Office Hours: I'm a partner at NEA and was previously COO of Rival and business development exec at Uber and Twitter. I'm Ann Bordetsky.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Ann Bordetsky, Partner at NEA and early angel investor in Elpha! I love this community and I’m back for my second #AMA, this time as a VC. Prior to NEA, I spent 12+ years building venture backed companies, most recently as Chief Operating Officer of Rival (acquired by Live Nation / Ticketmaster) and before that as a business development exec at Uber and Twitter. Building transformative and enduring companies is exhilarating and challenging. It’s not for the faint of heart! I’ve been an operator through 2 high growth unicorns, 2 startup exits and 1 flameout, and I’m here to be brutally honest about what it takes to win. I’m also an angel investor, founder coach and advisor to emerging fund managers. It takes a village. #AMA about fundraising, building a cap table, building startup teams, angel investing, whether to start a fund or join one, or anything else related to going from Operator to VC. Follow me @annbordetsky or
Thanks so much for joining us @annbordetsky!Elphas – please ask @annbordetsky your questions before Friday, June 4th. @annbordetsky may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Thank you Elphas for all the amazing questions here. I really enjoyed the AMA! 🙌
Thanks for your time Ann! As a strategy/business operations professional myself, just post MBA, I've been trying to find role models and feel really inspired by your career path. Can you share some tips or the most important lessons you learned in your operating roles, especially in a company that is such high growth and things were constantly changing? How did you ensure you got out of what you wanted professionally from these roles and figure out that it was time to move on to something new?
Thanks so much for sharing more about your experience, @annbordetsky! We will be hiring for director of ops in the next couple of months at MyWellbeing, and looking for someone with nearly exactly your experience, with a little extra flare in health tech specifically. What are your recs on finding that perfect fit, recruiting / onboarding for senior ops positions? (also, if you know anyone who might be interested, would love to meet them!) Thank you in advance!
Hello Ann! Thanks for taking the time! Thankful to see more females on the GP side as well as NEA investing in many great female driven companies! (ie Goop, Modern Fertility) I am building in the consumer fintech space. Our entire goal is to build financial products that serve women. One question that was brought to my attention was how big do I want to grow? Moving from an Operator to Investor, how would you best answer that? I honestly had been so focused on our client and building a product that best served them, I had not thought about an investors point of view... ie do you want to be a 50M, 500M or 1B company? Do you have any insight you could share on that side of it? I am in the seed stages, but would love to be prepared for all questions. Thanks! Victoria
Hi Victoria, great question! It's good that you're thinking about this now, not just for investors but for yourself, your future team, your customers who are betting on you. Startups begin bottom up and in the early stage are essentially a fight for survival and relevance, so founders naturally focus on what's just ahead. However, if you know your endgame, your odds of success increase at each step and clarify key biz decisions along the way. It pays off to know what you're aiming for! Is your goal to build a product solution or to build an enduring company? 1. Impact happens at SCALE. Real impact, the kind where you improve the lives of millions or fundamentally transform an industry only happen if you achieve meaningful scale as a business. 2. Startups are insanely hard and you have to get a lot of talented people to take a risk with you. If you're going to put in all that effort, why play small? Aim for the biggest outcome possible. 3. Investors and talent want to bet on founders that have the ambition to build transformative, fast growing and enduring companies. IMHO, if you're going to do a venture-backed startup (versus a small biz, which is equally valid by the way), aim big. So what does that mean in investor terms? - Look at how public companies in your category (consumer fintech) are valued today (i.e. market cap). That data will anchor investor expectations for what's possible. - Generally speaking, early stage investors make healthy returns to their LPs when you break the >$1B valuation barrier and get liquidity (via IPO or exit). Today, a "win" is a $1B-$10B company. So even if it's not stated, know that investors are evaluating your ability as a founder to build that kind of enterprise value over 6-10 years. - The simple exercise I would do is work backwards to figure out how do you get to $100M in revenue, ideally recurring revenue. What would you need to believe? What is a plausible path to that? How fast could you get there? Build your business narrative from this top down exercise, to compliment the bottom up narrative of solving particular pain points for your customers. The more VC $ you take and the more rounds you raise, the higher the expectation since the last investor in the door has to believe they can make an attractive return on their capital. It's just math. :)
Hi Ann, appreciate you sharing your time and expertise with us! Came across the article you published earlier this year on your site about The Ambidextrous Career and my marketing career path so far resonates with what you said about the "modern workforce rewards specialization and actively discourages career, sector and domain switching". I eventually paved my own path and recently started my own marketing practice to help B2B SaaS companies take an integrated marketing approach to accelerate their customer acquisition process. As I noticed how there were silos even within marketing departments themselves and often the strategies/tactics don't align with business goals at end of day. It would be good to hear if you have any further thoughts since then, on how we can amplify the importance of having more people pursue interdisciplinary knowledge/experiences? Or could it be possible for those of us who have interdisciplinary knowledge/experiences to join VCs in certain capacities?
