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How to build partnerships in communities with Lauren Hoffman, Head of Partnerships in On Deck

🎬 E38. I cannot think of a better person to learn building partnerships in communities from than Lauren Hoffman who led partnerships in On Deck for two years.

Lauren joined as the 12th employee in the company and grew partnerships into a nearly $1 million startup perk library in addition to 50+ hands-on partners like Mercury and Bubble. At that time On Deck scaled ~ 10X into a vibrant startup community of 10K fellows.

We went pretty deep - from partnership principles of On Deck to their tech stack (vs Partner Insight) to partnership examples to how to measure partnerships and when to scale them up/down.

I think this conversation showcases a true spirit of OnDeck - intellectual honesty, attention to tactical details and hand-on approach

📍 In this episode:

1:40 – Partnerships from first principles

3:00 – Three principles of partnerships in OnDeck

5:20 – How partnerships started in OnDeck

7:30 – Type of partnerships in the startup community

15:00 – Partnership stack in On Deck

18:00 – Best partnerships case studies

Partnership excellence

23:00 – Do you need an senior sponsor for a partnership to be successful

27:00 – Evaluating partnerships: when to scale up and down

30:30 – How to engage partners and help them perform?

40:00 – Advice if you’re starting in partnership

Lauren, You're one of the people who I look up to because I've been part of On Deck and ODF/X programs as well. And On Deck is famous for having a lot of partnerships and companies who are in the On Deck ecosystem. You've been one of the people who almost single handedly drive all of this. Not only that, but also I love your “partnership from first principles” philosophy that I think is really compelling. I’d love you to kick us off with explaining what is partnership from first principles? And maybe telling you a little bit more about On Deck and how you think about partnerships.

I think our conversation originally started with the first principles of partnerships, which is actually a framework that I got from Christina Cordova, who previously led partnerships at Stripe and Notion. Who did this great interview with First Round’s In Depth podcast about it. I can't claim credit for the original idea, but I think it's brilliant. And it's basically, that you distill principles for why and how you do partnerships, based on your company's values, your company's priorities and your business model. You want the reason you do partnerships and the modalities by which you do them to be really, really legible and clear and aligned internally and then externally. Something you can also take and explain externally to your partners and your customers. At On Deck, our business model is our fellows. It's always been about serving our fellows, primarily founders, and other folks supporting founders in building their careers in tech.

You want the reason you do partnerships and the modalities by which you do them to be really, really legible and clear and aligned internally and then externally. Something you can also take and explain externally to your partners and your customers.

They are our customers. They are in some ways, our product, and everything hinges on attracting excellent founders and excellent fellows and then providing them with an excellent experience. Given that, we have these three principles for partnerships.

The first is that our partners need to directly support or meet a need demonstrated by a majority of our fellows. They need to answer a question super commonly asked by our fellows, and provide just real excellent products or services to our fellows. It also means, because we are thinking about what enhances fellow experience, that with our partners we need to abide by the same policies that govern our community. For example, On Deck is a sacred safe space, what happens at On Deck stays in On Deck. There are folks operating in stealth within On Deck. We are never ever selling fellow data or fellow time. When fellows engage with partners, it's on a full opt-in basis. They know what information they're sharing and to whom, and our partners need to be fine with that.

The second principle is that our partners need to be companies that we are excited to be aligned with and to be endorsing to our fellows and publicly. That doesn't necessarily mean that they're a bigger brand than us. In some cases, it's a very early stage startup. But it needs to be a company and a team and a set of people and values that we are excited to be in partnership with. Then finally, I should mention these principles are sequential. They are ranked in order of importance in relation to one another.

Only after those first two conditions are met, comes our third principle, which is that partnerships should be revenue generating for On Deck. There are exceptions to that. But by and large, our partners provide an ancillary revenue stream to On Deck. Which makes sense because we're a paid membership community. And that is the way that our partners joined the community. That's how we think about partnerships in On Deck.

I've been part of On Deck myself, we should probably say that On Deck is a big community of around 10,000 fellows. I'm wondering, how did the idea of partnership start on On Deck? And who was the first partner, what was your learning? How did you start and how have you scaled the program?

