Operations Disco at 8VC

Feb 24, 2017
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Feb 24, 2017

This article first appeared in Medium.com

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As 8VC’s Operations Director, I am responsible for helping us figure out how to fine-tune the relationship between 8VC and our network. Running a successful operations team is a lot like being a DJ: you have to mix and match community engagement methods, time the backbeat of your outreach initiatives, and read the crowd to keep your ecosystem happy and running smoothly. I man the turntables at 8VC to make sure our guests — advisors, CEOs, investors, friends and allies — have the most positive experiences possible.

As the consigliere of our network and investment universe, I manage data to help our partners and investment team strategize. My team enables them to learn from each other, make better decisions on how to allocate time, and determine how to best help our entrepreneurs. My role is to take a macro-view of our network from up on the stage — creating processes to ensure that we carefully cultivate each of our relationships, and make sure not to drop the beat on any interactions. A typical dancefloor will contain several kinds of people with different tastes and objectives. Our network is no different. As 8VC’s resident mix-master my job is to pull these people together into a unified groove.

The first key aspect of my role is engaging with the community of entrepreneurs in our deal flow pipeline. We see hundreds of deals each month. The truth is that it is impossible for the people on 8VC’s deals team — who spend their days meeting with entrepreneurs and strategizing with portfolio companies — to stay on top of every open relationship under their care. But wasting an entrepreneur’s time is one of the worst things that a VC firm can do. We structure our engagement with entrepreneurs from the moment they are introduced to us, just as a DJ curates and tailors a playlist to the particular people on the dance floor. We aim to identify whether a round is imminent, whether the deal is a likely fit for us, the best ways we can be helpful and, when appropriate, to ensure that they will move through our diligence process in a timely manner. Our ‘production software’ is a platform called Affinity — a portfolio company building network intelligence software which logs and tracks every touchpoint with our network. In addition, my team syncs with our deals team three times a week and ensures partners have a birds-eye view on their dealflow pipelines — so that they understand exactly where they are with each company at any given moment.

The second key aspect of my role is managing the portfolio side of the house. A relationship does not end with investment, and a critical part of my role is helping our deal team ensure that everyone in our portfolio family feels valued and important. Our biggest resource is our ability to build communities across all corners of our network. I host various meetups — dev ops, engineer, CEO, and data science, to name a few — so our teams can meet with one another, discuss, and plan their next steps. We aim to host monthly events, and to continue to increase both frequency, scope and participation. I set up events such as coding challenges to help our companies find and recruit technical talent. We also connect our companies with strategic members of our network who are able provide domain-specific insights. For instance, our advisory board is comprised of world leaders in fields such as finance, entertainment, and real estate, as well as business leaders with expertise in operations, customer success and marketing. Bringing people together to meet, teach, and exchange with each other accelerates the pace of learning and innovation for our entire network.

“As the consigliere of our network and investment universe, I manage data to help our partners and investment team strategize.”

A third key aspect of my work is coordinating our community of other investors, including angels and fellow venture firms. We rely on our angels to connect us to their friends and to pass us interesting deals. They are an essential part of the technology ecosystem. We frequently line up 8VC cocktail parties and other investor events to connect with these crucial players. Just as we try to be respectful and responsive to entrepreneurs, we strive to be good partners for our network of investors. Every time someone refers us a deal, we harness Affinity to ensure that the referring party knows the final outcome of the process, whether it’s a pass or an investment. We do our best to return the favor when appropriate. Our ecosystem is filled with advisors, close friends, active LP’s and entrepreneurs with whom we have worked with in the past. We constantly stay engaged with these clients, and make sure that we are keeping current with them so that we can help leverage them in the areas they are most competent and interested in.

Together, these three aspects of network management create a complex information problem, and we are certainly not perfect at solving it. We are continually iterating, learning, and growing. Affinity has proven to be a helpful tool, and last year we hired another member of the operations team, Kacey Rogers, to help scale operations. Managing our network in a respectful, constructive way is a crucial part of 8VC’s mission. Readers: if we have not touched base with you regularly, helped you leverage your abilities and expertise, made the right connections, or been helpful in a way that you think we should be — we would love to connect with you. I love gathering feedback from our community, developing priorities, and helping our team improve.

We can’t do what we do without having a great reputation. Our partners are proud of the strategic value they create by working directly with our entrepreneurs, but we holistically see ourselves as hosts in Silicon Valley, connecting the right people with each other and with the capital necessary to achieve their grand visions. We succeed when our entrepreneurs succeed and when they tell their friends they love working with us. We succeed when angels decide to send us deals before anyone else. We succeed when we maintain great relationships with great people, and we are genuinely excited about what people are working on. We want to help our network fix the world in the strongest ways we can. It’s an honor to spin records and synchronize the beat at the center of this beautiful process.

Caroline Graham
Director of Operations, 8VC

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