Hi Michelle, it's a great question and I don't have a formula for this. The case is ultimately proven in the results that interdisciplinary leaders drive. David Epstein's book Range has great examples on this from different walks of life. Careers are no longer linear paths and ladders, those with a mix of market relevant skills will be more adaptive and capable of finding their edge even when things change. If you're a generalist, it's sill important to make sure you have 2-3 highly in-demand, market relevant areas of expertise and the other things you know you can leverage to help you see around corners, anticipate problems and drive results better than the rest. Hope that helps!
Hi Ann! What do you do after a flameout with a startup you joined early? Does it look bad on resumes? How do you tell that story and find opportunities afterwards? Appreciate you making the time!
Hi Ann - thank you for joining us! I would love to hear what inspired you to go into VC. How did you know the time was right to do so?
Thanks for joining us Ann! I'm curious if you've learned any lessons from your time at the startup that didn't work out!
Hi Teresa, thanks for asking this question. It's the hardest one to answer because the lessons are many! While I wasn't the founder, I did have a front row seat to the experience. The company had an amazing vision, transformative product, $ from top tier VC investors, incredible talent...and yet still didn't make it. Here's what I learned that I still carry with me. 1. Timing is everything. You want to be early enough in a market to catch the wave but you can't be too early on a trend. If you're too early you have to last long enough for the trend you're betting on to materialize. In this case the company was about 10 years too early to market. 2. Hubris is destructive in startups. Founders can easily get carried away with celebrity, magazine covers, raising big rounds and "on paper" valuations. Ultimately the only thing that matter is if you have product / market fit and scalable business model - if you don't no amount of visionary storytelling will help. Startups are 80% execution. 3. No regrets. I learned so much from that experience that helped me see around corners and anticipate problems in my subsequent roles. And the network of talent from that 1 company are still valued relationships today. As they say, experience is what you get when you don't get what you want. In startup land, see how / why companies fail is as powerful of a teacher as success.
Thank you for being so transparent - this was very insightful and I appreciate you sharing all of it Ann!
@annbordetsky How awesome are you? That's not my question, more of a statement ;) We are building a fintech that helps redirect the flow of profits from corporations and shareholders to people and communities. If you’re using my money to invest and grow corporate wealth I should get a piece of the action, right? We are for-profit, however, the majority of profit is returned back to our members outside of operating costs, R&D, and reserves. My assumption is that traditional VC’s won’t be interested in this type of investment. Is my assumption correct; and If so, where should I be fundraising specifically (i.e. name of VC or entities that you know of in this area)I appreciate you and the time you give to Elpha. Thanks!Francene
Ugh, clearly I didn't see the deadline... 🤦🏻‍♀️
Hi Ann,Many thanks for sharing your insights and your time to guide other female founders in the right direction! I'm an ex-consultant and a newly transitioned entrepreneur, so I'm genuinely grateful for this advice. I come from a background that has the privilege to connect with a number of talented people. However, I haven't been able to leverage it as much mostly due to COVID. Considering that networking via LinkedIn mostly goes unnoticed, what are some ways do you recommend to expand your network in the startup scene and in the industry that you have zero experience with?My other question is that my company just came out with our MVP as of today (not in the market yet) and there's no clarity for the financial roadmap. I've been very fortunate to have one of my co-founders who wanted to invest in our company for the pre-seed stage, so I've been using my capacity on all the other business activities except fundraising. The only pre-seed money that the team has agreed to actively raise was YC and I'm worried that we might be putting all our eggs in one basket. 4 of our co-founders have strong bonds and robust faith in our company, so the team only wants to raise money with the ones who can share insights and network. Considering the nature of our business, we'll focus on building traction before making any revenue. So I'm concerned that we might not have the financial resources to scale our business in case we don't get selected for YC. In summary, 1) How to expand your network in the COVID scene (both VC/ startup world and your industry)?2) Is it wise to fundraise for pre-seed when co-founders are reserved giving out equity early stage? Thank you lots!!- FYI I loved your blog post about the CEO score card!!
