Speaker 1: Hey, there Product Lovers. Welcome to the Product Love podcast, hosted by Eric Boduch, co- founder and chief evangelist of Pendo, and super fan of all things product. Product Love is the place for real insights into the world of crafting products as Eric interviews, founders, product leaders, venture capitalists, authors, and more. So let's dive in now with today's Product Love podcast.
Eric Boduch: Welcome, lovers of product. Today I am back with Brianne Kimmel, who was a podcast guest a few years ago. I want to say it was maybe two years ago. Brianne is doing some really cool things these days. So I thought maybe we'd kick this off with you, Brianne, giving us a little overview of what you're up to and a little overview of your background too, because I'm sure there's a lot of people that didn't hear the first podcast, but are listening to this one now.
Brianne Kimmel: That sounds great. Yeah, and thanks so much for having me. It feels like a lot has changed. I believe I was on the show Work Life Ventures a year and a half ago, and so a lot has changed. Back when we were first introduced, I was doing go to market at Zendesk, primarily focused on self- serve. I had also built Zendesk for startups and was spending a lot of time on our apps ecosystem, thinking through strategic integrations to drive the engagement and adoption of Zendesk. I decided to make the leap and raise outside money and start my own venture firm, which is called Work Life. We build and back early stage SaaS companies. We love things that have a more product led business model. And so, yeah, we've made about 40 investments to date, web flow hop in, public clubhouse, a lot of startups that people have heard or used. I feel like a lot of the tools that we've invested have really provided a lot of value during the pandemic. If I look at a company like Hopin, when I initially met the team, they were less than 10 people and now they have over 820 employees. And so they've been able to bring conferences online and really create a new way for people to network and interact with each other fully remotely, while many of us have been at home. So it's been a fun year and a half, and I'm excited to talk about product led growth and founders who are leading a startup, maybe they're a product manager or a VP of product. It does seem like a lot of the investments that we've made, many of the CEOs in the portfolio have previously been PM. So I think that's a great sign that people with a product mindset are very likely to leave and start something. So I'm excited to revisit the conversation and maybe pick up where we left off as well.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, no. I mean, it's interesting because like you said, it was prior to Work Life the last time we talked. You were investing in helping early stage companies, you were actively involved, really actively involved, probably putting in more sweat. I shouldn't say more than you needed to, but more than you typically get from someone along with the check, and then you turn that into Work Life. Was it always the thought when you started doing early stage investing that you wanted to start a firm?
Brianne Kimmel: No, absolutely not. I think in hindsight, I really loved angel investing and before I had money to angel invest, I was advising. And so I encourage people in product or people that are early in their tech career to find ways to be helpful to startups. I find in this environment, a lot of people are raising their own funds, but I would say even a year and a half ago, there were not as many solo capitalists. There were not as many small funds that were getting started. I feel like there's been this mass acceleration over the last year of new people starting their own firms, which has been awesome. I look to a lot of people in the ecosystem today, like Lenny Rachitsky, who was previously at Airbnb, he has an amazing newsletter for PMs and is doing some angel investing. In many ways, Lenny, I see a lot of the things that he's working on, I'm like," Oh, that's exactly what I was doing two years ago, where it was blogging consistently, reaching out and finding ways to be helpful to startups." You can identify people in the ecosystem that are really starting to ramp up and be very helpful to ups. And so it's been fun to now raise a fund, have my own firm, and then find ways to collaborate with people like Lenny and other product managers in my network.
Eric Boduch: Lenny, the young Brianne. It is interesting because-
Brianne Kimmel: Lenny's doing a great job. There's been a handful of angels where it feels like the product managers turned angel investors are really able to get into great companies and they can add a lot of value because of that operating experience.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. No, absolutely. I mean, I'm always telling entrepreneur friends and people looking to start companies, if you can get some operators on your cap table, people have been through it before do it. I mean, carve out a little piece and just the advice you're going to get is very different than you might get from a venture capital firm, especially if the partner or the people involved at that particular firm might be one of the smaller firms or might not have an operating background in any way. So it does give you another person that you can talk to, to bounce ideas off of that's been in your position before. I think it's awesome. I was always interested if you had asked me, if someone had asked me, Brianne's doing all this work with startups, she's doing angel investing and you really dug in. You did a lot of work for these companies for free, even though you were writing relatively small checks back then. I mean, you did a lot. I always thought you were doing that because there was always this vision of starting a fund afterwards and you're like the Goodwill will carry me through, but you didn't necessarily have that, which is kind of surprising me. You just did that because you enjoyed it.
