Community is our everything. As we celebrate our first birthday and look back on a year marked by change and instability, it’s only natural to reflect on what we’re grateful for, and here at Operator Collective, that’s our community. Somehow we put together this bang-up group of LPs, 130+ of the most sought-after operators in Silicon Valley and beyond – 90% women, 40% people of color. How lucky are we, right?
But it wasn’t luck – Not at all. We were very intentional with how we wanted our community to look and engage. We sought an active and diverse group that would help us surface new founders, participate in our diligence efforts, and support our portfolio companies. As it turns out, this wasn’t just wishful thinking – Our LPs are unbelievably gracious with their time and expertise.
So how were we able to do this? By making it a choice, not a chore. We made two important changes to the traditional venture fund model: 1) We built in functional breadth and redundancy, and 2) we did away with minimum time commitments.
We intentionally created a large community of LPs so if and when we need seasoned operations advice, we don’t have just one COO – we have a dozen. When we need technical advice, we don’t have just one CTO – we have six. So if one of our operators is overloaded and can’t handle a request, we have several others to ask, and we can always find one with contextual experience. Our LPs know they can step out if they get busy, which gives them the freedom to engage more.
We’ve seen all kinds of successes from our large and varied community, but here are a few of our favorites.
Our community makes us all stronger
When COVID-19 took hold and businesses everywhere floundered, our operator LPs went into overdrive, changing their strategies and operations to steer their businesses to stability. We asked them to share their expertise with our larger community and audience – and they didn’t hesitate.
12 of our most respected LPs joined us for The Challenge Series, weekly webinars to let others know how top leaders were addressing the changes brought on by the pandemic. They answered our questions, tackled audience questions with glee, and even took time afterward to answer the questions we didn’t get to. They truly demonstrate our #RiseTheTide value – we’re all stronger together.
Our community make us more innovative
Social justice reform took hold in new ways over the summer. As we checked in with our Black community members, we heard their frustration. Our LP Merline Saintil shared her words with us and we brainstormed ways to push for equity. Operator Collective is about action, and in hearing their words and ideas, we were inspired to create the Black Venture Institute, bringing in partners BLCK VC, Salesforce Ventures, and UC-Berkeley Haas to build a curriculum-based program designed to give Black operators the access and education they need to become angel or venture investors.
After an intense amount of work, we launched the first cohort of 50 Black operators in November. Not only did the fellows blow us away with their energy and excitement, the speakers and panelists we invited to join were amazingly generous with their time and advice, too.
Our community makes us a connector
When we created Operator Collective, one of our goals was to build a naturally diverse network. We believed a diverse community would help us find and invest in more founders from underrepresented backgrounds – and it did. What we didn’t quite realize was how our community would become a natural connector for executive hires and board seats.
We field frequent requests from our community wondering if we have someone to recommend for an open role. Companies and recruiters pick our brains to fill board seats. But what makes us particularly happy is that our matchmaking has resulted in several strong board placements and executive hires.
We do we go from here?
As they say, there’s strength in community. Certainly our community has become our strength this year, and we look forward to seeing how it grows even stronger and more connected in the years to come. Won’t you join us?