Hi Angela, thanks for your questions! 1) On expanding your network in remote mode: - Use Twitter to figure out who is active in your space / stage, who is doing something similar that you could build connections with. Often times that leads to connections IRL. - Use your existing network. Ask the "superconnectors" you know (i.e. well networked individuals) for 3-5 introductions or names of people you should meet. The more specific the better. Do this systematically as you have catch ups and touch points each week, this will help you fan out your network. - Join founder communities / slack groups (e.g. On Deck) 2) On whether to raise pre-seed if you don't get into YC: - Ultimately capital is a tool, you want to use it create inflection points for your company and you want to raise outside capital at the most opportune moments to minimize dilution for the founders and team. - I would recommend discussing with your co-founders: 1) What would we need to show to raise a competitive Seed round? 2) How much capital will we need to raise and understand the dilution that might require? 3) Can we get there w/o preseed capital and how will it take, compared to if you raise? Either way I would recommend building relationships with preseed investors so you at least have the option.
Hi @annbordetsky! Great to see you here! What are good questions to ask VCs to explore a good match? Other founders have advised to pick VCs with whom founders have good chemistry. Best strategy to get multiple offers?
Hi @flaviasparacino, great to see you here too! It's a great question. Investor fit is both difficult to assess and super important. Couple of tips. What makes an investor a "good fit"? 1. Genuinely understands the problem / space you are solving for 2. Good strategic thought partner, someone you trust to help you navigate tough decisions 3. Will be ambitious on your behalf and will champion you inside the firm and to future investors4. Trustworthy, high integrity, focused on shared wins 5. Chemistry - yes this is important too but probably easiest to assess Questions to ask to help you assess fit - mapping to the above (I'm assuming you've done some preliminary fit analysis with public data, someone who is already a stage and sector fit). 1. Why are you interested in X space? What is your thesis on X space? 2. How would you approach problem X? What strategies you seen other companies use to solve for X? 3. Give me a few examples of how you've helped your companies raise follow on rounds? Give me an example of a time you didn't exercise your pro rata rights - how did you handle that situation? 4. Best assessed through backchannel references from founders they've worked with5. Use the airplane test - is this someone you wouldn't min being stuck next to for an 8 hr flight? :) You should feel free to ask investors reverse interview questions, in fact it often reflects well on a founder when they're savvy enough to do that. Signals you are being selective. Best way to get multiple offers is to 1) have a strong pitch (vision)+ metrics, 2) run a tight 2-4 week process where you are talking to firms / investors in parallel and driving toward an explicit decision timeline, 3) have strong commitment from existing investors, 4) don't be out fundraising for >1 month, avoid the "they've been raising for a while" negative halo. Hope that helps!
Hi Ann, Very excited to see you pop up here, especially your experience in operations. I'm making my own path at my start up company as the first Director of Customer Experience and I definitely could use some great advice. First, in CX I feel as if a lot of my forecasting and budget is consumed by hiring support reps that meet the fact that our entry job is very basic. We have great opportunities to work up through several senior titles but its nerve wracking to not know how "great" someone is until they start the job. I have put into place several requirements like background in SaaS or technology, but I don't want to miss out on talented hires that don't have that technical skill. In your experience how have you guided operations in regards to attracting the right culture mindset (as much as I dislike those two words together)?Another commonality in CX is the fact that a CX-operations person is very hard to put into my budget. Sales or marketing will offer their department ops persons but if I feel like there is a true need for a CX-ops person how do you suggest I make my case? I'm trying to help build a very fast paced company and don't have time to continuously 'borrow' someone especially with adding more to their plate. The CX-ops paradox!Switching gears a bit - how did you find, connect, or reach out to the mentors that you had throughout your professional career? How did you create and maintain that open forum with them? Any tips and tricks here would be very appreciated. I love to learn from others and being at the "top" of my ladder is hard since I crave that open feedback and growth conversation.Finally, when you dealt with leadership adversity - be it the "boys club" or leaders who didn't always see eye to eye - what were your best learning lessons? I have one leader who appreciates my feedback and requests it openly while another leader is very closed off and hard to connect with even as two department heads.Thank you!
