May 13, 2014
In late 2013, we announced our Operating Partner Network (OPN), which we launched internally in Q1 2013. The OPN is a group of expert operators who we connect with our portfolio companies to address specific tactical challenges that, frankly, VCs just aren’t equipped to help on. Tired of sitting around board tables listening to investors offer detailed advice on tactical stuff they didn’t really understand, we decided to build a better mousetrap to address those very real challenges. OPN members are senior team members at leading NYC companies like SinglePlatform, StackExchange, Fab, Quidsi and Medidata Solutions, to name a few.
With a year of the program under our belt, we wanted to take a look back at how impactful (or not) we have been. While we haven’t been perfect, so far it’s been a great success. Since launching the program, OPN members have touched nearly every one of our companies, and most High Peaks companies now have an ongoing relationship with one or more of them. We were even lucky enough to recruit one OPN member to join us here at High Peaks when Akshay Navle joined our team as a Venture Partner last fall.
As with most things, those who have gotten the most out of the OPN are those who have dug in the hardest. One of the most successful leveragers of the network has been FieldLens, a NYC-based mobile platform for the construction industry. The OPN has had a material impact on their business on several fronts, and I know FieldLens CEO Doug Chambers would back me up when I say that the impact these resources played had no small role in helping his team build to the point where he landed the unsolicited term sheet that led to the $8MM Series A Doug closed last week.
Doug is one of those ideal entrepreneurs who is incredibly knowledgeable about a whole bunch of things that are critical to his business, but also incredibly self aware about what they don’t know well enough and need help on. That understanding of what they don’t know – an absolutely essential ingredient of startup success – led Doug and team to regularly make requests of us and the OPN. Fortunately, we’ve been able to scratch nearly all of those itches:
- When Doug was wrestling with initial go-to-market strategy after successfully beta launching the product, we connected him w/ a SW marketing guru who’s launched dozens of products and who dug in and led the team through everything from customer segmentation and messaging to writing the spec for the initial VP Sales hire.
- An OPN member led a Customer Success workshop last fall and later, when the FieldLens team began straining under the support weight of their early customer success, this Success ninja dove in and helped them think through establishing customer onboarding and ongoing customer success practices.
- As inbound leads to the sales team exploded, we connected the guys to the architect of one of the more unique and efficiently operating sales machines in NYC, and he’s been actively advising on high volume lead management since.
- With a product of ever-increasing complexity, Doug’s uber-talented and industry expert VP Product Julian Clayton recently needed help thinking through the evolution of his product management practices. Enter Ron Vogl, a former OPN member and now VP Product at our portfolio company Handshake. In an interesting roundabout story that Doug highlights here, Ron has jumped in and had a big impact on Julian and the FieldLens product practices.
- And finally, when we needed a talented outside director to add to the board of this exciting young vertical SaaS business, we turned to OPN member Glen de Vries, Co-Founder and President of Medidata, which just happens to be one of the most successful vertical SaaS companies in the world.
FieldLens is just one of a couple dozen companies in our portfolio, but fortunately it’s not alone in having reaped these sorts of benefits from the incredible talent that we’re lucky enough to be associated with via our OPN. This all goes back to what I laid out last year when we started talking about practicing better startup medicine. We are not the ultimate fix-it guys, or the oracle with all the answers. We are guys who try our best to help you understand the right questions to be asking, to understand the underlying challenges you face. And then we go out and help you find the best folks in the community to answer those questions.
So far, we feel pretty good about our efforts. But we’ve got a long way to go and a lot of ideas we haven’t had a chance to effect yet. Stay tuned.