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah. It's a yeah. I'm laughing and remembering all the evenings and weekends that I was working with companies. At the time, it was interesting. So I was operating at Zendesk. I was meeting startups on evenings and weekends. I'd built this program called SaaS School that I do once a quarter. And now with the firm, we do weekly conversations with operators. The has always to be really helpful and to really unpack step by step, how do you build a product led company or how do you build a bottom up SaaS company? Because I find that there are just a handful of people in the ecosystem that are world class at SaaS. I look at some of my favorite colleagues that I worked with very closely at Zendesk, many of them have left and they're are now at Figma. They were early at Figma. They'll probably leave and go to the next hot SaaS company. In a lot of ways, I think a lot of the things that I was working on would come really naturally where it was a nice chance to catch up with other operators in my network and to learn from them. I think what was different with SaaS School and with some of the other programs that I was doing is rather than catching up with a friend over coffee, we'd record conversations and put them up on YouTube or we would turn it into something that was a little bit more programmatic. And so that's been a nice way for me to really scale my time and to also establish a presence online and really create a lot of education for founders specifically around more of an emerging area, which is product led growth.
Eric Boduch: Well, awesome. Yeah. I mean, I heard all kinds of good things even before you started Work Life about not obviously just the money investment, but more so the time you put in helping companies grow. I mean, I think the valley has a lot of people that have been through it before, but across the country there's less of those. And the more people we have that are willing to dig in and really help startups with relevant experience, the better it is for the overall ecosystem. So, that's awesome. So tell me a little bit more about Work Life Ventures.
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah. So Work Life, we were started back in September of 2019. Early stage investing, meaning we do friends and family arounds first checks in when people are even just thinking about leaving a company. There's been about six or so investments where we'll invest, help the founding team get ready to leave their last company and write that first check to really put them in business. We have very much an operator focused DNA. I think that largely stems from my network having been at Zendesk and the types of companies that we want to back are ones that are able to hire great people from day one. I find that recruiting is actually one of the hardest things for a startup. And so if you're leaving Airbnb Plaid, Uber, the last great generation of tech companies, you already have that network and that trust established. So you can really get the band back together and build a team, not from scratch, because you'll have a handful of people that you've previously worked with. And so we do have very much an operator focused DNA for the firm. And then what has been a differentiator from the beginning is we do invest a lot in founder education. So we do weekly conversations with operators who were early at Figma, Notion, Airtable companies like that, that can really share and document their playbooks of things that have worked and things that didn't work when they were in the earliest phases of building the company. We also benefit from having more of a specialized firm because the companies that we're investing in have a similar go to market. So a lot of them can learn from each other and so we do a lot of shared learning across the portfolio as well.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I mean, I love that. I love the idea of being able to interact with my peers, especially people at the same stage and people that have been through what I've done recently. Like," Oh yeah, I remember two years ago when I did that or six months ago when we went through that problem." I think that's a huge asset, very different than you might see in a typical financially driven seed stage investor. But talk a little bit about the earliest stage investment. I mean, it feels like that's changing a lot. Maybe it's just my view into it. Is it going to be more firms like yours doing the earliest stage stuff where I feel like you can have more of an impact on the velocity and mortality rate of the companies?
