Office Hours: I'm the founder and partner at Operator Collective. I previously built RPX and SaaStr and led global intellectual property at Cisco.Featured

Hi everyone! Iโ€™m Mallun Yen. Iโ€™ve devoted the past 20 years to changing the status quo and shifting industry behaviors, as an enterprise operator, founder, and category-creator. These experiences laid the groundwork for Operator Collective, a venture fund and community I founded in 2018 to make venture accessible to a group critical to a startupโ€™s success but largely left out: top operators from diverse backgrounds who have built and scaled the most admired companies in the world. Our 130+ limited partners are 90% women, 40% people of color; 70% of whom had never invested in venture before. Prior to Operator Collective, I built up venture-backed RPX ($0 to $100M and IPO in 3 years) and SaaStr (worldโ€™s largest b2b software community, events and learnings). I was also previously VP of Worldwide Intellectual Property at Cisco Systems and taught at Stanford Law School. I also co-founded and was CEO of which now has 4,000 members and 17 chapters around the world. Ask me anything about selling to the enterprise, creating a category, diversifying your cap table, company building, leadership, being on or building a board, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @MallunYen!Elphas โ€“ please ask @MallunYen your questions before Friday, May 21st. @MallunYen may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพโž•
Hi @MallunYen! I first came across your work when Deb Liu shared your piece on growing up Asian in America. Both of you inspired me to write and share my own experience, and I couldn't believe how many could relate. Thank you for your continued generosity and time here!Since you mention it, I'd love to learn more about your experience joining a board. Especially on ones where you've worked with or been an independent board member, what made that person stand out as a great addition to the board? I want to grow from directly creating amazing impact to enabling others in 5-10 years. I joined my first advisory board this year, and I'd love to contribute even more on a board of directors eventually.
Thanks for hosting Office Hours with us Mallun! I'm curious what the transition was like for you going from founder and operator to now a GP at a fund. Were there any surprises, positive or negative, along the way?
HI Teresa, Great question. Operator Collective is VC fund, but we intentionally don't run it the way typical VC funds run, as traditional VC structures don't tend to optimize for best results or teamwork. So I deliberately created it the way I have built my past companies. Took something I'm passionate about and had a sense there would be a strong need, then obsessively talked to hundreds of people, researched other models, determined what is the gap in the market, what is a product that people would want to "buy" (ie founders to take our money, operators to want to invest as LPs, other VCs to want to refer us deals), having a firm where the team has complementary skillsets and work together as team in sourcing, reviewing and supporting investments, iterated, etc. As a result, it actually feels very familiar to my other startups and the transition was fairly smooth. Surprises? Perhaps how extremely well (even better than I thought -- we have 137 Operators as LP investors in the fund) the skills you learn being an enterprise operator do translate into finding great companies and then supporting them. :)
Hi @MallunYen, thank you so much for joining us this week. I love your mission and the idea behind Operator Collective. I'd love to hear about your fundraising journey as a GP, what were the big lessons you learned throughout? How did you find your LPs and how do you think you were able to sell the vision? And now being a fund manager what is your day to day like? Very excited to learn more about you :)!
Hi Mallun - such an impressive background! Category creation seems hard - I'm really impressed by how successfully you've done it.From a marketing perspective (as that's my industry) - how did you get the word out about your new venture in 2018? I'm really curious about how you got it to grow and brought in so many impressive partners. Did you work with influencers / prominent people? Thought leadership content? Consistent social media marketing? I imagine people finding you naturally through SEO is kind of off the table when creating a new category...Anyways, so cool what you're building. ๐Ÿ˜„ I'd love to hear how you've grown it!
Hi Micha172, Marketing is definitely NOT a superpower of mine, so I'm so impressed with people like you who have it. I did deliberately create this to have a network effect and started by speaking to people I knew at least casually and admired (and knew other people admired, so "influencers" in a way). They then would offer to intro me to their friends, and so forth. So of the 137 operator LPs, many of them I did not know back in 2018. Also what is different about raising a venture fund (with certain exceptions), you aren't permitted to publicly solicit! So the quiet 1:1 conversations were also a necessity. That being said, after we launched, we did begin to be active on social, generate leadership content, etc. It's one way we help build community, which is also a fundamental part of what we do.
Mallun-I am co-founder of a enterprise B2B technology, MediaMash an enterprise video platform that empowers brands to turn audience engagement into revenue. We are having a hard time getting beta users... Would love any suggestions you have!Donna
Hi Donna, Congrats on MediaMash! Take a look at the two responses above too for background in how I like to approach building. Beyond that, by the time I started being ready to bring on real customers/people, I typically go back to those people who said "if I could have a a product that did x, I'd sign up instantly." I also find it really helpful to have design partners early who not only provide feedback but feel a lot of ownership over what you eventually build and then often become superfans. Those design partners often come from those early conversations. I find people are very open to "I wonder if you might have time to provide your feedback on x" rather than "I am selling X and looking for beta users" -- I'm overstating it a bit, as I'm not assuming you are asking as such! But the point is to build enthusiasts along the way and early.
Thanks so much! Love all of this!
Hi Mallun - thank you for joining us! Would love to hear more about your biggest/most surprising learnings in building process for rapidly scaling companies!
Hi Jessica, early in the days of a start-up, you can get away with hiring natural athletes to fill multiple roles and wear multiple hats. As soon as you start to get traction and see repeatable motions, you do need to hire people who have experience in particular areas. Another learning is that it's natural and expected and actually a healthy part of the growth that periodically, everything will feel like it's breaking. You don't want to overengineer or overprocess things when you are still growing and discovering, so esp in the early days.
Thank you so much for the thoughtful response, Mallun :) Much appreciated!