In mid-November 2020, we shared our firm’s very first job posting. It was an invitation to join the Seven Seven Six Operator in Residence Program. Not knowing what to expect, I anxiously told Alexis and Lissie that we would be successful if we got 100 applicants. Hosting an open application process is rare in venture, with most firms hiring talent from their limited personal networks or earning social capital by hiring friends. Our application process was different and we knew it. We didn’t ask for resumes, LinkedIn links, or MBA credentials. We asked for builders. And we asked for their perspective.
Within 9 hours of the job being live, the 101st submission was logged. We celebrated, not because we’d hit our goal, but because we were overwhelmed by the quality, sincerity, and hunger of our candidates.
The posting remained up for just over a week and collected 1,100 applications, each uniquely distinct from the last. After a blind review of the six short-form essay questions, 113 candidates were asked to complete a quick project showcasing their builder skills. Twenty-one were then invited “onsite” for a virtual interview with the team. And, with an acceptance rate of 0.27% (or about 20x more competitive than Ivy League schools), we extended offers to our inaugural class of three.
Before we officially introduce you to these three incredible, aspiring investors, we want to revisit how and why this program came to be.
At Seven Seven Six, we strive to be the most valuable investor our portfolio companies ever have. We know first-hand the incredible lift a true operator with recent, relevant experience can bring to entrepreneurs. We also know that the people responsible for funding our future should better represent the interests of the world in which we live. In applying these principles to our firm’s development, it became clear that we had to take a different approach.
So, we set out to solve two of the primary problems we saw: (1) In traditional venture capital firms, Operating Partners’ skillsets become outdated and obsolete quickly because they’ve been out of the trenches and are slowly making their transition into investors. With most Operating Partners retaining their roles for several years, however, their ability to provide significant support to their portfolio companies diminishes with time. (2) Venture Capital is an opaque and difficult industry to break into, especially for people who don’t fit the existing VC archetype. 2020 stats show abysmal representation within VC firms for women and people of color and showcase the impact of that exclusion.
This inaugural class of Operators in Residence is very much about testing out our hypothesis:
If we can attract and train talented operators from a wide variety of backgrounds for an annual evergreen program, we can then provide unparalleled support to our portfolio companies year over year AND bring much needed access and opportunity for all to venture capital.
Our program aims to educate and engage the next generation of high-return investors — whose broad range of operating backgrounds, networks, and perspectives allows them to identify more complex and comprehensive trends. Our OiRs will spend a year working and learning alongside us with full compensation and benefits, while building their investor strategies and supporting our founders in their areas of expertise. At the end of the year, we’ll support them in landing their dream jobs in venture capital. The hardest part? Saying goodbye to these special three.
The Recruiting Process:
One of the most rewarding aspects of hiring for our team was the opportunity to run a wildly different recruiting process. Our approach netted results and learnings the likes of which I’ve never seen in all of my years of scaling teams. From gated and blind assessments to designing the process with the candidate’s goals in mind — not just our own — every step of the applicant journey was meticulously planned and created with the support of our extended community. We’re deeply committed to open-sourcing our work and our findings, in an effort to help more firms and companies attract new, inspired talent. (Blog post with the details of our process and our learnings coming soon!)
And now, without further ado, introducing our very first Operating Partners:
Hiram brings experience as an entrepreneur and product manager in early and growth stage startups, including Uber, and his passion for building software to our team at Seven Seven Six.
One source of inspiration for Hiram is people from the tech industry who use their platform to give back outside of tech. For example, Orlando Bravo “is one of the most successful businessmen from my homeland, Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Maria left a lot of the population in the island in despair, he used his time, effort and resources to help those in need, giving back to communities who lost everything they had. In addition to this, he set up a foundation to help young professionals from Puerto Rico by providing them with access to high quality learning opportunities and mentorship.”
“I want to support founders in realizing their vision, support Alexis in building cutting edge software for founders (i.e. Cerebro), and break the mold of the traditional VC persona by helping operators get into VC regardless of their background.”
Travis has spent the last 10+ years supporting initiatives within Google, X, the moonshot factory, and Airbus navigating tricky policy challenges to bring autonomous & unmanned systems to market. He worked on bringing devices like flying cars, eVTOL, Urban Air Mobility, delivery drones, and other emerging tech to market. His advanced technology projects have taken him throughout the US, Japan, China, the UK, the EU, and Brazil.
As an investor, he will support our founders to creatively re-make the rules (and regulations) that often get in the way of scaling new ideas and business models. “Not every startup has to weigh the challenges of policy and regulation on day one. But in a world where governments are increasingly regulating innovation, large and small, a mastery of rule making can be a startup’s (and investor’s) secret weapon.”
He is especially interested in researching the impact technology regulation will have on how we will Iive, move, exchange, and protect in the future. We are excited for Travis to share his experience and knowledge in automotive technology and policy with our founders.
Cristina is a self-described “dot-connector & systems-thinking leader. ” She derives greatest fulfillment when driving growth in people and orgs – the “diamonds in the rough.”
As an investor, two themes she is particularly interested in are:
1) Start-ups that see design as a differentiator.
2) For-profit start-ups that are working towards making the world a better place, especially related to sustainability, wellness, women, historically underrepresented groups, artisans, or the elderly.
After seven years of building her career and community abroad, she moved to San Francisco to open Typeform’s first US office. While in the US, she has held leadership roles in two hyper-growth tech startups where she built and operationalized teams from the ground up.
“I am a Customer Experience leader who values driving growth in people and organizations. I’m interested in joining a for-profit mission-driven company where I can drive growth in people and organizations. My advice to myself in this moment is: you are enough and done is better than perfect.”
Each Operator has a unique area of expertise with over a decade of experience: Cristina specializes in CX and Design, Travis in Policy, and Hiram in Product. In addition to building out early stage founder toolkits (hiring templates, dashboards, goaling and metric frameworks, functional guides, etc), the Operators offer our founders counsel and hands-on support to help them get unblocked where and when they need it most.
Their Work in Action:
The team started with us in late January and have spent their first few weeks getting to know each of our founders, sitting in on pitch meetings, and are beginning to dive into their support work with the Seven Seven Six portfolio companies.
An example from last week was when a founder shared in an Office Hours that they were struggling with hiring their first designer. Cristina quickly jumped on the line with them and walked through their interview process, their candidate pipeline, job description, compensation, and candidate profile. She identified their points of disconnect and made adjustments with them live in a working session. She followed up the next day with a “How to Hire Your First Designer” guide that can be used by any of our founders (and any of you!). Immediate and actionable feedback — in a productized and easy to translate package — is exactly what our founders ask for.
In addition to the hands-on work with our portfolio, the Operators are getting a front-row seat to every part of building this new firm, including reviewing deals, launching a new fund, and learning about the mechanics of venture capital. We’ll host formal AMAs and fireside chats with seasoned investors, putting equal emphasis on the learning track as much as the building track.
There is so much we’re collectively looking forward to in 2021. To start, we recognize the incredible talent in our applicant pool and are actively building out a community to keep these people in our orbit. The goal is to bring these operators together, enable meaningful connections, share resources, and, ultimately, do what we can to support everyone on their individual journeys to venture capital. More on our Operator Community soon!
Most of all, we’re looking forward to learning together. In just a few short weeks, Cristina, Hiram, and Travis have already brought so much to the Seven Seven Six team — experience, enthusiasm, and perspective. We feel that if we continue on this path, we can easily scale this program every year, creating deeper levels of support and inviting many more unique voices into our industry. For now, we’re going to enjoy the work in front of us and do our best to make our time together meaningful and rewarding.