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, it's really interesting. At the later stages, we're seeing a lot of hedge funds that are getting into venture. We're seeing the large stage VC firms raise large growth funds and in parallel also do early stage investing as well. And so I think the big funds will continue to get bigger and bigger and bigger. Given the types of companies that I'm investing in, which is primarily bottom up SaaS and highly efficient business models with a lot of repeatability to how they're built and scaled, we do see like Ko2, Tiger, a lot of the large firms that are very active even at the seed stage today. And so we do in some ways compete with the large firms. What I would say is a differentiator and where I get really excited about where the early stage ecosystem is today is you have a combination of new specialized firms. You also have a combination of operators and CEOs that are still building their company or are operating inside another tech company and they're actually raising outside funds five to 10 million funds, and with that comes access to a relevant network. They bring their operating experience, they bring all people that they work with. It's great for SaaS companies, because you can ultimately use that small check to have an entry point to sell software to their employer. And so we are seeing a lot of new approaches where I think at the earliest stages when founders are seeking value add investors and ones that can roll up their sleeves and be helpful. Many of those individuals have raised outside money or in their path on the path to starting their own firm.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I want to get back to PLG in a second, but I want to dig into this a little bit more. So if I'm a product person and I'm coming out of wherever it happens to be Facebook, Airbnb and I'm starting a company, is there any reason not to try to work with a firm, more like Work Life as opposed to one of those financial investors that maybe as a smaller firm. And maybe another way to think about is I feel like those smaller firms that were there before doing seed rounds, those seed firms are being squeezed both from operator led funds and from the larger VCs that can do B, C, D, Es coming down and they're like, are they being squeezed out of that market? Is it going to be harder and harder for them?
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, that's a really great point. For product managers or product minded people that are thinking about start something, I oftentimes encourage them to first of all, start with your founder or with your CEO. I think that's something that's been really interesting to see is to really catalyze your first round of financing. It's great to have the CEO of your current company onboard and supportive of what you're doing. And so I do encourage founders to start internally and give people that they've with the shot and the opportunity to invest in their company. The second thing and where Work Life sees a great advantage and an awesome opportunity for me personally is the fact that because we're not a traditional fund, we meet with companies long before they raise. So on average, I'll meet founders six to eight months before they ever raise a round of funding or raise an institutional round. And so we have the benefit of talking to teams when they're thinking about starting something rather than when they're going out to pitch. One of the value props that we bring to early stage founders, especially ones that have been building, like a couple of examples that come to mind is we've invested in a couple of teams that have come out of Plaid and out of Stripe. IF you've been heads down building and scaling a startup, then you have very strong relationships internally, but oftentimes you have less of a network externally. And so if you can identify a few well connected people in the ecosystem, part of my job as an investor to really help the team get ready to launch, make the right introductions to the right investors. I think right now the fundraising process is very complicated where when I meet individuals that are less connected in the valley or ones that have been busy operating at another startup, they'll send a very long laundry list of firms that they want to meet. Sometimes these lists are north of a hundred different firms. And so part of having to someone around the table early on is really identifying like, these are the three firms that you should be talking to. These are the general partners that have a lot of knowledge and experience in what you're building and let's work on that fundraising strategy together to make sure that they have the right introduction, they have the trusted relationship. Typically, behind the scenes, I'm talking to that firm and really getting them up to speed on why the team is great, why the problem that they're solving, why they have a real competitive advantage over anyone else that's building in this space. I do find that having early conversations has been awesome and that's something that emerging managers and operators can do so because at the end of the day, we aspire to be as helpful as possible. We're less tied to ownership percentages or some of the specific things that a large firm needs to hit to make the deal happen.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, it's interesting, especially for a PM out there, a VP of product or someone who's like," Hey, I want to start a company." And not having been exposed to a lot of the financing process before, just how intricate the dance can be sometimes.
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, absolutely. I also think what's interesting and this is something that I've appreciated being on the other side of the table is that investors meet a lot of companies. And so the benefit of meeting a lot of companies is if you're exploring a new idea or if you have identified the problem that you want to work on, investors can be helpful in refining what the solution can look like. Whether that's through companies that they've seen previously, whether that's helping with market mapping of specifically with more SaaS companies, like where does this product actually really fit in the ecosystem already? What integrations do you need to build over time? What are maybe some problems that you're going to encounter from a sales standpoint. And so I think having someone that can be part of those early conversations is really helpful. That way, when you officially go out to raise, you've already refined what the solution is going to look like, and you already have a clear definition and you have at least ran this by early believers in the company who can help you get to that next round.
Eric Boduch: Yeah, it's interesting because I think years ago, when you're thinking about product, it was often you talk to someone on the venture side with the idea and they'll be like," Well, come back when you have this a little more refined, but you're actually working with them to help them refine that, which I think, it's different. It talks a lot about how the early stage investment ecosystems continuing to evolve and in good ways, I think.