Partnerships actually started before I joined the company. I joined as the 12th employee in September of 2020. One of the earliest employees, a guy named Brian Nichols, who's now at Hustle Fund doing amazing work there. He had done this first foray into partnerships and built I think the first four or five partnerships. And those were with some of the usual suspects, like founder tools and services that virtually every ideation to incorporation stage founder would need. It included a law firm, banking, cloud hosting credits, etc. And then it just sat dormant for several months, he was working on another project within On Deck, that wound up spinning up into our On Deck angels community for angel investors. When I joined, I was working within this fellow experience business. I was the first Build Partner, direct advisor to founder fellows. I started to see very quickly that fellows were asking questions about the same things that they needed, and that we were leaving a lot on the table, basically. And that partnerships could and should be a really key fellow experience lever. I picked it up, DMed Brian, ”Hey, can I work on this?” And just started going and started talking to would be partners, started talking to fellows about what kinds of partnerships they would be interested in, and started building out our book of offerings for fellows.

How does it look right now to be an On Deck partner? I think obviously, it makes a lot of sense, when you have this big community, to have partners who would give special offers to the community. But I know that some partners actually take a much more active role and you work with them more collaboratively and closely. What does the best partner look like?

Maybe I'll punt this back to you afterwards as a fellow and would love to hear from your experience, what you've seen from our partnerships? But when we bring in a partner, as a real embedded part of our community, it is much more than a perk library listing. It is that, we have a perk library, it's extremely well trafficked. We've built that out if you're interested in talking about the partnership tech stack, happy to talk about it. But we also are bringing our partners in to be real members of the community. That's both async and synchronous, will do sessions with partners will co-hosts, deep dives and fireside chats and AMA's. We will bring them on to panels, they'll host office hours. In some cases, our partners have dedicated Slack channels within the On Deck workspace. They will announce new features or ask fellows questions or answer fellow's questions, or DM with them. This experience of them getting on the inside of the fellowship. We treat their entire team like a fellow. And this experience for fellows that not only do they have the best offer on the market, the best deal or discount, etc. But they also have this white glove connection to a company. They always know someone on the inside who they can DM or email and know that they're getting the best available service, often that which really exceeds what a company with their size would receive. Because part of the bet for our partners is that On Deck is curating the founders who are most likely to be successful. It's an extremely selective community, we are bringing in folks who are extremely ambitious, extremely accomplished, and are building the companies that are most likely to succeed. When a partner receives an On Deck referral, it's, okay, this person may be just two co-founders on the side of their day job. But we know that On Deck knows that they are very likely to succeed. We're going to pay way more attention to them than we normally would. I'm curious what you have seen of this, in your experience as a fellow.

What On Deck is doing really well is that obviously, you scale partnership with hundreds of companies, so you do that to scale. At the same time, your partners are actually pretty hands on and they are very responsive. They’re also doing events and if you ping a partner in Slack channel, they will respond. I had a great experience with Mercury, for example, as we are recording this on RiverSide and we are using RiverSide perk.

I think the sense of community is also translated into partners. This is what you've done really well. And just going back to you, you're currently offering more than $500,000 equivalent of different perks and you have many, many partners. When I looked into a library and thought, that is amazing, they probably have 10 people just looking after all these partners. But then it's mostly you and maybe your team which is pretty tight. Can you talk a little bit more on how you do that? How do you scale partnerships when you don’t have a lot of resources?

First, I want to definitely set the record straight that I'm not doing this alone, I do have a wonderful team. And in particular, there's a woman on my team named Andrea Torres, who joined basically as the first additional partnerships hire and wound up spinning up our partner success function.

We pretty quickly realized that there were two separate motions going on,

there was the vetting and acquisition and scoping of agreements with new partners.

And then there was the implementation of our existing partnerships.

She's an amazing salesperson, and an amazing business development thinker - was like “we needed to get this taken care of” and built our partner success function from 0 to 100. That's a huge part of it. I think that internal segmentation of the jobs to be done, and awareness of where those resources, though limited, need to go is a huge part of it. The other thing is that, you're talking about the partner library. Actually we did account two months ago, it's a little bit stale, but as of two months ago, we had $825,000 worth of credits available to every On Deck fellow. It's pretty substantial. Not all of those perk providers in the library are partners. We have this library, which is more accessible, more open. And then we have our dedicated partners who are those that are much more embedded in the experience itself, who in some cases we're going to market with and have public collaborations with and those you can filter for just those in our library. But we certainly have something like 300 to 350 different perk providers right now. We are not doing full suite partner management with each of them.

I'm curious how you see this playing out, and particularly with Partner Insight and the goals you have around automation. There is something distinctly manual about good partner management. What do you think successful scaling partnerships entails?

