Giving Back

Facebook alumni volunteer mentorship for Female Founders

Backstory: 2007

Tis the season. I was early at Facebook. I started in 2007, when the company was just 200 people. Although I began on the User Operations team, working on the front line with users, I quickly found my way to the exciting world of Facebook Platform.

Facebook Platform is the team that worked with any external developers who wanted to build an experience that connected to Facebook — whether it was a game or app on or a website that brought your friends along with you. For example, Facebook login on external sites, or the Like button across the web.

I was one of the early people on the team in anything besides engineering — helping developers, entrepreneurs, and Fortune 500 companies understand the value of building social into their core. We helped them dream up and execute how social could change the way they interacted with users and how their users interacted with them.

From an early Facebook Platform Offsite in Bocce Ball

It’s hard to remember a time when Facebook wasn’t a household name, but that was the era we were working in. People didn’t see the value of it. Yet. If you were CNN, why would you care about bringing your friends with you and why did it matter that people on Facebook could see your articles? You were CNN, people came to you. It was our job to make people see the value in Facebook — to make them imagine the world we live in today.

It was on this team that my life changed. A team that dared to imagine social as a part of everyone’s every day lives — — a way to log in and bring your friends wherever you go. During this time, I was fortunate to be constantly exposed to some of the most inspirational and innovative people in the industry — at the company and across the ecosystem. I met a lot of young budding entrepreneurs who dared to take a gamble on us — who were willing to bet their two-person company, and sometimes their life savings, that social was the future.

fbFund was one of my programs, a $10 MM fund, half from Accel, half from Founders Fund, but administered by Facebook. A colleague Cat Lee and I ran the fund from the Facebook side — creating the programs, figuring out the criteria, pouring over application after application, making recommendations for funding which ultimately went up to Peter Thiel at Founders Fund and Jim Bryer at Accel for approval, and managing and guiding the fundees after they were funded.

It was working on this fund that we met and funded Logan Green and John Zimmer at Lyft (then Zimride) in 2008 as one of our first investments. We funded TaskRabbit when it was just one Leah Busque (acq. by Ikea). And we funded Wildfire — later acquired by Google — when it was just Victoria Ransom and Alain Chuard.

Through the Facebook Platform ecosystem, I met Airbnb when it was just 12 people, Dropbox when it was a handful, and many other of the services you see and use today. Most of the angel investors that came to our fbFund demo day in 2009 eventually went on to raise their own multi-million dollar funds.

In time, Facebook grew up, from 200 friendly faces into the huge massive amazing corporation it is today, with billions of users in reach. And with that, many of the friends I made along the way grew up too — leading some of the most impactful products or teams of today.

Today: 2017

Fast forward to today, as 2017 comes to a close.

It’s been a decade since the day I started working to build Facebook, since I began a journey that enabled me to meet so many impactful leaders. Taking their guidance and inspiration, I’ve carried that spirit of growth in everything I do. My latest creation? A company by women, for women, called Tara&Co. Tara&Co is re-imagining products for women on-the-go.

We’re working to both set an example for women everywhere, and build products that work within their lifestyles, so they don’t have to compromise.

Just a few weeks ago, I’ve had the fortune of having the guidance of three amazing women as we welcomed Clara Shih (CEO, Hearsay Systems, Board of Starbucks), Kim Spalding (GM, Google Small Business Ads), and Linda Findley Kozlowski (COO, Etsy) to our advisory council. Advisors that understand the end customer and can help us bring out the right product lines and accelerate the business.

That’s what women need, their own advisory council. The right people, to give the right guidance, at the right time.

It’s no secret that this year has been an amazing, but hard year for women. Many of our fears have been quantified, in statistics about how much more difficult it is to be a woman founder or woman in the workplace, and in numerous horrifying stories. That sneaking suspicion we had in the back of our minds about how something had played out because of race, or gender, or something in between was finally confirmed. And the veil on equality has been lifted, showing decades of condoned behavior that has treated us as less than equals.

I am a woman. I am a person of color. Inherently, I face many disadvantages. But some of those disadvantages are evened out by access — access to capital, advice, peers, and other resources at the right time is what can make or break your startup. It was amazing to stand in the middle of a multi-billion dollar company like Facebook in the making, and because of it, I have been afforded opportunities that not everyone gets.

In the spirit of giving back, and in gratitude to those who have helped shape my career through today, I spent some time reflecting this year on what else I could personally do to help uplift women.

I asked myself: How can I share this same access I was fortunate to have, with other women?

Giving Back

In light of the holiday season, I’ve gathered a few friends from my current and former Facebook network, some of the best professionals in the tech industry, to volunteer some mentorship hours for female founders.

