Expanding Our Network

This year USV is celebrating 10 years of having a network team. While it’s evolved over time, the core principle of leveraging network effects to help our companies build better businesses has remained constant. We’ve always felt this model of support was most in line with our investment thesis. 

When I joined exactly one year ago it was with the rather open remit of expanding our programming to include what we call the USV external network. That includes talent, alumni, independent directors, advisors, third party vendors, and just about any one who touches USV but doesn’t work directly for one of our companies. We approached this challenge with an entrepreneurial mindset and spent the year running small, measurable experiments to help us understand where we can have the most impact. Some of these experiments were successful and we doubled downed, some failed miserably, and some never even took off. Below are two examples of areas where I think we’ve found strong product-network fit.

Talent Network

Last year we launched a job board and talent network to aid in our portfolio’s recruiting efforts. By the end of 2019, we had driven over 12,000 clicks on portfolio jobs and 1,500 great candidates signed up to join our network. However, it wasn’t until we made two changes that we started seeing the impact we were hoping for:

  1. Focusing on high quality introductions as the core success metric.
  2. Instead of relying on great candidates to request introductions to our companies, we launched a monthly talent digest to market the best talent to our companies. 

It was through one of our digests that recent portfolio addition Stedi discovered Mike McDonald who would go on to become the company’s first product hire. Fueled by the two insights above we have started to make over 30 high quality introductions per month. With a few modifications, we think we can triple that number in the first half of 2020 while simultaneously improving the impact of each introduction we make. 

Alumni Network

There are over 10,000 people who at one point or another have worked at a USV-backed company. Over the course of the year we tried a handful of tactics to strengthen our relationships with them. First, we hosted two dinners, one in New York and one in San Francisco. These dinners were opportunities for former executives to connect with our partners as well as get to know each other. Second, we tested a wider engagement value proposition that included – opportunities to speak at events, access to open jobs, and chances to advise. To date, we’ve re-connected with over 200 portfolio alumni, over 70 of which are now a part of our roster of network event speakers. It was through this effort that we were able to reconnect with Shawn Sprockett who hosted a fantastic digital case study for our design directors on setting and following design standards. It’s a small start but something we hope to build on in 2020.

In any year in review it’s easy to make the work of the past year look preordained and successful. The truth is, trying to get traction on any new initiative is messy and includes a lot of false starts. While last year wasn’t perfect, we’re entering 2020 with strong conviction on what direction to take our external network efforts and look forward to sharing that vision with you in our next post. In the meantime, if you’re an alumnus who’d love to reconnect, let us know here and if you’d like to work at USV company in 2020, sign up at jobs.usv.com.