Office Hours: I directed events at Y Combinator for 4 years and now direct engagement at All Raise. I'm Domonique Fines.Featured

Hi Everyone! I’m Domonique Fines, Director of Engagement at All Raise. Prior to All Raise, I was Director of Events at Y Combinator for 4 years producing 7 Demo Days, 5 Female Founders Conferences, 6 Outreach Tours, 1 Startup School Live, etc. I am an HBCU grad of Clark Atlanta University and my indirect path to Silicon Valley was nurtured by my background in fashion, pre-law, design, and entertainment. Ask me about my career growth path, events, startups, dreams, believing in yourself, Beyonce, and more!
Thanks so much for joining us @Dom!Elphas – please ask @Dom your questions before Friday, August 7th. @Dom may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Hi Why is so hard for 50 year old white women to get funding. Not everyone has come from typical backgrounds or geography. Thanks
Wow!An Outreach Tour!That sounds fun, tell us more!I am asking because right now clients hire me to learn how to "work the room" online. I would love to hear about how you developed, tracked, and measured your relationship-building efforts related to setting up, implementing the Outreach Tour and even more importantly, keeping these relationships going.
The Outreach Tours (2016-2019 @ YC) were used as not only a way to connect with students & YC Alumni, but also a way to drive applications pre batch. It was amazing to travel all over and meet all different levels of founders. My favorite stops were absolutely the HBCUs. Working a room in person can be hard but happens to be my super power. Working a crowd online is a different ball game but I imagine you should just be yourself, let your light shine!I develop relationships by talking to everyone. I leave nobody out. I'm talking to security, office manager, janitor, caterers, plumber, CEO, assistant, plant groomers, etc. etc. The tracking of the relationships + keeping them going is honestly something I don't currently have a process for. It kind of just lives in my head and when a person, company, or thought triggers a memory of a connection, I reach out. You just prompted/challenged me to start tracking though so I'm going to start! Thanks for asking.
@Dom Thanks for responding and validating a service idea at the same time!! #Dream100!!
Hi @Dom, thanks for being here! We at SoGal are doing many initiatives to support and engage female founders and investors as well. Would love to hear your experience on founder events: best practice on getting sponsors (especially securing long term partnerships), engagement pre and post events, and what programs are the most well received!
Hi! I love these questions!In regards to sponsors/partnerships, I always have taken the road of reaching out to personal connections/past co workers to see if their current companies had any interest in working with me. It was much easier for me to sell me rather than what I need help with. When you are loyal to your connections, they pretty much want to hop on board with whatever you do. I bet you have people in your network that you haven't tapped yet that would love to work with you!In regards to engagement pre event when I was Director of Events at YC, I liked to make sure I over explain the details (logistics) of an event but I also only drop nuggets of my entire plan. I under commit and over deliver. I do also love to poll the audience pre event to find out what they would like to see/hear. If I have time to make adjustments, then I do. Honestly I make adjustments all the up until the last wire. Post event it's good to be very specific via survey depending on what it is you're trying to measure. In addition, giving the option sign up for a newsletter + clear next steps is always good!In the programs that were the most well received were those in which networking was involved, adequate q&a time is given, and the purpose of the program is clear. In the times of COVID, it's hard to gauge what people need because it changes everyday and is not the same for everyone. I suggest you run a survey with your community or talk to 10 female founders and ask them what would be beneficial. Also ask yourself! What would you like to see? What would you not like to see? What content will make you stare at screen and keep you there?
Seconding and following this questions! Thank you Dom, for sharing your experience with us!
Hi Dom! Nice to meet you, 7 Demo Days…wow! How are you now thinking about creating successful digital events and community vs. pre-COVID? Are there any white-space opportunities you see with digital community-building vs. IRL?(For context, I’m currently planning my startup’s first digital conference as well as our first field marketing strategy so this is super relevant, thank you!)
Seconding and following this questions! Thank you Dom, for sharing your experience with us!
Hi! Even when I say 7 I still can't believe it! Time flies when you're having fun though. :)At All Raise my role is no longer focused on events so overall I have not been thinking about Digital Events (my event brain gets a well deserved rest) but rather advising our Head of Events if needed. In regards to community, as Director of Engagement I can say that we've tried a few different paths on Mighty Networks but currently looking to shake things up. There are so many different online communities and the pivot has been a challenge but also something that will put us in a place to reach more people nationwide. If you DM me, we can talk through the white space opportunities because I want to know the problem you're trying to fix vs. giving you options to fix when I'm not exactly clear on what exactly you need help with.