Hi Whitney, I'll try to tackle two of your questions here: 1) How did I find and connect with mentors? 2) How to deal with adversity, especially when it comes from leadership ranks above you? 1) On mentorship - the best strategy I've found is try to learn from those around me. Rather than trying to find that one senior mentor (wouldn't that be nice?), I've optimized for: - Working with really smart people who are great at their particular craft (e.g. Product, UX, Marketing, etc). I never want to be the smartest person in the room, I'd much rather be surrounded by people who are 10x better than me at something and I try to learn from their best practices. - Learning from people just above me, at my level and more junior levels. I want to access to unique knowledge and insights that will help me on my way, rather than waiting for 1 person to emerge and show me the way. - Mentorship = self-directed learning. It's a continuous cycle of personal development and growth. If you are constantly reaching for insights and express genuine curiosity, your mentors will appear. Of course there have been moments when I've sought out input from execs / mentors who are in positions I aspire to. In those interactions, what I recommend is: - Explain a situation or decision you are facing - Have specific questions you want input on - Have them walk you through a decision or choice they've made- Follow up later to let them how their input impacted you Make it super easy for them to give you advice. Close the loop to maintain the relationship. You can't force it. 2) Dealing with adversity - it's very situation specific but I try to follow a few simple personal rules. Plus, building influence skills is super important. Learn how to inform and influence senior leaders. Rules: - Speak my mind, always. I've never regretted advocating for something I believe in, even if I got a no. My only regrets are the times I self-censored too much. - Be mature and constructive about it. Manage how I react to challenging situations, what's worth my energy and what isn't? - Be intentional and nimble, use different leadership & influence tactics for different people / situations. There's a tool for every job. - Have the facts on your side. Back up your POV with numbers, metrics, etc. - Understand your audience / who you are influencing. Hard to influence someone you don't understand.- Be direct. It's amazing how few people do this well. Get to the point, be transparent, drive a decision. Good luck -- and practice those leadership skills daily!
👋🏻Ann! Good to see you here!
Hi Ann,Thank you for taking part in office hours! Really appreciate someone with your fantastic experience giving up their precious time.I’m in the process of building out a pitch deck for my startup and wanted to know - what are the big do’s and don’ts when pitching to VC’s?As a female founder (with a female co-founder) - what are the challenges faced by females when fundraising and how would you navigate them?Thanks!
Hi Simone, kudos to you and your co-founder! The sky is the limit now. Figs IPO'd this week, co-founded by Heather Hasson and Trina Spear. Female founder duos are the new normal and you gotta own that!!! I expect you'll counter the same challenges that most founders do (regardless of gender), which is really fit for VC and quality of the idea / vision / team / product. You can easily search Twitter / Google for content on what makes a highly quality pitch deck. Also, I wrote about what I look for in founders here: Some unwritten do's / dont's about pitching to VCs: 1. Run a tight, well managed fundraising process. Show that you are in control. Investors should know your timeline and feel a sense of urgency to make a decision. 2. Own the room. If you're pitching on Zoom, bring energy and be concise. Be prepared for questions, including answering "what are you looking for in an investor?" 3. Establish your credibility at the start of the pitch, why YOU, why this problem, what are you uniquely suited for this space. Cover the basics of a business pitch but make sure you spend more time on go-forward plans than on where you've been. At the seed stage, we invest in where you're headed, don't skimp on the long-term vision. 4. Invite and leave time for questions. It should be a dialogue. 5. If it doesn't work out, ask for feedback 1-1. Investors rarely give candid feedback unsolicited but if you ask for it and are willing to receive it, you'll get great insights to help you on your journey. Carpe diem!
Hi Ann, I would love your take on the only problem I have in my business. I spend too much time reaching out to people who are not making money. Usually it ends up with them crying, asking for discounts, etc. But if you look at their social media, they are playing the role of successful very well. Success breeds success - so it seems to be the strategy everyone is using. My ideal clients are entrepreneurs that travel, many are solopreneurs, that have used paid ada and/or spending too much time on social media marketing without seeing results. I just brought on a VA to take over outreach, but I look forward to your thoughts. Thanks in advance!
Hi Ann! So grateful to have you here and massive thanks for believing in the Elpha vision - a place that has helped countless women (incl myself!) I also started as an operator and now in VC (though still very much ops) but the goal is to get more involved on the investing side. How long did it take for you to get to the partner level and how much did your responsibilities change from principal to partner (assuming this is the career path at NEA)?
Congrats on making the transition into venture! VC is a really exciting industry. It gets a lot flack of course but honestly is there a better job out there than helping founders build world-changing companies? :) I joined NEA as a Partner, so I'm not as familiar with the Principal to Partner track. That said, once you join VC in any capacity, you are being "scored" on your investment track record and investor judgement. To move up through a VC firm you have to show that you can 1) source, 2) vet, and 3) win great deals. It's a plus if you have deep expertise or insights in a particular investment category. I would focus on finding a way to build an investment track record to help you make the leap to an investing role, or at a minimum show that you have access to a proprietary network of founders / deals. For example: building a founder community, writing a investment thesis and identifying prospective deals, angel investing, scout investing, assisting on deals at your firm, etc. Best of luck!