I think you're right. But the way I think about it is, in any sales process or project management process, there should be a reasonable amount of things that help you automate your day-to-day. You focus as much as you can on $10,000 tasks - somebody from On Deck mentioned that you should focus on $10,000 tasks and forget about small tasks.

Do you think people know what that means, though? I hadn't heard of that framework before. But it was, yeah our Head of Customer Success, Kelly Hook. She was sharing this concept of spending your time on the $10,000 work, not the $10 work or the $100 work. Freeing up brains, do the most impactful work regardless of where they are in the organization.

The framework is amazing in its simplicity. It's just to focus on something that is most important, and not just the 10x important, preferably 100x important and just try to focus as much as you can and try to automate as much as you can all other things. I do agree that partnerships are manual in their nature, maybe not manual but interpersonal and relationship based. You need to lay the foundation, but then after they've done it, you can take care of it with some sort of partner automation software, or whatever processes that you're running. I'm wondering how you manage this almost a million dollar perk library?

Well, as you've seen as a fellow, we run our community on Slack. We also bring partners in via Slack and very often we're communicating with partners once they've joined via Slack. We use HubSpot as our CRM. I'm a huge HubSpot fan. We use Airtable as our database for fellow activity and also as a back end database for a lot of our web content. There's a ton on the internet about how no-cody On Deck is. And it's really, really true. Our Perk library, for example, is an Airtable database with a Retool skin piping into our Directory, which is the internal LinkedIn product that we have built for our fellows. It all sits on Airtable, I will say we also use a tool called Switchy. That is like a link shortener and tracker, and it allows us to track click through on our partnerships. We can see what traffic is, or what lead gen looks like. We don't own conversion data. But it is really helpful to have those numbers. And then a couple of other interstitial pieces. We use Notion as our internal wiki at On Deck, so we're using Notion very often in our partnerships as well. We write our partner success plans that we then share with our partners on Notion. And then for contracts, we use HelloSign. And then there's Zapier and a bunch of Slack bots tying this all together. It's a bit of scotch taped no-code, Rube Goldberg machine, but it actually works very, very well, at the volume that we're operating.

This is like actually, what companies typically do at scale, surprisingly. Some enterprise companies, they buy expensive partner management software. We are in Partner Insight building software for growth stage companies, but a lot of companies are doing exactly what you just said.

Let's talk about partner excellence. I think you just mentioned how you manage partnerships at scale. Can you give an example of a partner that exceeded your expectations? Or maybe you exceeded their expectations, or you exceeded mutual expectations? And then we talk a little bit more about the process? How do you do that, can you dig deeper into that?

There are a couple that come to mind immediately, I think one that you mentioned earlier, is Mercury. We've been partnering with Mercury for ages. They're one of our earliest partners, we've grown that partnership with them as the community has grown as we've been supporting founders at later stages, etc. And I think what has really exceeded our expectations, especially as they have grown, and which your experience speaks to is just how responsive they are to fellows. One of my favorite examples of this just full stop for any partner.

It was Christmas Eve of 2020 and there was a company that, for whatever reason was closing their pre-seed round, and needed a wire to come through before their investors bank closed on Christmas Day. A bunch of the On Deck team is on vacation, people are not online. They ping the Mercury channel, the Head of Business Development at Mercury responds. Over the next three hours back and forth via Slack, they solve this problem and they close this round together and get all the wires. I don't remember exactly what it was but basically get this fundraise closed down to the wire.

And as that's happening members of the On Deck team who are online, On Deck fellows start following along and are cheering along with emojis. And it was just this incredible moment of exceptional service in such a personal way. That was, Oh, my goodness, I would endorse them so highly to any On Deck fellow after watching that happen. That was one of my favorite stories.

I think another partnership that looks really different, but that has been super successful is our partnership with Bubble. We built a partnership with them around On Deck No Code. It was before we even launched the program, which was operating on the thesis that there are tons of no code hackers and builders who are either building tooling internally at companies or are building side projects or are founding companies and there are no tool agnostic places for them to learn from the best. And to go from beginner to intermediate to fully proficient, fluent technical founder are no code tools. That's what we were doing with On Deck no code.