Brianne Kimmel: I think so. Yeah. I think in many ways, even COVID has been challenging for a lot of companies, it's also identified legacy features in the fundraising process. I look at a company like Hopin, in a year and a half or well, close to two years, they're now valued north of seven billion. And so the CEO, Johnny he's never been to Sand Hill Road, he's actually never been to San Francisco. He started the company in Europe and a lot of Bay Area investors overlooked him because he was based in London and currently lives in Barcelona. They work fully remotely. I find that the fundraising process has changed a lot because venture capitalists have had to adapt, and now it's more collaborative because there's less of this power imbalance where founders would have to fly to San Francisco, drive down to Menlo Park, pitch to get a yes or a no. And so I think a lot of these conversations are more collaborative and a lot more fluid where I think investors are looking for ways to add value. They also are responsible for building relationships globally now, which is very different. And so I find that the last 12- ish months have been very interesting in venture because a lot of firms are a lot more open to investing outside of the bay area, investing in non- traditional teams. I was an early investor in Webflow and continue to look at low code and no code tooling and investors are increasingly open to non- technical founders who are using no code tools to build and scale their startup. And so I just think the world has changed entirely.
Eric Boduch: I do think it's still hard to get early stage money outside of the Bay Area for the earliest ideas. I think it's a challenge of talking to some of the product people in Raleigh and some of the smaller communities. There's a challenge getting good early stage investors when we're talking about the time you're investing at the friends and family round. Do you see that really changing outside of the Bay Area? I mean, I see it changing for people that are well connected. IF you are a VP of engineering at Facebook and now you happen to live in Ohio because your parents were there, your girlfriend was there and you're like," I just want to get out of San Francisco." Well, yeah, they have access to some of the early stage money because they've done something really cool. But for the people that maybe didn't have that huge company and are now in the middle, I don't want to say the middle of nowhere, but the rest of America, right? Not in San Francisco, not in New York, in a secondary market. It feels like it's still hard.
Brianne Kimmel: It is. Yeah, it is. It's something that I think a lot about even from a hiring standpoint. I think companies are under a lot of pressure right now to hire in new markets and markets where they maybe don't have a great network. I find that a lot of founders that are relocating many of them are using online communities or finding ways to connect with other founders remotely because I think we are starting to see how challenging it is if you're not in a city that has a dense city of startups and a density of investors. I have heard during the pandemic Miami has been a hot topic for a lot of VCs and for a lot of founders and Miami is still heavily concentrated with a lot of investors and venture capitalists and high net worth individuals. The ecosystem is still evolving in terms of the number of engineers and product designers and founders that are based there full time. I have seen firsthand when I've been in Miami, the number of founders that are flying in and flying out to fundraise. And so I think we're starting to see a few ecosystems, whether it's New York, Miami, LA, BCs, and some of those markets have a local presence, and so it's a good starting point if you're based there. I'm also hearing from founders that are outside of those cities that are flying into meet investors and making it work. That said though, I mean, it does seem like as far as statistically speaking which regions are seeing venture capital dollars going to work in new markets. We're seeing a lot happening in India and in Europe. And many of the top tier firms do have a point person that's based in region. And so I'm a big fan of having local investors. You and I have spent time in Pittsburgh. I really like the fact that drive capital is in the Midwest. I think having someone on the ground that understands your local ecosystem and someone that you can go for a walk with when you're having a bad day can be really helpful. And so oftentimes in those scenarios, I will typically co- invest with someone that's local or bring in a handful of angels that are local. Because I think having that sounding bird and having the ability to meet someone in person can be really helpful. I mean, not necessarily as far as are there tangible outputs, but rather do you have trusted people and do you have friends that can be there when things are really hard?
Eric Boduch: So let's talk a little bit about founders. I mean, I was going to ask you if you think product managers make good founders, but I think you've already said, yes. What kind of product managers make good founders? What do you look for in a product manager that's looking to start a company. Sorry. What do you look for that type of person? Is there a particular crosstalk.
Brianne Kimmel: That's a great question. I mean, there are so many different PMs. I think generally speaking, the nice thing about a product manager is you have spent a lot of time refining specifically what sort of solution you need to build to solve a problem. And so I think in many ways PMs or many CEOs of whatever feature or product they're working on. I know a lot of people hate that term, but I think it is very helpful to know that you've worked on something very tangible and specific.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I think some of it is just, they have exposure to all the different departments where you could have an engineering job and not have a lot of exposure outside of product and engineering and design, but as a PM, I mean, you get dragged in what are you up to in a lot of different areas.
