From Operator to Operating Partner, and Driving Early Financial Impact
A little over three months ago, I decided to transition out of my role as CFO of Plated to join the team here at Primary as CFO and Operating Partner. I’d be lying if I said that the decision was an easy one. Having spent the better part of the prior decade on the operating side of the table, I felt in many ways like I was finally figuring out how to be an effective VC-backed financial leader. I’d spent time at four very different startups, explored industries ranging from clean technology to groceries, managed through periods of dizzying growth and frustrating contraction, and experienced good, bad and sideways outcomes along the way. I felt like I’d finally pulled together the playbook necessary to be a truly strategic financial leader, which made this an odd moment to contemplate shifting out of an operating role.
At the same time, it felt like exactly the right moment to make such a move. In addition to making me a better financial leader, my experience as an operator has led me to conclude that financial leadership is just as integral to driving value creation in a VC-backed environment. All too often, though, the competencies and experience necessary to do so are not added to early-stage teams until well after they complete their Series A financing. Having been in those shoes a number of times myself, I firmly believe that this is a missed opportunity.
As I got to know Brad, Ben and the entire Primary team, it became clear that they shared the belief that, done right, financial management is one of the most critical pillars to helping a startup successfully navigate the path to Series A. Having seen the enormous success of the firm’s Talent Program over the last several years in accelerating early-stage talent development, Primary was looking to bring on an Operating Partner to shift the early-stage finance narrative in the same way.
There are a number of ways I’ll be partnering with our portfolios to move the needle as it relates to their early-stage finance needs. In broad strokes, I will be working with our companies to:
- Lay the financial foundation by helping them find financial partners and service providers capable of supporting them through their Series A.
- Express their business financially by helping them design financial statements, identify KPIs and construct financial models that will help them manage more effectively.
- Develop competencies in areas like strategic and financial planning based on the insights I’ve gained leading these processes at scale over the last decade.
- Execute successful fundraising efforts by ensuring that their financial story and data room are pitch-ready, and helping them prepare for financial diligence.
Now three months into the job, and with the recent closing of Primary Fund II, I believe more than ever in the opportunity at hand. While half of my time is spent on internal Primary CFO responsibilities, I’ve been spending the other half engaging with our portfolio companies on projects ranging from selecting the right banking and accounting partners to performing complex cohort analysis to uncovering and leveraging key business drivers. I’m thrilled to be forging this new path for Primary and our portfolio companies, and I’ll be sure to share my thoughts here along the way!