And when Bubble joined us, we were both super young at the time, we were both seed stage companies and have been just totally in the weeds with us in such a great way this whole time. They provide an amazing, it's $5,000 of credits for all of our fellows to get themselves started on Bubble, which gets you a long way to product traction. And also just incredible support, Slack channel availability, definitely. But then these office hours and build-along sessions, and they'll hop in and screengrab and help you build with you. And we've just done so much stuff with the Bubble team, and they are so trusted within On Deck. And now we've seen a couple super successful On Deck companies built entirely in Bubble, well past MVP spin out of the fellowship. That's been super satisfying. I think it has exceeded their expectations in a lot of ways as well. Another favorite.

Both of those examples are amazing. Bubble is such a good fit to collaborate more strategically. You launched a joint fellowship, I've seen the CEO of Bubble speaking on On Deck, pretty amazing as well. Using these examples and shifting a little bit more towards the partner excellence.

In both of those examples, maybe less so in Bubble’s, you had somebody senior really heavily involved in these partnerships. Do you feel that for a partnership to be successful this should be the case at all times? Or is it more a team effort? And then when you start in partnerships, how do you make sure that you started them from a very good place, high velocity and so on?

I may bring us back to that second question because I'm really going to decouple them. I don't actually believe necessarily that you need to have someone super senior championing a partnership internally. I think it's more about finding the right relevant people within your partner company than it is about a particular title or perceived importance.

Executive sponsorship, this is a term how in enterprise sales they call executive sponsorship.

Totally. And I think executive sponsorship can wind up being a bit of a vanity metric, where it's, “oh, we presented to this person”, yeah, but does that person actually care? Or does that person actually know how this would impact their team? Or is it actually the person a level or two down from them? Who has purchasing power? Who knows exactly how this would be used and what value it would produce and is able to experience the benefits of a partnership going well. Something that a mentor in the BD space once told me is that your goal and talking to your counterpart in any partnership, is to help them look really good to their boss. If you want to be a partner or deliver partnership results, that's going to make them look like they're amazing at their job. And it doesn't actually need to be someone super senior. As long as they have the influence to make something happen and to really experience the benefits of it for themselves and their customers - I think you're golden. Obviously it varies. There are companies that are different amounts of top down or where every decision gets run all the way up the flagpole. That's not always the case, though. I don't know. The unsatisfying, it depends, answer.

That is a really good answer. And I agree with you because I think what you said is true. Obviously, probably as a partnership manager, you feel a little bit more confident when somebody, like the CEO, is supporting you. But I think if you have enough credibility within the organization you don't need the CEO's involvement. And I think what the On Deck team has done really well in general, I see that you guys actually run a process on everything pretty efficiently. And I was speaking to someone who was in ODX, he was saying that he had an interaction with your team. And then he said, I have so much confidence in the On Deck team because they have a process and they run the process very, very efficiently.

Funny, it always feels that way, or it looks that way from the outside. I think within every company, you only see the moments where that's breaking. But that's also just like startups like high velocity companies are going to build a process and run it to failure and then rebuild and then rebuild.

Just an amazing segue to the next question, which is how do you figure out what is working in partnerships? And how do you scale up what is working and scale down what is not working?

Do you mean in running partnership processes on the back end or in particular partnerships?

I would speak about the front end, about relationships, figuring out which partnerships deliver, because it's a joint effort. and which don't. And how often do you assess that? How do you scale up and scale them down?

We are tracking fellow engagement. We set up a partnership, when we have really good reason to believe that it will deliver value to a ton of fellows and a ton of fellows will make use of it. Sometimes we're wrong. And it turns out that we misinterpreted what a company offers or to whom, or a company changes their target audience or strategy or the market winds change, a new competitor comes along, or just fellows are just not interested. Or not nearly as interested as we expected. There are cases where we've built a partnership and then been, “oh, we were wrong, this is not as useful as we thought it would be”. We in some cases will end it early. We're very committed to not locking in partners to partnerships that are not working for them. We have contracts, we have very permissive out clauses, so that we can exercise them or partners can exercise them if something is obviously not working. And if fellows are disinterested, we will end the partnership. Obviously we do everything in our power to not establish a partnership that would end that way and to support a partner so that never does happen. But every now and then we get it wrong. I think the other thing that will sometimes cause a partnership to struggle or fail is if they are just not delivering the same quality of service. We have ended partnerships or put partners on probation for lapses in quality of service, lapses in responsiveness over a sustained period of time. If we hear of a number of fellows having a bad experience with a given partner, we will end the partnership. And it goes back to our first principles, why do we do partnerships for our fellows and for their experience. If a partner is not delivering on that, we don't need to do that partnership. And that is something I guess how we are measuring this is partially through the data we're collecting from fellow engagement and click through. It's through quarterly business reviews with our partners. We're meeting with our partners at least quarterly, many of them more frequently, and exchanging intel and keeping each other up to speed on conversions, data on fellow feedback, etc. As well as planning our next engagements. And then we're also hearing about this anecdotally from fellows. Fellows are telling us what experiences they've had and where they've been overjoyed or underwhelmed, etc.

