3 x 3 x 3

The top 3 tactics for operators, founders, and investors

Happy new year and welcome to the 3rd issue of the quarterly female founders mentorship network newsletter. As a refresher, I started this network to create a centralized database for female founders to connect with allies and for allies to connect with each other. These newsletters cut through the noise and fill the white space in existing content for female founders, investors, and operators. 


For this 3rd issue, I feature 3 top tactics across the 3 key categories: 


Stay close to the ground for your best insights: spend tons of time listening to your franchises, customer service representatives, and other people who are closest to the ground, closest to the customers, and closest to the operational and market challenges 

  • Kate Cole, former COO of Focus Brands (owns Cinnabon, Carvel, Auntie Anne’s, Jamba Juice, and more) on Invest like the Best

Give as much positive as negative feedback: instead of forcing a few quick lines of positive words into a compliment sandwich to deliver constructive criticism, put as much thought and include as much volume in your positive feedback. Instead of saying something handwavy about what a great job they did and then diving immediately into the constructive words, spend meaningful time going into detail on what exactly they did well and what precisely you liked. 

  • Randall Stutman, Managing Partner for CRA on Farnam Street 

Meet people where they are not only in the message but also the medium: communicate via Slack, email, text, and synchronous Zoom or phone calls. Everyone has a different preferred way of receiving and digesting messages. Make sure you are thoughtful not just on the content of your message but the channel of your message delivery.  

  • Amy Rosenthal, Head of Product at FreeWill on Harvard in Tech 


Instead of changing the product, change your market: every founder’s first instinct is to change their product based on market feedback, but remember you can change your market instead, which is what the Retool founders did to find product market fit. 

  • David Hsu, Founder of Retool on Indie Hackers

Have separate long term and short term engineering teams: oftentimes, founders find their engineering team time consumed by urgent tasks and fires to immediately put out. To continuously make undistracted progress on the product long term, form a separate engineering team specifically focused and evaluated on this longer term, more moonshot progress.

  • Michelle Zatlyn, Co-founder and COO of Cloudflare on Founder’s Field Guide

Don’t talk for the first 15 minutes: as a leader, your success stems from the team’s success. Your role is not to solely dictate but to listen to different perspectives first and foremost. To check your instinct of jumping in at the start to provide solutions, make it rule to not speak in the first 15 minutes of the meeting to let other voices be heard and to incentivize yourself to actively listen.

  • Sarah Jones Simmer, COO of Bumble on Elpha 


How to build long-term relationships for success: knowing how to engage with founders and others on a deeper level will allow you to build longer-term trusted relationships that can lead to a more sustainable and organic "success" vs. taking a more short-term transactional view. Meeting a person behind their roles / titles and understanding how the law of karma works can naturally allow you to build mutually beneficial relationships either for yourself or for others. This is what allows the seemingly impossible (i..e., in this case, getting to invest in a startup that had already closed a $7MM seed round and gotten into the NYTimes as a first time investor) to become possible.

  • Fang Yuan, Director of Investments at Baidu Ventures on Startup Grind

Build products to attract founders: Jai Malik, founder of Countdown Capital, a deep tech focused fund, created a public phone number as a 24/7 hotline to support any and all founders. He also created a community for deep tech founders, operators, and investors to converge to together support each other. His view is that the future is one where the VCs created products to attract founders (and not just the other way around). 

  • Jai Malik, founder of Countdown Capital on Twitter

Dive into the nuances: many doubted DoorDash’s ability to go up against the likes of Uber East, Seamless, and Grubhub, but Anu Hariharan understood that they were targeting an entirely different population that was underserved and logistically easier and less costly to serve. These nuances were often overlooked by others who focused on grouping all food delivery companies into one category based on their superficial tag lines. 

  • Anu Hariharan, investor at Y Combinator on Invest like the Best 

Favorite Finds

  • Indie Hackers Podcast

    • So often content is focused on the “who” and less the “what.” Indie Hackers, in contrast, focuses on the people and brands you may have never heard of doing incredible things through bootstrapping. Including founders who made $60K in 1 week as a 1 person show and founders who scaled to $1 million and then faced and survived bankruptcy. 

  • But What Do You Actually Do

    • Incredible new newsletter from Ali Rohde, chief of staff at Sourceress (YC W17), diving into the details on what people in different roles from growth marketing to business development actually do. 

  • Radiolab: Bloc Party

    • A fascinating deep dive into the critical groups that swing elections 

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