Brianne Kimmel: Absolutely. And hiring is so hard, especially at the earliest stages. The fastest growing companies in the Work Life portfolio are ones that have been started by either PM leads or slightly more senior PMs who from day one, know the first five engineers that they love to cause they've worked with them at their last startup. I think there's a lot of trust and credibility and network that's really important and gives the company a competitive advantage over say someone that has never worked in product, hasn't worked at a tech company and they're trying to find engineers. That model to me can be really challenging, especially as you think about how competitive it is to hire people right now on the engineering side. As far as what do I look for in product managers? I would say that the nice thing about where we're at today in the ecosystem is that product managers have had the opportunity to learn alongside the CEO at their last company. They've also had the ability to really build with influence and authority. There's a couple of anecdotes here. I find that many of the great developer tools, data infrastructure, things that are a little bit more technical in nature, many of those teams have come out of Airbnb. And the reason for that is Airbnb has done a really great job of owning a lot of their... They've been very data centric. They've done a great job of building out their own ML team and a really strong data science team. And so those individuals that have been able to build an internal tool at Airbnb at some point, they've hit this inflection point where they realize that what they've built at Airbnb, they could essentially rebuild externally, price it, package it and sell it to other startups. That's been a really efficient go- to market for many early stage SaaS companies, developer tools, things that are a little bit more technical in nature. They've come from some of these larger consumer platforms where they've been able to really validate whether they're able to solve this problem with this specific solution, and then ultimately, they'll be able to leave and sell it to other companies.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I see a lot of that. I really like when people are building... They've solved the problem for themselves at some point or at least thought about how to do it. And then they're like when they're starting a company, they're in essence building something that they would've done for themselves, and then they're selling to people like them. Just like the Pendo case where as a product person, we would've loved to have Pendo. So we end up building that for us. Knowing that domain space or I'm investing in a little Pittsburgh company called Rimsys where the guy did regulatory information management. So he's building a regulatory information management system for med tech. He was his own target customer kind of thing. I think that's kind of that story. If they have both the exposure to the domain problem and then have actually solved it or started working on it as part of the larger infrastructure at the company they were working at. If that make sense?
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. We're seeing this today as well, where going back to the types of PMs many PMs that were previously at say Plaid, where they you've been working on developer friendly infrastructure, they're now leaving and starting something else that's related to developer friendly infrastructure. And so once you understand a specific buyer and a specific persona, you'll uncover problems over your two to four to five years working at a startup. The nice thing is that many of these startups that are essentially leaving another great tech company, many of them have identified this problem and it's something that they wish existed in the world. That's when investors get super excited because they have credibility in the space, they already have a deep network of potential customers and they already have a team that has done this before together, and now they're ready to work on their next thing. I think that's really exciting. And for PMs and for anyone that's working in a tech company, one thing is like, if you are really thinking about starting something and that's something that you want to do in the future, I hear this a lot from founders and CEOs of companies that I've invested in, where they'll send me a list of like, these are three or four people in the company, they really want to start their own thing at some point. Would you mentor them? Will you spend time with them? Part of my week is catch a up with those individuals and making sure that the projects that they're working on internally are the types of projects that they'll be able to learn something new and it'll be another tool in their toolbox when they're ready to start something. And so I think the nice thing about working at a startup is founders love to see when people leave to start their own thing. And so that's something where it doesn't have to be quiet and confidential. Usually, it's actually great. I spend time with a handful of people at every company that I've invested in because the CEO has said, this is someone that really wants to start something. What are some projects that they could work on? Who are some people that they should meet? Like how do you start building the right network and building the right experience even before you're ready to leave and actually raise money and get it off the ground?
Eric Boduch: Awesome. Let's go back and pull on that PLG thread a little bit, because I think the last time we spoke and I definitely don't want to not touch on PLG, but the last time we spoke I feel like we were at the beginning of that whole Product- Led Growth movement to some extent, at least. So now it's two plus years later. How do you think that's changed and how do you see it continuing to evolve?