You have many partners. I guess, hundreds of partners. I was talking with a large company yesterday and they have more than 1000 partners. And I'm wondering, how do you stay top of mind with partners? Do you feel that partner engagement has been a problem that you solved or what is your process of engaging all these partners? And making sure that they stay within the On Deck ecosystem, they deliver on their promises, and they also spread positive sentiment around and build an ecosystem of influence around On Deck?

We don't actually really have hundreds of partners, which is maybe not what you want to hear, but we have hundreds of perk providers. But when it comes to actual partners who we are doing this really embedded work with, it's in the dozens. It's between 50 and 100. We are doing, I mentioned these quarterly business reviews and check ins, I think a huge piece of this is just good partner success. The partner success lead Andrea has built our end-to-end process on this. And this will include bringing that partner success lead in during onboarding, or even before in the final stages of closing a deal so that partners get to know them, and know that they have this point of contact. It's running a really tight onboarding process with these templatized emails that we're then customizing for every partner, as well as a series of meetings that we're setting up, and a partner success plan that we're documenting, which pulls directly from the contract we established with them. And making sure basically that through onboarding expectations are really, really clear. And that we know exactly who are our internal champions at a partner company and who will be delivering on their end of the deal.

And then, in terms of ongoing engagement, I would not say we've solved this, I think it's just a super iterative, constantly improving process. There have definitely been times when we've slipped and when we have not delivered for partners in the way that we would want to, in large part because our business is somewhat seasonal. When we onboard a new cohort of fellows every quarter, there is a huge burst of energy and attention and this new captive audience who's excited by all the resources at On Deck and connecting within it. And then after a couple of months, there's a bit of a lull, where folks have pulled in all these resources, and then pull them back to their corners and go build. And during those months, we'll have quieter seasons, where we won't have as much partner engagement, where I think it's easy for us to take that time to go back and build internal process, and not be as communicative with our partners. I definitely don't want to say we've done this perfectly, but I do think the regular cadence of meetings and emails is a huge part of what's gone well.

This is a spicy take. But one of my opinions on this is that I don't love partner newsletters because we are on one side of a partnership with tons of companies. I receive a ton of partner newsletters from my counterparts where I'm on a list. And it's often a beautifully designed email with a bunch of updates from the company and what they're offering, and who their new partners are and what events are coming up. And they're informative, sometimes they are valuable to pass on to the community sometimes, but more often than not, they just don't feel very personal. You're sending this to everyone, there are bits of it that are relevant for me, most of it is not. And it doesn't substitute for an actual touchpoint with a human. And we've had a number of times, we've come to this juncture of should we spend one of these up and I would rather not, I would rather us just have real human relationships with each of our partners. And we're just constantly sending each other little emails with the things that are most relevant and it's much more engaging with a member of our community or a member of our own team, then with a nurture campaign of external folks. I know that that's not best practice and not what most people in my position would have done. I'm curious, yeah, it looks like you are ready to push back. Go for it.

Thinking from our lens. The way we’re, for example, solving this with the Partner Insight software, we're not facilitating constant emails, but what we’re doing email notifications when some transactions happen, lead updates or task updates or pipeline review and stuff like that. But we also try to engage people to talk with each other “You haven't been updating these partnerships for a while, you should have a conversation”.

I agree with you generally speaking, But at the same time, when we are sending our updates to a lot of people, I'm personally tempted to write a personal email. But you cannot really write a personal email to 500 people. It's a little bit tricky. And at the same time when I received an email newsletter from On Deck, I do feel this a bit “oh, they've been sending this to a lot of people, and I'm one of them”. But I still open and skim it - what is going on there? I get some nuggets.

I'm wondering if you feel that newsletter is not the right approach. And I think you're probably in a good position to feel that because you are one of the few big partners or big communities that your partners might be a little bit more bespoke with. What do you think would be a good substitute for keeping you updated on what's going on without you feeling that it's just a template that it sent to a lot of people?

