups and VCs you trust to build a pipeline
  • Join an angel investing group
  • Look for startup programs like accelerators and incubators, which often host Demo Days and offer opportunities for mentoring and advising
  • Network at meetups, conferences, and events
  • Start posting content on your channels to showcase your expertise 
  • Follow online content like newsletters and social channels
  • Talk to current and former colleagues, alumni groups, friends, and neighbors 
  • NOTE: Cold-call type leads can be more time consuming and challenging to sort though, especially if there’s not a reasonable connection to the founders or their industry 

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

Learning From Operators: SaaStr Co-founder Mallun Yen’s Next Venture

This article by Gené Teare was originally published on Crunchbase News.

Mallun Yen’s latest endeavor, Operator Collective, launched its first summit bringing together operators of high growth venture backed companies.

As a writer focused on female founders and executives, I was invited to cover the event. Yen noticed that the venture world tends to revolve around founders and VCs. Yet her experience as an early team member at RPX and a co-founder at SaaStr is that COOs and operators are critical but do not spend time connecting.

Continue reading here.

Operator Collective is a diverse group of leaders working together to redistribute access to wealth, help more founders succeed, and disrupt the venture capital ecosystem. Learn more at www.operatorcollective.com or by connecting with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.