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, it's a great question. I find that in a lot of conversations around PLG, the handful of examples that come up tend to be Dropbox, which started with no sales team. They did a great job of leveraging referrals as an early acquisition channel. Slack had started out as a gaming company and so they already had this game mechanics that were built into the product. And so I find that the last generation of SaaS companies are still the examples that people talk about today. What I think has changed and this is something that I continue to hear from early stage companies is Product- Led Growth and just pure 100% product led growth is incredibly hard. It depends on the type of problem that you're solving. It depends on the buyer and the end user of the product that you're ultimately going to sell. And so I find that in many cases, founders will come to me when they have questions around, to what extent can they do PLG alone or to what extent do they need to have a combination of both product led growth, plus build out more of a traditional go to market motion, which includes sales reps, AEs, and customer success managers. I think that conversation is something that has evolved over time. When I was at Zendesk, I remember I would have dinners with other heads of growth and business leaders at other SaaS companies. The question is, are you bottom up or are you top down and at what point do you move up market? I think today companies have a more realistic expectation where rather than only staying serve or bottom up for as long as possible. I think founders are getting more realistic that sales needs to be part of the conversation even sooner than we would've anticipated.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I would agree with that. I mean, I think there's been this perception that in order to be product led, you shouldn't have salespeople and I think that's when I like to squash. It doesn't prohibit you from having that.
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, and I also feel like, I mean, I have a lot of empathy and I've experienced this firsthand at Zendesk where in companies that have a bottom up motion that is doing well, I find a lot of times the product and engineering team is really excited and things are trending well to immediately add sales to the conversation. It almost feels like you are creating tension internally that you don't need to have where it's like," Okay, so are the leads that come in, are they getting tagged or is that the self- serve team, when does it get passed to sales? I think in a lot of ways, founders like to keep it as simple as possible, that way it's not creating internal conflict or the product team doesn't feel like it's a mode of failure because now sales has to come in and start closing more deals. And so I find that today, I mean, the nice seeing is that we're seeing a lot of new tooling, both in marketing, sales. There's a lot more happening even in the automation space than what was available even two years ago. I'm finding that even some of the best product managers that I talk to at SaaS companies are ones that are very much focused us on automating certain parts of sales. I think that the V1 of this is doing a lot of things at scale, whether that's building out lifecycle campaigns or sending automated emails on behalf of your CEO or one of your co- founders. I think that teams are getting more creative with automating certain aspects of sales, but one thing that I'm consistently hearing is that product led growth is not enough typically on its own, where a lot of companies need to have even a small sales team on board that can call on all inbound leads, really work specific accounts and make sure that there are expansion playbooks in place, even if they're automated expansion playbooks.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I think that's true. Let's talk about SaaS trends. What do you see? What excites you? You talked about Webflow, a little bit of no code. I think there's a long way to go still there. There's a lot of opportunity, by that I mean, what else excites you?
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah. I feel like Workplace software is definitely having a moment. I think prior to the pandemic, I felt like there were a handful of SaaS companies that were post product market fit. They were hiring really great people that making a lot of really interesting product decisions. I remember Figma is one where I've just been consistently impressed with their ability to both create and define a new category to have meaningful productivity gains by creating something that's browser based. I've been very impressed with their community. I find that Figma, Webflow, many of the great software platforms today, a lot of them have more community features that are built in the product, which is awesome because it gives individuals the ability to showcase their work, to monetize their work and actually make money from designs that they're creating. It really gives the platform or a competitive advantage because if you are the type of contributor that's shipping multiple designs per month per quarter, whatever cadence it may be, the nice thing there is you're building your reputation on this platform and you'll become a very sticky user over time. And so I've been really impressed to see some of the SaaS companies that are really imagining what's possible from a community standpoint and giving users a spotlight where they can actually showcase their work. On the tools for remote teams side of things, it's been really interesting to see just how hard it's been for companies to go remote and not necessarily meaning are you efficiently working home and able to take all of your calls over Zoom? I think that's its own thing and many companies have been able to do that well, and they're doing things like no meeting days or they're really ensuring that employees are efficiently working from home without getting burned out. What I'm most fascinated by with remote work is how hard it is to set up a new office in a new country. How hard it is to in today's world, know where your employees are currently based. And so I'm seeing a lot happening in the people and culture space where some companies are choosing to hire ahead of remote and that person can be, I would say, it's more of a hybrid role. It's a bit of people and culture where you're determining what benefits and best practices and what are the core mechanics of the day- to- day to make sure that people are able to work effectively and happily from home. There's also a really heavy operations component. I find in this environment, it does feel like with endless amounts of documentation and infinite amount of meetings, the ability to really ensure that people have the right information and are unblocked to do the of work that they need to do asynchronously is really important and that problem is still largely unsolved. I hear this a lot specifically from friends that are at medium to large sized companies, where even having access to all the right docs and to all of the right SaaS products can really affect your day, especially if you're the only person that's working in a different market or in a different time zone. And so I think in a lot of ways, a lot of the innovations that are going to happen over the next six to 12 months will be in more of the remote collaboration space and will find new formats and new ways for people to share information efficiently.
