Today, we are announcing that my partner Kara Nortman will become a Co-Managing Partner at Upfront Ventures and I cannot tell you how excited I am to welcome her in a new role.
As with all promotions, the fact is that Kara has acted as the senior leader at our company and in the industry as a whole. She has all the skills and traits we look for – leadership, mentoring, competitiveness, communication, relationship building – and of course her relentless pursuit to help successful founder.
I became fond of saying “if I had one dollar per person who told me how much they loved Kara Nortman, I would have 10 times the fund.” So most of us just have to listen to customer feedback from the founders, VC and LP.
Kara is a born leader and loves to master tasks and overdo it. She has an incredible moral compass with heart, compassion, and drive. She empathy and also brings great humor to her work.
I remember trying years ago to recruit Kara. It took me three years to convince her to join. I called for a (old) LP to tell him about her and what my goals were for her. He told me (just 9 years ago), “I hope you don’t just hire her because she’s a woman.” (I promise you, he actually said this out loud.)
My literal answer is, “She went to Princeton University and has an MBA from Stanford. She worked for 5 years as VC at Battery Ventures and co-led M&A at IAC while working with Barry Diller. She takes on an executive role helping run Citysearch and Urbanspoon. On paper, she’s more capable than Yves or myself, so can we focus on her skills and how you help me recruit her? “
Kara said “no” because she wanted to start her own company, which she did and I support. At the end of that journey, she joined Upfront as a partner she has been with for more than 6 years, so now she has followed in the footsteps of the people she will return to. . She made the right decision to not join at the time because the founders’ empathy was that “++” makes a difference in this business.
But if you knew Kara, you probably already knew all of this. So why now? And what does that really mean for the company?
In any job, you may find leadership opportunities for your best BEFORE they ask or someone else starts asking them to be a leader somewhere else. Leadership is about recognizing your next generation of talent and helping to lift them up. Or, maybe it’s just figuring out the way and seeing what they can achieve.
Our industry needs more female leaders, and they don’t necessarily have to quit their respective companies and raise their own capital to start running. The fact that Kara doesn’t have what my wife likes jokingly calls my “Y chromosome problem”. She is more advanced than me and I know she will eventually overshadow the things that Yves and I have built up over the past few decades.
Venture Capital is about supporting the leaders of tomorrow who imagine the world as it should be and not be constrained by what is today. As an industry, we’re not always as good as we can be in terms of our own “creative destruction” of creating the future of venture capitalism. Time to get ready for Kara to help smash some more glass ceilings.
Of course, the core of investing is investing dollars in startups and helping as a mentor, advisor, and board member for companies in which you’ve invested. . But there are many other things about running a successful fund, including:
- Plan a reserve for your next investments
- Develop a portfolio of risks by sector, geography and stage
- Raise funds from LP and then communicate and report back to them
- Recruit and train staff in our company
- Handling annual legal, accounting and auditing matters
- Regularly review your company’s competitive strategy to make sure you don’t become complacent
- Oh. And all the background stuff. Marketing, recruiting, building product and data tools, event management, portfolio analysis, etc.
In fact, we have a great team that we have a dedicated team of staff that manage many of these functions but as a leader, as a Managing Partner you have ultimate responsibility. Kara will now truly participate in what is going on to create and run a company successfully while still undertaking her core duties of sponsoring great entrepreneurs.
Are not. I’m 52! I will still work with Kara to manage some of the follow-up funds, but I have pushed our company to do more to diversify our operations and this will allow me to focus on some of them. For example, we are now well engaged in the third growth fund we started in 2015 (the first has double cash back in 3.5 years). So in addition to running our flagship “Series Seed / A” fund, there is much more work to be done and I believe Kara will fulfill that mission.
Just as Yves advised me when I became his co-managing partner in 2011, he also doesn’t try to go to sunset either. Instead, he advocates our investment themes in sustainability and food technology when investing in companies like Apeel Sciences and Ynsect. He has helped me run Upfront JSC operations over the years and will continue to do so. Yves also loves what I do – invest in the brightest and most targeted entrepreneurs we can reach and help guide them as they build great companies and industries. So fortunately Yves is not going anywhere! We have been working together for over 20 years. And I’m delighted to be working with Yves for the next 20 years. Just you watch.
And that is Greg Bettinelli’s chapter? What is he doing? Look, I think most of us who give us the option would like to “just” be great investors and spend all of our time on portfolio work. Greg has always made it clear that he likes to invest the most and that he has been extremely successful at leading our investments in GOAT, Ring, ThredUp and more recently in companies like Rally. Greg is part of our executive leadership team and has helped run the company. He gave our scouting program as an example. But when we sat face-to-face 18 months ago and talked about what the company will look like in the future, he proactively said “Kara is the best person to help run the company. I will help with my own functions but I mostly just want to support the great founders, not needing to own all the other BSs. “
We have an amazing team that includes our newest Partner, Aditi Maliwal, who runs our FinTech investments and is based in San Francisco. In fact, Kara spearheaded our latest recruiting efforts and it was clear then how great she would be for this role.
Please help me welcome Kara to her Co-Manager role. I’m really excited to see what she does for it.