Building world-class expertise in the areas your company needs to succeed in is tough, and it takes time. While time is startups' worst enemy, surrounding yourself with the right people is key. The primary way to do this is by building a talented and passionate team.
But supplementing this first step with a network of experienced operators can be a game-changer. At folk, we are lucky to be backed by Accel and a group of 35 operator angels that also believes that it's time to build the future of work relationships.
Here is why we chose to raise $4.5M with operators and we think you should too.
Smart money is not new but it's more relevant than ever
By having operator angels invest in our company, they now have skin in the game. In addition to money, we'll get actual skills and advice. That's what we call smart money: cash coming from people that have operated in a similar context, that are willing to advise and provide feedback, but that haven't industrialized their approach as an investor or a traditional VC would do.
Said differently, they're still in post and getting their hands dirty, while still having a strong emotional attachment and involvement in their portfolio companies. This is why we've chosen to work with operator angels.
Getting feedback and support from the best people in the game
Startups' goal must be to achieve the status of leaders at solving a certain set of issues better and faster than anyone else. To succeed, companies need to master a few things very well – they need real expertise.
That's why having an incredible group of operators that will support us at folk on everything from design, customer success, sales, growth, marketing, product, tech and partnerships is priceless.
As concrete examples, we were able to get tips on integrations and partnerships from David Breger, lessons on how to build a great product from Google's Bradley Horrowitz or feedback on our branding strategy from Pitch's Christian Reber. Our operator angels come from a wide range of forward-thinking companies and their feedback on every aspect of the product we are building is a game-changer.
Operator angels are the best people to amplify your message, create brand awareness and instill trust in your future users.
Getting operator angels on board has never been easier
The issue with operator angels has always been the process. For founders, leading an operator round will multiply the contact touchpoints, the zoom calls to perform with potential smallholders, and the signatures to hunt down. It seems easier to go after a few large VC firms to take your round. But solutions have started to emerge as syndicates or AngelList's roll-up vehicles turning it into a manageable task.
These individuals aren't just investing their own capital, they’re raising dedicated funds and special purpose vehicles (SPVs) from traditional limited partners (LPs). They are also getting professionalized with angel tracks like on Deck or First Round, and Scout programs like Sequoia.
For us, operator angels are the future of investments and we couldn't be happier to have all 35 of them on board!