Eric Boduch: Cool. So for the product managers out there that are thinking about starting a company someday, what piece of advice or pieces of advice would you give them?
Brianne Kimmel: Wow. I mean, that's a great question. If you are currently in product and thinking about starting something over the next couple of years, I would say learn as much as possible at your current company. The awesome thing about working at a startup or the awesome thing about knowing what you want to do a couple of years ahead of time is there's plenty of time to prepare. And so whether it's having more exposure to recruiting, maybe you raise your hand and you're a little bit more involved in sourcing and closing candidates for your team or for other teams. It's such an important skill to have. I find that for individuals that have previously been in product roles that aren't exposed to recruiting, that's one of the major shocks in the transition to becoming a founder, because you're going to spend most of your week meeting engineers, meeting product designers, and ultimately meeting go- to market and business hire and roles that you haven't really been exposed to. I also find that when you have the mentality that you're going to leave to start something, I find that you build stronger relationships internally as well. It's very helpful to identify the handful of people that you'd love to start something with and to start catching up weekly, biweekly over Zoom. Find ways to really work with those people and to get to know them on a personal level, because it can take a little bit of time to really understand working styles and to really, if you look at depending on how large your company is, it will take a little bit of time to map out, who are all the people that you're going to need to hire to get this idea off the ground and how do you start engaging people internally to see if they're a good fit and start asking other people externally and building your network at other tech companies in parallel. I think it's never too early to start thinking about it. I just find that once you have made the decision that you want to start something, the relationships that you build and the projects that you raise your hand for may differ, and you may start optimizing for different things.
Eric Boduch: Now, a lot of people, especially outside of California have non- solicitation clauses in their agreements. What do you say to them?
Brianne Kimmel: I know this is something that it's been a hot topic. I know in Florida right now, specifically in Miami, because one of the things that makes the Bay Area great is the non- solicitation clause. It's one of these things where-
Eric Boduch: For the lack of a non- solicitation.
Brianne Kimmel: ...yeah, the lack of a non- solicitation clause. It's one of these things I would say, as someone that's previously been an operator, when you leave to start something, things fall into place very quickly, especially if you've been building relationships externally, especially if you have had a number of great friends or enjoyed working with a specific number of people at your last startup. I'm typically less concerned with the things like a solicitation clause, simply because in the world that we operate today. If you're joining a tech company, if you're joining a startup, the founder and the executive team are well aware that a certain percentage of people that work at that company will leave to start another startup. One thing and I had mentioned this a little bit earlier is in this environment as well, many founders and CEOs are active angels. And so I do find that having an honest conversation with the founder or the CEO is incredibly helpful. At the end of the day, they have been very helpful in training you and giving you experience and giving you a job. I feel like giving them the first shot to invest in your company and be part of your next journey is really great. I was talking to my friend Emmett Shear who had started Twitch, and he had this really eloquent tweet where he had talked about the interesting thing that we don't really talk about enough in technology is that we don't give founders enough credit for really putting other people in business. When you join a startup fresh out of college, or if you drop out of college and you join a startup, there's very little that's in it for the startup itself. That's great training ground for you, it's great training ground for you to really see outsized upside through equity compensation and through the great aspects of joining a startup. The interesting thing is that for founders, they're taking on all the risks by hiring someone that's fresh out of school. And so I find if there are ways for you to collaborate and work with the CEO, your current company. That's an awesome way to get started because they've gone through all of the hoops of fundraising. They are very likely to introduce you to maybe other angel investors or ideally they would write the first check as well.
