Time to Get Back to Work: Joining Accel as Entrepreneur in Residence

I am excited to share that I am exploring my next adventure as an entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) at Accel.

I spent the the past four years at Pandora, most recently as VP of Product. It was an incredible period for the company where we were able to advance the user experience alongside unprecedented revenue growth. The Pandora journey reinforced and built upon what I had learned during my years at Google: do what’s right for the user and all else will follow.

The Pandora journey reinforced and built upon what I had learned during my years at Google: do what’s right for the user and all else will follow.

Our product team focused on driving the ad-supported listener base which grew by 15% and increased revenue by 3x. In the process, Pandora became one of only 5 mobile media companies to hit $1 billion in annual advertising revenue. We also grew our company from 500 to 2,200 employees (our ad product & engineering teams scaled from ~15 to ~150 alone) across 40 cities in the U.S. We even created a marketplace to establish the middle class musician, paying over $1 billion in royalties to those musicians and rights holders during my time at the company.

It was nothing short of a thrill ride.

An interesting byproduct of this experience was witnessing how the modernization of a given industry could actually transform the careers of people in that same industry. At Pandora, for example, we understood that people in a mature industry (in our case, terrestrial radio) with invaluable industry knowledge and applicable skills, had big roles to play in the reinventing the industry. Hiring product managers, operations managers and salespeople away from terrestrial radio certainly had a learning curve, but once we got them humming the results built us into a billion dollar powerhouse.

I think this applies in many different industries too. Machine learning is increasing productivity, leaving an opening to reallocate human productivity. The challenge, as we saw through several experiments in training our teams at Pandora, is that it’s never a straight path to getting a pool of people retrained and refocused. New career opportunities open new development paths and ways to apply skills. Harnessing these paths and applications is the ultimate challenge to empower a new economy of workers.

This what I’m going to focus on during my time at Accel — figuring out how to build the next product and team that will transform the way that we evolve the workforce through innovative aggregation of data and labor output.

This what I’m going to focus on during my time at Accel — figuring out how to build the next product and team that will transform the way that we evolve the workforce through innovative aggregation of data and labor output.

Why Accel?

I got to know John Locke a few years ago. I then got to know Ryan Sweeney after John introduced us to help advise some companies. While advising the founders of one of these companies, VSCO, I was really taken by the passion that Ryan, John and the rest of the team at Accel put into their portfolio companies. Their default is to listen first to unravel the individual, appreciate their originality then play to that strength. This characteristic really resonated with me — both as an executive and as a prospective company founder.

Accel has also repeatedly invested in some of the most innovative business platforms that are giving rise to how people develop new workplace skills and get things done: Atlassian (developer tools), BlueJeans (video communication platform), Grovo (workforce training services), Invoice2Go (SaaS-based invoicing), Qualtrics (enterprise research and analytics), and Slack (enterprise messaging and collaboration). They’ve also gone beyond platforms into vertical marketplaces building new opportunities for workers to grow their businesses: Wyzant for tutors, Pond5 (video) & VSCO (photo) for visual creators, Amino for medical professionals, and UserTesting for product designers and testers.

These investments clearly reflect the team’s belief that the future of work is powered by human collaboration made frictionless through improved communication and scale of access to information and communities. I experienced this evolution first hand at Pandora and I’m excited to be tackling the problem head-on.

Allocating Time

During my time as EIR, I will be iterating on the concepts I outlined earlier and meeting with companies looking to significantly impact the way that labor forces will evolve through:

  1. unique implementations and applications of machine learning;
  2. learning and career development powered through personalization;
  3. marketplaces that employ new and existing classes of workers.

I will also be working closely with the product team at VSCO as they look to grow, further engage and monetize their on-platform audience of 45M+.

If you’re interested in joining this ride and channeling into the dialog, let’s talk. I will be splitting time between Accel’s offices in San Francisco (predominantly) and Palo Alto. Shoot me a note on LinkedIn and let’s make some magic!

A big thanks to Ryan, John, and the rest of the Accel team for the warm welcome, I’m excited for the resources that the EIR program brings.