It’s been my honor to have spent the past 5 years as a Principal at Founder Collective, investing in extraordinary companies and helping to build new ones. My next move into uncharted territory compels me to write, not only to commemorate a significant chapter in my investing career but also to share what I’ve learned and ask for your collective ideas and support.
Investing, even more than operating is full of nuance. We are in the business of outliers, which means that the exceptions, rather than the mean, make the rules. Even so, I’ve tried to encapsulate some learnings that stay constant — across industries, people, and time:
1. More Capital, Less Conviction. Investors talk about how much capital is out there, but early-stage founders know that first checks are still hard to secure, especially if you don’t have a specific pedigree, a successful startup exit behind you, or — I’ll say it — are a woman or person of color. Founders have a lot to prove, and you need to find believers. As funders, we are always aware that in being hyper-selective about who we fund, there are more worthy founders than any of us have the capacity to personally work with. This doesn’t mean I believe I can fund everyone (or should), but rather that I acknowledge that the exceptions are the ones that drive the returns. Those exceptions can come from anywhere; they often don’t fit an existing mold. As its heart, capital is permissioned leverage; and conviction to direct in the earliest moments will forever be in short supply.
2. Advocates Matter: Especially in a high-growth environment, getting the right advice, customized to your specific situation, makes a big difference. For all the tweetstorms and Medium posts, founders still need to navigate fresh situations every day. Who is going to be in the trenches with you? Who can you text at 11 PM when you’re wrestling with a crisis? Your choices matter.
3. Pay it Forward: I met the Founder Collective team because I had proactively helped a number of founders in my business school section, helping prep one classmate for an interview with a startup that I knew well. He later introduced me to our fund as “the startup person in our class.” I wasn’t thinking that it would land me a job; I was just helping someone out, but that’s how I was introduced to Founder Collective. We can’t anticipate the network effects that come of a hundred actions that we take to connect, mentor, and advocate for each other. To put it another way, all the ways we pay it forward in our startup communities are the greatest strength we have.
4. Build a Community: I’ve been drawn to building communities since college, and it has been incredibly fun to create our Founder Collective growth hacker communities — sharp and talented leaders who share trade secrets and spur each other on. My fellow investors (from NYC venture peeps to my ride-or-die female fund managers) also have been a joy.
5. Capital Doesn’t Have to Be Capricious: VCs may get panned (sometimes justifiably), but many of us (the good ones, I hope) genuinely care about deeply helping our teams in a non-transactional way.
6. Stand by Your Partners: People matter more than anything; they determine not only your outcome but also the quality of your journey. As a founder and as an investor, you learn to treasure those who support you, who fight for you, who tell you the hard truths, and who have your back, even (especially) when your paths or convictions diverge.
7. Support Your Founders: My “why” are the founders I work with every day. It’s been an honor — and so much fun — to find you (Pillpack, Hawthorne, ShopShops, Flume Health), convince you to accept our investments (Broadlume, Alyce, HealthNote), and support you as you go into hypergrowth (Embark Veterinary, Smalls, uLesson). To my founder tribe, thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey. You constantly and profoundly rock my world. And to everyone with whom I worked on 50+ investments at Founder Collective, you are all astounding. The end of my tenure is both a goal reached and a bittersweet departure. I will miss the new beacons and the family and community I’ve built and joined.
This post is based on my current day; I can attest that working at Founder Collective was indeed a dream job — while we are near the end of our search, there is still time to apply! Also, please follow my wonderful new colleague Amanda, my counterpart in New York, who crossed an ocean from South Africa to support Founder Collective in the middle of a pandemic.
As for what’s ahead, I will continue to build my craft of investing and supporting founders, and I am searching for the best team and strategy to do this with the greatest impact. Just as Founder Collective was started with a blank-sheet approach to early-stage risk capital, I am focused on thinking from first principles. If you have suggestions, please reach out.
Finally, an enormous, heart-felt thank you: Eric, David, and Micah are brilliant and generous and universally beloved by our founders, and for good reason. They are the real deal: battle toughened, optimistic, strategic, empathetic, hilarious, and always the ace you want in your corner. I am grateful to each of them. Micah: who is a powerhouse, both in how empathetically he connects with his founders and the fact that he knows everyone. Dave: who I aspire to be as an investor and human, who gives and guides with humor, grace, and generosity. And Eric, a way-too-humble strategic genius, and to whom I owe all and any future investing success, as he steered me from a very different direction (a job offer to run an academic program in data analytics) and convinced me that I should apply my knowledge to sourcing investments and working with founders — which has been a joyful, all-consuming journey. I am so lucky to have had the chance to work with and learn from each of them, and also with Amanda, Joe D, Emily, Molly, Kaitlin, Daniella, Angie and my dedicated crew of nine former and current associates: you are the best of the best.