Hi Domonique - it's been so fun to watch your journey. Thanks for being here.Could you share your thoughts on planning for your future career path and what your skill-set maps to in terms of those roles?Similar to you, I've started my career in these events/community/relationship roles in the startup and VC space. I have been successful in this role to date, being promoted to different opportunities and organizations, but am struggling to figure out how this ladders up to what comes next. Especially since it's a relatively new role in the industry. Thank you for your insights! // Allie
Hi Allie - Thanks for following along!This is a great question and also something that has been at the top of mind lately as well. My path has taken me on a journey that I could've never planned for and I'm so grateful for that. Back when I had a strict timeline for myself, I realized I wasn't cut out to follow a well paved path. If I had followed my safe (thoroughly planned) life, I'd be an unhappy attorney right now. There is nothing wrong with attorneys, just not for me. Congrats on your success and I'm sure you have a ton of skills that can take you wherever you'd like! I stopped thinking about what skills I have that can fit somewhere and started to think about what I was passionate about and then finding the skills I need to do that. What's that thing you're passionate about that stays in the back of your mind? For me, it's Beyonce. I have no clue what that looks like right now, but I'm going to figure it out. Good luck on your journey and travel down the road with the understanding that you don't have to always have the answers but there WILL be a next thing.
Great perspective shift for me to have. Time to live in the NOW and have faith and be open to new opportunities. Thank you.Love your Beyonce goal! I will find my Beyonce. :)
Hi Dom, Congratulations on an impressive career path. My name is Joana Gutierrez and I am the Co-Founder and CEO of Aiko Mail - Your Ai integrated Email Inbox. We’re looking to do a productivity hack series featuring industry influencers. Our initial approach would be to interview said influencers via zoom. We were able to recruit Silicon Valley Bank as a partner, and Rebecca Minkoff as our first interviewee. I feel like people are a bit zoom fatigued. Would you recommend another forum or model that would be more effective ? We are open to any and all advice as to how we would tackle the series. Best regards, Jo [email protected]
Thanks! My first initial thought here is to frame it as an AMA vs. panel style engaging the audience more. I too am Zoom fatigued. Check out Run The World or Hopin for platform options. People are craving the networking piece these days so hone in on that. Ask SVB if they would be open to covering lunch for a lunch & learn or dinner for a dinner series. You can get codes via a delivery service for each attendee to use at their own discretion. Also if the series is around productivity hacks, find a way to show me vs. talking about it but also not just with slides. Hope this helps, good luck!
Thank you !!
Hi Domonique,what a wonderful career path, congratulations on your success!I would love to hear your advice on fundraising in the US. I am the CEO of NOVA, an augmented hearing company. We made headsets small enough to fit into regular earrings. As a German company looking for our partners for our (Pre-) Series A round, how should we apporach this? Who should we talk to? What do we need to prepare? Is it enough to be there for one event and take the contacts? Should we go for a roadshow?Thank you so much in advance, best,Judith
Hi! I think you should apply to YC. Also, YC just launched a library that would be super helpful to you. don't think going to 1 event will ever suffice. I think it's going to be a long road with fundraising and not sure that 1 event will suffice. The trick used to be for everyone to move to SF/Silicon Valley because you have higher chance of raising but with COVID, most if not all in person meetings are cancelled. Have you visited VC fund pages directly? Most are pretty clear on the need as it varies firm to firm.
Hi @Dom! Your Indirect Path to Silicon Valley is truly inspirational. I too am a graduate of Clark Atlanta University with a Bachelors and Master degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising and participant of YC Startup School. My path to tech has developed in my current career as a Real Estate Investor and agent. The problems I have encountered have led me to develop a solution for people who face similar issues. With that being said as a non technical founder, it can be a daunting task to navigate all things startup and tech. There is so much information and many resources for starting and building tech or tech enabled companies. What have you learned as a Director of Events at YC and Outreach tours? What impact does, When Founder met Funder have on individuals with my background? What aha/takeaway can you share with us, from your experience and mission to serve Female Founders?