We are the product of all of the people who have helped us along the way. Perhaps we can help give some advice on product, partnerships, or how to raise capital that can help more women get to the next level.

If you’d like to apply for a mentorship session, please fill out the contact form here. We have limited time, we won’t be able to help everyone, but we’d love to help.

Meet the Mentors

Lucy Zhang

Lucy has worked for Facebook since 2011, when Facebook acquired Beluga, which she co-founded in 2010 while living in New York City. Beluga grew out of her recognition of the lack of good solutions for groups to communicate while on the go, in the days before widespread group text messaging or group support in other messaging apps.

Beluga became the seed for Facebook Messenger, which she helped launch in 2011. She worked on Messenger for 4 years, applying both engineering and product expertise to help launch numerous features of Messenger, including read receipts, group messaging improvements, GIF search, and the Messenger Platform. Messenger now has more than 1.2 billion monthly users.

More recently, she has worked on building and scaling personalized learning for K-12 education in partnership with Summit Public Schools, a project at the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative. She began her career at Google, where she helped build AdWords, Google News and Google Docs. Lucy holds a B.S. in computer science from UC Berkeley.

Expert Industries: Messaging, Education, Consumer software

Skill Specialities: Product, People management, iOS development, UX/UI, prototyping, Interviewing

Rick Armburst

Blending his software engineering background with over 17 years of product marketing and business development experience, Rick focuses on seeing industry trends from multiple perspectives and identifying high impact technologies early. He recently joined Amperity, a high growth enterprise SaaS startup, as its VP of Business Development. At Amperity, Rick will spend most of his time building high impact relationships (e.g. Microsoft, Amazon) and identifying business & product initiatives for long term success.

Rick has held key product management, product marketing, and business development roles with some of the most influential technology companies, including Facebook, Instagram, and Microsoft. He additionally serves as an advisor to diverse set of startups & organizations — Marble Robotics (delivery robotics), Standard Cyborg (3D printed prosthetics), Framer (design), Segment (SaaS), HiQ (HR analytics), Nobel Labs (mining & commercial explosives).

Previously, Rick led partnership initiatives for Facebook platform and mobile. While at Harvard Business School, he was recruited to be Facebook’s first BD intern and soon became a member of Facebook’s early BD team. While at Facebook, he worked closely with Instagram’s founders to build the initial FB integration and the beginning stages of the FB partnership. This partnership led to one of the most successful acquisitions in social media history.

After Facebook, Rick held executive positions at two growth stage start ups — Segment and Famous.

He has a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Northwestern, which means he is either one of the nerdiest individuals in Business Dev OR is the worst engineer from his undergrad class. Rick prefers the former (if given an option).

Expert Industries: Enterprise and/or SaaS, chat/p2p communications, photos, local search & discovery, marketing automation, analytics, developer tools/services, designer tools/services

Skill Specialities: Partnerships, Product market fit, CEO/Founder level issues, Product experience, Investor relations, Problem solving (esp. cross-discipline), pricing, GTM

Jake Peterson

Jake is a Data Scientist with over 10 years of finding innovative quantitative solutions to marketing and application growth problems. He has designed an email recommendation engine, multiple segmentation schemas designed to facilliate novel ways of database marketing, and Acxiom’s eEngagement Cluster — a standardized method for measuring the engagement of email subscribers. He’s worked with dozens of small startups leading data analytics, and built multiple world class data science teams while he was with Facebook. He holds a BS and a BA from Santa Clara University in Computer Science and Philosophy.

Specialties: Marketing Analytics, Latent Class Clustering, Data Profiling, Portrait Analysis, Multivariate Analysis (PCA, ICA, Nonnegative Matrix, Factorization, Spectral Clustering), Regression (Linear and Logistic), Data Programming, SAS, Excel, Python, R, Oracle PL/SQL

Julia Lam

Julia is an early Facebooker, a serial entrepreneur, and now the Founder and CEO of Tara&Co. Tara&Co is re-imagining products for women on-the-go. Their first product, the Tracy 2-in-1 bag, is a stylish and convertible bag that officially launched November with >$110k worth of pre-sales. They’ve been covered by Brit + Co, Buzzfeed, SF Chronicle, Techcrunch, and LA Fashion Magazine. The bag can be worn 3-ways (shoulder bag, backpack, cross body), fits up to a 13” laptop, and has a zip-off clutch.

Previously, she was the Co-founder and CEO of a venture-backed innovative trip technology, Bucket, which sold in 2016. She also doubles as a Co-founder for the A3 Foundation, a nonprofit supporting emerging Asian American artists in the media which is in its 5th year of partnership with the Sundance Institute, and serves as an advisor for innovation and entrepreneurship at UCLA.

