How to launch an operator-led fund with Brianne Kimmel
Feb. 25, 2020, 9 p.m.
On this episode Abadesi talks to Brianne Kimmel, founder of Work Life, an early stage venture firm in Silicon Valley that invests in tools and services for the modern workplace. She was formerly head of product and GTM strategy at Zendesk.
In this episode they talk about...
Why she started Work Life and what she learned while fundraising
“There are a lot of non-traditional folks who are breaking into venture, many of which are solo GPs.”
Brianne started angel investing on the side when she was working at Zendesk. She enjoyed working with and meeting new entrepreneurs so decided to start her own fund to “do what she was doing on evenings and weekends full-time.”
She explains the focus of the fund and talks about the fundraising process for it. Initially, she says, she started with a “friends and family'” round before she became comfortable raising from other people. She started pitching to people outside her network and tried to run a “tight process.” She explains her strategy for follow-up and why her personal productivity regime was such a big part of her pitch. She also talks about why she created her own list of questions that were often asked by potential investors and how she continually weaved those back into her pitch deck.
“The list of FAQs kept getting smaller because the pitch was getting incrementally better every time I give it.”
No-code tools, distributed teams, and the future of work
“Only 0.5% of people can code, so for the 99.5% of us code is actually a real barrier.”
Brianne is passionate about no-code tools, especially those that can help employees be more productive in the workplace. She talks about the importance of growing “bottom-up” in the enterprise market and talks about some of the companies she’s investing in that are employing that strategy.
“Increasingly, startups will compete on culture and culture alone and having great tools and creating a very inclusive work environment is one great way to do that.”
She also talks about some of the tools that are enabling remote work and why more and more early-stage teams are going fully distributed. She says that people are traveling more, the world is getting smaller, and people who formerly didn’t have flexibility at work now have the flexibility to work from home or anywhere else in the world.
“The question is not, ‘can you find enough work?’ It’s, ‘can you find the right problems that you want to work on?’”
How she’s building a community around her fund
“People are a little bit tired of networking. They have to be the best version of themselves at all times and come in very confident but you end up leaving with something that doesn’t feel truly authentic.”
Brianne started building communities while at Zendesk. She also runs a program called SaaS School in San Francisco. She talks about how she built a community of fellow product managers who met regularly in an informal setting where they could be open, authentic, and vulnerable with each other. She says that she’s doing the same for her fund and explains why it’s important to build a community when investing. Brianne also gives tips for fellow community-builders.
She also talks about some of the products she’s loving right now.
Companies and Products Mentioned on This Episode
Bunches — The easiest way to start a paid group chat about anything.
Canary — A complete security system in a single device.
Chroma Stories — Create stunning and engaging stories with easy-to-use tools.
Deep Sentinel — A robust, AI-powered home security system.
Muze — Messaging and social media platform.