With Fund IV, a Look Back on Growing Up With Primary
VP of People & Networks Gina Yocom saw Primary through some of its much scrappier days. As the firm's assets under management approach a billion, she reflects on the development that's happened along the way.
As I was getting an Ephemeral tattoo with my boss Rebecca Price at the NYC Summit, which was flawlessly orchestrated by Katheryn Thayer, I had a huge moment of self reflection and gratitude in how far we’ve come as a firm, and for the growth I’ve experienced personally in my time here.
It’s been 4 ½ years since I left a16z to work at Primary, then a seed-stage firm with no office, clip art style logo, and a brand that most people hadn’t heard of, with 6 employees (all of which have moved on now) to be Director of Community, an intentionally ambiguous title and JD. Needless to say, most people in my life were politely checking in to see if I was okay.
Primary was wrapping up deploying its first $60 million fund, and we were working out of various portfolio companies’ offices, including Chief’s under-construction clubhouse before they had members, and floating to ‘Breathers’ in between. I was starting to put some bones together of a GTM community, and I was beginning to plan the 2018 NYC Summit—at that point, an 800 person, two day conference for NYC tech with the goal to expand the Primary brand for west coast investors and NYC founders to help put us on the map. It was a success, but it was very scrappy. I was boxing up alcohol for the Happy Hour to save money, printing up the agendas, writing every email to each speaker, attendee, sponsor. Looking back, I am amazed at the quality of people we convinced to get on a plane and speak and attend.
Fast forward to last week, as I was walking into the Met Pavilion, I was awestruck by the sheer scale, quality, and energy of this incredible event that now hosted 2,000 (!!!) guests and had 60 unbelievably impressive speakers. When Brad went on stage to announce that we raised our fourth fund and Select fund for a total of $425 million, it was truly surreal to know that I’ve been here through this whole journey. I’ve personally felt that I’ve grown just as significantly as the firm itself.
As Primary evolved, developed and found its identity, so have I. As the team grew, and we hired incredibly smart people that challenged the traditional way of investing and supporting the portfolio, we moved at a high velocity and it pushed my capacity into a gear that I didn’t know was there. We brought in incredible leadership, namely Rebecca Price and Cassie Young, who’ve been the most instrumental in my growth and development on my recent promotion to VP, and the partnership is relentlessly committed to the development of everyone at the firm.
Primary has built its reputation now on great achievements and an excellent track record, but to me, all of these data points of success really just speak to the incredible people who have built this firm.
When I think about WHY we’ve experienced this growth and success in a relatively short amount of time, from my point of view it goes back to staying true to our values. From the jump, we’ve been obsessed with raising the bar and working with the best, we’ve never faltered on our thesis on investing in NYC, and we are constantly pushing ourselves to dive deep, always staying humble and curious. We’ve built a culture that fosters entrepreneurship, taking big swings and challenging what’s possible is encouraged and rewarded. We’ve genuinely built deep trust with the founders we back, always leading with empathy, and never losing sight of the fact that all of this work is in service of them.
I’ve experienced the growth that I know wouldn’t have been possible without the team and the culture we’ve built. What got us here, won't get us there. We have huge aspirations and are more excited than ever to continue to build the best seed firm in the world, and I am happy to report that nobody is asking me If I’m okay anymore.