Prior to joining the startup foray, Julia was an early Facebook employee (2007–2011) where she led and worked on many high impact developer marketing initiatives including the Facebook Developer Garage program, the original “Login with Facebook” partner team, Facebook Presence, and the f8 Developer Conference.

Julia also worked on Facebook’s $10MM fund, fbFund, helping choose and mentor over 50 startup teams including Wildfire (acq. by Google), Zimride (now Lyft), Taskrabbit (acq. by Ikea), Samasource, and Vitanna. Julia holds her B.A. in Communication Studies from UCLA.

Expert Industries: Social Media, Travel, Fashion, Social Good

Skill Specialities: Anything early stage startup, CEO matters, Fundraising, Crowdfunding, Product, Product Market Fit, Physical Goods, Creative Marketing, Branding, Partnerships, UX/UI, Growth, Culture, Problem Solving

New Mentors — Added 12/28/17

Beth Steinberg

Beth has over 20 years of experience in organization development, talent strategy, and leadership development. Her focus has been to help leaders and companies with complex organizational and growth issues. Beth focuses on driving useful employee programs, leadership coaching, executive development and organizational development for companies in both technology, and consumer goods and services companies.

Beth has a proven track record of partnering with companies to help them scale for a successful outcome.

Examples include:

Rypple — Advisor, Acquired by Salesforce, December 2011 Facebook — IPO, May 2012 BrightRoll — Acquired by Yahoo!, December 2014 Sunrun — IPO, August 2015 Hackbright Academy — Advisor, Acquired by Capella Education, April 2016 WorkLife — Advisor, Acquired by Cisco, October 2016 Jhana Education — Advisor, Acquired by Franklin Covey Company, July 2017 Beth has her BA in Psychology from San Jose State University and took part in the Executive Program at Stanford University.

Beth is an International Coaching Federation Leadership Coach is certified in Myers-Briggs and in the Hogan Assessment. Beth is an advisor to Jhana Education, Greenhouse, and Felicis Ventures. She is also an International Coaching Federation Certified Leadership Coach.

Beth is very involved with the State Department’s TechWomen Program. The program supports STEM careers and education in the Middle East, Central Asia, and Africa. Beth is a former board member of Social Venture Partners International (SVPI), Collective Roots and Hidden Villa.

Expert Industries: Technology, Consumer Products and Services, Human Capital Management

Skill Specialities: Scaling Start-Ups, coaching leaders, organizational dynamics, talent strategy and planning

Nick Friedrich

Nick has 15 years experience in a variety of operational roles at both large and early stage companies. He is a operator at his core, and is passionate about solving complex operational problems that emerge in small, growing, and large companies.

Currently, Nick leads Community Operations at Instacart. In this role, he oversees 400+ person operations, including Scaled Support, Product Operations, and Central Operations. Prior to his current role role, Nick led operations for the east coast at Instacart, leading new market launches, workforce management, and overall P&L management. Over his 3 years at Instacart, he’s led the team through a variety projects to help scale the business and operations.

Prior to Instacart, Nick spent 3+ years at Facebook, from 2011 to 2014. He helped build and scale the SMB Sales and Support team, which grew to $4B in revenue before he left. During his time at Facebook, Nick led the team through 12x growth in headcount, 7x growth in customer base, and 5x growth in revenue.

Nick has also spent time working for other large companies, such as AT&T, Sprint, and ADP, in various operational, technical, and management roles. He has a undergraduate degree in telecommunication engineering, and a MBA from the University of Georgia.

Expert Industries: Online advertising, Logistics, Retail, E-commerce, and Three-sided marketplaces.

Skill Specialities: Operations, People Management, Scaling Teams, Culture, Customer Experience/Support, Outsourcing Management, Product Ops, P&L Management, Unit Economic Analysis/Modeling

Mentorship Eligibility

To be eligible, you must:

  1. Have at least one female founder on the team
  2. Have a working prototype
  3. Apply for a mentorship session using the contact form by 1/5/18.

Submissions close on 1/5/18 at 11:59 PST, we’ll reach out to selected mentees by 1/12/18 and mentorship sessions will take place in Jan or Feb 2018.

We hope this holiday season we can help thank our mentors of the past by investing our time in the future.

UPDATE — 1/12/18

Thanks to everyone who applied — we’ve been overwhelmed by the applications and enthusiasm! Because of this, we’ll need a few more days to choose mentees.

If accepted, your mentor will reach out to you by Wednesday, 1/17.

Thanks to everyone who sent us a note and we’ll have an update soon.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 276,798+ people.

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