David Kerr
Sep 25, 2018 · 3 min read
Source: Wikimedia

My path to venture capital came via an operator’s path. I came to Allos after a career serving in executive leadership roles for startups, scale-ups and public companies across the Midwest, the West Coast and Europe.

It’s given me a point of view that’s different from many of my colleagues in VC. Investors with an operator’s background know what it means to meet a payroll, make a difficult talent decision, calm an upset customer, and close a deal at 11:59pm on the last day of the quarter. My most recent leadership position — COO and CEO at Octiv, respectively — offered me the opportunity to lead a growing B2B SaaS company in a fast-moving market.

Over the past two decades, I’ve developed the skills and the scar tissue I need to become a contributing partner to Allos’ portfolio companies. My experience in the field has revealed the many paths toward successful leadership, as well as why transparency is the only sure way to foster trusted relationships, a culture of authenticity and steady growth in tech.

But it’s also reinforced my belief that a successful company relies on a successful team. Every person, every role, every function contributes to a company’s value. A leader who recognizes the power of a strong team can do more than just propel growth — they can sustain it.

Innovation inside and out

Innovation is one of those buzzwords thrown around in regular conversation, but its meaning is critical when building teams. Although the vision for a product may come from the mind of a single founder, it takes the minds of many to push a vision toward reality. It requires team members to be creative, flexible, and open.

That can be especially challenging in SaaS, where the nature of a product can change depending on the needs of the customers and the demands of the marketplace. But companies that prioritize innovation inside of teams — constantly iterating on existing processes, learning from both positive and negative experiences — can carry that innovation into the product and to the customer.

Leadership beyond the boardroom

Working with Allos Ventures during my Octiv days helped guide me toward a better vision for venture capital. More than just investors, the partners at Allos offered expertise and advice without ego. It’s the kind of approach I strive to take as investor today: embracing the role of leadership beyond board meetings and making myself available for founders, CEOs and their teams.

Leading beyond the boardroom means getting involved in the wider tech community, regardless of whether Allos invests in a company. Mentoring team members across roles, taking the time to learn from other founders and investors, and sharing those lessons with portfolio companies helps foster the best elements of the Midwest tech ecosystem.

Transparency starts at the top

Tech moves so quickly that it feels impossible to stay completely informed about what’s going on in a company. That’s why transparency has to be a central element of any team dynamic. And transparency has to start with leadership. At Octiv, complete transparency was baked in to every interaction we had with teams: from sharing quarterly goals and path-to-quarter, to product challenges and roadmap.

Transparency isn’t just a way to keep teams informed; it’s also a way to encourage teams to innovate with each other. At a company that values transparency, a sales team having trouble with a product’s new features can align with marketing to create solutions. A client success manager can speak clearly and productively with engineering. And when teams communicate with each other, great things can happen.

Becoming a partner at Allos Ventures has presented me with the opportunity to share what I’ve learned with a new generation of tech companies. It’s also reinforced my belief that, at the core of every high-growth tech company is a team that’s deeply committed to the product and to each other. My primary goal as an investor is to help build the best teams anywhere in tech, right here in the Midwest.

Allos Ventures

Venture capital company building high-growth tech companies in the heart of the Midwest.

David Kerr

Written by

Allos Ventures

Venture capital company building high-growth tech companies in the heart of the Midwest.

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