WOW! Are you me? LOLFrom being Director of Events at YC I learned how to pitch, hone in on what the problem is and fix that, pinpoint red flags in founders, start a company, invest, interview/scout, host office hours, etc. etc. The list truly goes on, I learned A LOT from YC. I also learned that you should find a technical cofounder. I think the level of impact of what When Founder Met Funder has on you is solely up to you and what you're looking for. It's absolutely a good chance to foster relationships with Black female founders as well an opportunity to get mentorship from top VC's in Silicon Valley. One takeaway I can share is that female founders is to believe in yourself and go with the idea that YOU thought was right. We often put unnecessary pressure on ourselves as women and sometimes it hinders us from being the best we can (I do this as well).
: D Thank you! Ive learned some things at Startup School and intend to apply to YC. I agree on finding technical co-founder and the pressure we put on ourselves. I look forward to connecting in the near future.
hi, Dom! Impressive career, way to go! I'm curious your thoughts on the VC scouting program - are they worth it? do they pan into real roles? or is it sort of like an intern program for free-ish work
Great question! I think each scouting program may be different. They don't all operate the same. It's all about what your definition of worth is. If you're looking to get rich, it may or may not be for you. If you're looking to learn I think it's an excellent opportunity to do so from those who may have more experience than you. For the right group, if the mission is aligned with views, drives, and passions, I absolutely would.
Good afternoon @Dom! Thank you for your introduction and office hours. I am the co-founder of Essteem,, a startup that organizes social impact driven hackathons for sponsoring companies to hire for gender diversity, advanced the career of women in tech, and create inclusive work environments.I'd like to learn more about your career path to Silicon Valley and also some tips on how to get sponsors for events. Thank you in advance!Marie
Hi Marie! I love the work you are doing! My journey/career path is definitely out of the ordinary. Feel free to check it out here: regards to sponsors/partnerships, I always have taken the road of reaching out to personal connections/past co workers to see if their current companies had any interest in working with me. It was much easier for me to sell me rather than what I need help with. What about your local city orgs? Are there any that you could partner with + gain contacts opportunities via a bridge org? There are so many companies looking to get behind these movements and I think even more-so now trying to partner.
Hi @Dom! Thank you for sharing the link to the podcast. I'm looking forward to listening to it. Also, thank you for the tip on reaching out to local city organizations. That's a great idea!I wish you continued success on your career journey!
Hi Dom, I work with a platform dedicated to getting more women "onstage" (live or virtual) at conferences and events. I would love to get your insight on what event managers look for most in speakers and subject matter experts. What advice can I give my speakers? (And fave Beyonce song?)
Hi! I love that you're advocating for this! All Raise is also building a Speaker's Bureau to combat this issue. me it all depends on what the focus of the talk is + the experience I'm trying to give to the audience. In general, I go for speakers that can move a crowd without being robotic or coming off as not genuine. I like my speakers to be knowledgeable and comfortable + gives a talk as if it's a small group conversation. Also I need a person comfortable to know what to do if all of sudden the mic goes out. Favorite Beyonce song??? That's hard. Run The World is in my Top 10 though.
Hi Domonique! I love your career path and especially the focus on female entrepreneurship and VC. I am curious for those of us who are also interested in making an impact in this space, outside of All Raise, what are other organizations focused on gender equity and fostering female talent that you would recommend keeping on our radar?
Hi, thank you! Outside of All Raise, I am a fan of Digital Undivided, Boss Women Collective & The Female Quotient. There are several but these are my personal Top 4.
Hi Dom!I would love to talk with you. I am working on a project that involves community management. I think your input would be very valuable. Let me know if you have availability :)Thanks
Hi! What exactly do you need help with? Happy to hear move via DM on your specific ask and take it from there!
Congratulations on all of your success @Dom and thank you for being here! What would you say the biggest place where you saw entrepreneurs fall short in presenting themselves to Y Combinator?
Thank you! I would say the thing I saw most often was founders over explaining what their company does to the point where nobody knows what their company does. Creating a one liner for your company will be key.
Thank you Domonique for being here! Would love to know how you are thinking about strategizing engagement for All Raise? What are pillars to a strong online and offline community? Do you identify/reward top community members? Would love to know what tools, processes, and platforms you use too. :) Thank you!!Sheila
Hey Dominique, Thank you for taking the time to have office hours!I'm curious what "engagement" means to you?I'm coming at it from an HR/office manager perspective with a diversity and inclusion lens and am just interested in your take/approach from your vantage point.