Leading with Empathy

Nov 11, 2018
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While my title says “VC”, I first and foremost identify as a maker. I have always focused not only on how and why things work, but how to make them operate with greater efficiency. This thread ties together everything I do, from scrappily designing and selling jewelry at 15 to founding a femme care company with my sister, developing products to make our periods work better for us and changing the way Americans pay for their prescriptions.

I don’t have the background of a traditional investor. My version of B school involved writing angel checks into companies that were tackling challenges and markets I wanted to gain exposure to. Despite my unconventional narrative, at 8VC I am actively encouraged to leverage my deep operational expertise and embrace my maker identity. A team of entrepreneurs, financiers, engineers and Barry’s Bootcamp fanatics, we derive strength from our diversity and are committed to putting the entrepreneur first. Modern entrepreneurs are in the position to enact more far-reaching, positive impact on the world than any group in previous generations. The struggles and frustrations that surface when taking something from an abstract idea to a tangible business resonate deeply with our partnership, as many of us can recall identical experiences. In our role as investors we lead with empathy.

We collectively push each other to exceed the normal expectations of VC involvement, deploying tactics that for me resemble “PE style” practices. Our involvement does not simultaneously start and end when we write a check. We’re right by our entrepreneur’s side in the trenches, ready and willing to help with anything, whether it’s marketing, growth strategy, recruiting, or even those occasional 3:00 am panic attacks. We take immense pride in the fact that our entrepreneurs trust us enough to reach out for help instead of concealing obstacles.While often responding to in-the-moment requests, we recognize the importance of anticipating portfolio needs. As a result, we’ve crafted unparalleled networks of thought leaders in each of our core thesis areas. When our portfolio companies are struggling with a specific problem, we can turn to our community of world class experts in healthcare, biotech, logistics and beyond, who look forward to offering wisdom and familiarizing themselves with emerging technology. Standout 8VC memories are typically concentrated around events where we bring together industry leaders and our CEOs for thought provoking conversations that not only inspire valuable follow-ups, but push the boundaries of what many assumed to be possible.The makers in our network aren’t the only ones who rely on our expertise and community. Although I spend the majority of my time digging into the intersection between healthcare and consumer, I often play at opposite ends of the spectrum, evaluating either highly consumer or more technical Bio-IT deals. Harnessing our team’s wealth of knowledge, I am empowered to explore the forefront of scientific advancements and apply my marketing mind to humanize these incredibly technical ventures. My partners serve as teachers, providing guidance and successful frameworks as I continue to sharpen my diligence teeth and gain greater confidence as an investor. Our Monday Investment Team meeting has transformed from a recurring sync to a partner led lecture series. Active participation and questioning is expected. My colleagues help me refine my thinking, ask the right questions and recognize how a specific opportunity interacts within a broader landscape. Collaborative learning is a foundational tenet, seamlessly woven into our DNA as a firm.

It is an honor to serve as a founding partner at this firm. While I tend to regard 8VC itself as a startup, we are in fact a firm that has been evolving for 7 years. All of our founding partners were either partners or advisors to Formation 8. We have since added pivotal leaders to the partnership who have been instrumental in helping us reach our latest, improved version. The expertise, unparalleled investment acumen and enduring networks that we’ve cultivated could only be realized through our experience managing Formation 8. As F8 1 companies begin to IPO over the next few years, we will integrate their successes into the fabric of 8VC.

Despite our deep roots, we continue to embrace a startup mentality. Each team member, from the most junior to the most senior, embraces the privilege and the responsibility to grow and scale the firm. Just as a model startup is lean and values Kaizen — continuous improvement — 8VC rejects archaic traditionalism in favor of a dynamic organizational model which inspires each team member to be a thoughtful agent of change.

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