Introducing The Primary Expert Network

Early this year we announced the relaunch of our firm with a brand new identity: Primary Venture Partners, and a renewed commitment to working with NYC’s very best SaaS and NextGen Commerce companies to help them scale into industry leaders. In just a few short months, we’ve made huge progress in building a robust platform of resources to support our growing portfolio, and the reception has been far better than we could have imagined. Enter the Primary Expert Network (PEN), the new name and fresh face for our existing Primary Operating Partner Network (OPN). 

Before we dive into the specifics, it’s important to remember the foundations of this initiative. This network was created under a simple premise: Ben and I have always dedicated ourselves to being an entrepreneur's “first call” and creatively hustling to do whatever it takes to bring the right resources to the table for our portfolio companies. We’ve long seen our job as being a general strategic advisor to the CEOs we work with, but when it comes to key tactical items, we know enough to get the heck out of the way and turn the advising over to people who really know their stuff. We knew that surrounding the founding teams at our portfolio companies with the right mentors and advisors early on would pay huge dividends, but realized that the way we had been doing it in the past wouldn’t scale long term. We therefore needed to systematize the kind of hustling and networking that we’ve been doing informally for years. In turn, the OPN was born.

The rebranded Primary Expert Network (PEN) will uphold the same fundamentals as the OPN. After all, it’s been working well so far! We want to continue connecting the best operators in NYC with the leadership teams at our portfolio companies as they look for guidance around tackling specific challenges and issues. So if it’s all the same, why the new name? It starts with semantics: we received feedback that the “Operating Partner” name was confusing and somewhat misrepresented the aims of the program. Without reinventing the wheel, our team felt strongly that the concept of an “Expert Network” was the best way to communicate our goals and objectives. 

We’re also excited to relaunch the network, given that we have made a very real commitment of resources to both broaden and deepen the impact of the program. That begins with Amanda Bensol, whom we hired at the end of this summer to undertake the newly created role of VP of Portfolio & Network. Amanda has deep roots in the NYC Tech scene, having been one of the first associates at Techstars NYC in 2012 before leaving to become the first employee at Karma, a graduate of the Techstars accelerator program in NYC. Through it all, Amanda built a reputation as a hustler nonpareil and someone who embodied the spirit of the PEN - working her networks tirelessly to get answers to the challenges she faced as a young marketer at Karma, before becoming an active advisor in her own right as her skills and experience matured. Amanda’s background positions her perfectly to be thoughtful about what it takes for our portfolio companies to get from Seed to Series A, and her incentives are very clearly aligned with the program’s success. She will be working tirelessly to bring more structure to the program and make it easier for our companies to connect with PEN members. Ultimately, Amanda’s success will be based on the volume and value of those connections, and we are putting our money where our mouth is to support this effort. 

What’s in store for 2016 onwards? Building out the PEN means focusing on three main objectives next year.

  • More Advisory Opportunities: With Amanda’s full-time focus, we plan on being better positioned to quickly match our companies with relevant advisors and mentors. In 2016, we’ll begin to push the boundaries of what it means to be a traditional advisor by experimenting with different board formats and arrangements.
  • Access to Talent: We’ve also brought on board Cat Hernandez, our newest Talent Partner, with the ultimate goal of ensuring talent flow is curated, accessible, and fluid across our portfolio companies and Expert Network.
  • Access to the Network: Admittedly, we have done a poor job helping PEN members connect with each other. With this relaunch we are committed to creating opportunities for Experts to engage with each other, making the network itself infinitely more powerful. 

We’re excited about what lies ahead. We think that our portfolio companies will feel our impact much more broadly and deeply in the future, from resources beyond Primary’s core team. Importantly, that impact will come from people with the best knowledge and best experience in the whole of NYC. And that’s as good as it gets. 

Stay tuned for all that is to come. For now, we’ve got to get back to work...