Eric Boduch: Awesome. I think that's great advice. Well, I know we're getting up to the top of the hour. A couple more questions for you. I always ask people about their favorite product. Frankly, I didn't listen to hear what yours was two and a half years ago when we last talked, but what's your current favorite product?
Brianne Kimmel: Good question. I've been using a lot of new products. I actually want to write a blog post about this. I feel like the world is changing so quickly and there's been a lot of new productivity tools that got started over the last 12 months. I recently started using Compose AI so I can write emails and blog posts faster. That's been a really fun one that I've really enjoyed using. I've been using a product that's called Poised. It's a platform that essentially it runs quietly in the background. You install it, and then after every Zoom call, it gives me metrics on how the conversation went. So I'll know my number of filler words, I'll know how long a conversation was, I'll know share of conversations. So as an investor, I want to make sure that founders are able to talk most of the time. I'll jump in and make comments and hopefully be as helpful as possible, but I want to make sure that founders feel like they have the majority of the Zoom time to really talk and ask me questions.
Eric Boduch: Do you have a target percentage?
Brianne Kimmel: No, I don't have a target percentage.
Eric Boduch: I want it to be 75% founder.
Brianne Kimmel: That's where I'm at right now. It's about 70 ish percent founder. And so I am speaking about 30% of the time, but try to keep my intro and my about me. I send all of that ahead of time. So typically what I do with founders, which is interesting, I'll usually send almost my pitch to them before we ever meet. So ahead of a meeting, our first time meeting with a founder, I'll send information about the firm. I'll share a couple of maybe preliminary questions, and then I also include my pitch deck. I think it's very helpful for founders to see, this is what we stand for. This is how we help companies. Here's the goals of the firm. And after we meet, I'll always send a quick thank you note and offer either more time to help either asynchronously or make a customer introduction. I just want to make sure that every touch point were helpful. I find part of that is really making sure that the conversations that we're having are pretty action packed and ones where founders feel like they're getting a lot of advice and it's a productive conversation. I tend to send the about us ahead of time. That way we don't spend the first 10, 15 meeting with some of the context.
Eric Boduch: I think that's cool. That's great idea. Final question for you. Three words to describe yourself.
Brianne Kimmel: Three words. Let's see. It's been interesting. I've been thinking about this. I think this last year has been a period of transition. I think two years ago when we met, I would've said hustler, because I was doing a lot of things at once. I was doing a lot of blogging. I was doing a lot of meeting startups on evenings and weekends. I would say in today's world, I've made the transition from hustle to more strategy where now my time is very valuable. And so I make sure that the way that I'm spending my time and how I interact with people is really important. I find that I'm a lot more strategic and you know, juggling how my calendar looks and how much time I allocate to certain parts of the venture job. So I would say strategic. Two other words, oh, well actually this is fun. So strategic. I would also say I'm working on being funny and there's a reason for this. So I started a podcast with my best friend, Alexis Gay. She's a standup comedian. One thing that I've been working on is because she's a comedian, because we want to make this not your average business podcast, we want to make it more fun. I've been spending more time on being funny. And then the third thing is helpful. I mean I think through and through, my desire is to be as helpful as possible. The desire to become a VC was less about maybe the finance side of things and more about building companies. And so I like finding ways to connect the dots and introductions and really utilize the network that I've built and find ways to be helpful in different ways for people that I spend time with.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. I think that's awesome. I mean, I love seeing other entrepreneurs giving back to the community. It's one of the reasons I like doing this podcast. Isn't necessarily because it drives something particularly on the financial side, but I do think it's fun for me to do. I hope it adds value to the greater product community.
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah. I mean, and this podcast has been such a huge success because when you were first getting it off the ground, there weren't a lot of resources available for product managers. I feel like being a PM is more of an internally facing role. Yes, other PMs tend to know each other and maybe there's conferences or ways to meet up, but I think to have a longer format discussion and to really get into the weeds with product leaders, there really wasn't a space to do that.
Eric Boduch: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you. Well, thanks again. It was great chatting with you. It was great having you on the show.
Brianne Kimmel: Yeah, this was so much fun. Thanks for having me on again. This was great.