This article originally appeared on dasha.substack.com
When someone finds out I lead Founder Success at Felicis, an early-stage venture capital firm, their next comment is often, “Wow! I’ve never heard that before. What is Founder Success?”
At a high level, it’s simple. Any VC firm has two key drivers: performance and reputation. In other words: generating returns and ensuring entrepreneurs want to work with you. The two reinforce each other. I focus on making sure that Felicis is known for the things we want to be known for and that our reputation helps us partner with exceptional founders.
The Felicis mission is success with empathy. We don’t just want to generate exceptional returns for our LPs; we want to do so with empathy for the people building the companies we invest in. It’s easy to strive for one of these, but it’s much harder to optimize for both. One of my favorite questions to ponder is how to incentivize focusing not just on what we want to accomplish, but on how we get there. Defensible, enduring brands emerge from that intersection.
Founders are our customers (not all VC firms believe and operationalize this). Founder Success is analogous to Customer Success, a function found in many operating companies that’s responsible for ensuring customers are happy net promoters. We operate similarly: we measure NPS, track support data and help iterate the Felicis “product” based on founder feedback.
Founder Success is also a nod to our belief that making a company successful is very different than making the people building that company successful. There are many ways to make money, and the perils of “growth at all costs” have been well-documented. We want to support founders as people, which is why I created our 1% founder development pledge.
The CEO of Gainsight tweeted a formula for Customer Success that inspired my guiding framework: Founder Success = Founder Experience + Founder Outcomes.