I don't know how prescriptive this is, but I will talk about a couple of other things that we do. We use HubSpot to trigger ourselves to check in with our partners. We use workflows to automate at the back end these reminders for ourselves, this is not anything so novel. I think it really is about involving our partners in as many ways as possible in our community, so that we don't see them as only partners, and instead have lots of reasons to engage with them. I say this often, and it is I've been told not to, but whatever, here we are. I think our best partnerships are the ones that are the most incestuous in the sense that our partner is also a fellow, is also a speaker, is also an advisor and mentor to On Deck companies, is also an investor and On Deck companies, is also maybe an investor in On Deck and or we are an investor in them. And suddenly, we have a million different threads of connection with our partners. We have partners where 10 members of their team are also in different On Deck fellowships and run into each other in the halls of On Deck. And when we're so closely integrated with them and just communicating with them around lots of things all the time, it feels much more authentic and organic. And we don't need to give them all the updates at once in an email. Obviously, that is a function of us being a community company. That is not something that every company can do. It is pretty specific to On Deck. But I do think a lot of this of community management as an extension of partnerships, or as an alternative to marketing is one way that those kinds of engagement that's more casual and more consistent, can be fostered for a greater number of companies.

Partnership seems to be much more organic. What you're advocating is creating more touchpoints and more organic workflow between you and them and more engagement on both sides effectively. Talking about triggering reminders, this is our choice in our software to trigger reminders “be in touch with this person”.

You've been in partnership for a couple of years. And you've also been part of the On Deck Business Development Fellowship, which is a group of amazing partnership folks. What did you learn about partnership over the last year that you maybe didn't expect before? Maybe what is your advice to people who start in partnership today in terms of how to do that and how to ramp up quicker?

Something that it took me a little while to learn. You were talking about at the beginning of this conversation - you can really be yourself. Obviously, you need to read the room and be appropriate, but you can and should be yourself. Ideally you are only representing or building partnerships on behalf of a company that you fully stand behind and are speaking honestly for. But no one wants to work with a polished stiff salesperson, it shouldn't feel like sales, it should feel like a real relationship or some of these partnerships have turned into real friendships. And you can come as yourself, when you don't know the answers to things, you can admit that, You can, obviously when it's appropriate, make a distinction of when your opinion differs from the opinion or the approach of your company at large. And you can really be there on a team with your counterpart at the other company. You're on your own team, and then you build this new little ad hoc team with your counterpart to build a good partnership. And then they're taking that back to their own team. I think for a while I was just stiff and nervous all the timeI don't know, it's hard to say that, and or just hear that and know it. But I think folks should come in as themselves wherever they can. The other thing that, again, I think I've learned gradually, as my instincts have honed a little bit. If a partnership feels off, it probably is, if something doesn't feel well aligned. Or if you don't feel you can say absolutely yes to a partnership, it's probably not going to be super successful. Every now and then there are exceptions, but because it's so relational. And because incentives need to be so aligned, if you are not sure that your own company's incentives are aligned, if you are not sure that you want to keep working with these people, or that the other company is represented by folks who you trust and respect and want to spend time with, probably all of those instincts are worth listening to. And to have oneself wherever possible in a position of strength, where you're not relying on each partnership, but are able to be selective and say no to partnerships that feel off is a real asset.

Amazing. Thank you so much. My last question is looking forwards and On Deck went through pretty substantial transformation back and forth, I would say. And now you're focusing on the core of your strengths when you're focusing on On Deck Founder Fellowship, and you're looking forward into the partnership lens. What are you most excited about looking into next year, I'll say?

I am really excited for On Deck to focus on what it does best. It is very much closer to the company I joined two years ago than it is to the company that it was eight months ago, in the sense that we are back to this ruthless focus on founders and folks most critical to founders success. And we spun out our other business where we were successfully helping folks build their careers in tech as functional leaders into this other company that can follow those discrete goals and where we can have some mutual support. But I'm really excited to just deliver the core product really, really well. And I think On Deck, as you've mentioned, has gone through a number of cycles. And you've been a fellow for a while now, you've seen some of that growth. You've seen us kill some of our darlings. Not to say, it's been a smooth teleological line here. But I think the ability now to have our best people focused on the thing that we've always done well, which is founder support, is just really exciting. It also I think we were anticipating that we would see less interest in our programs right now for a couple reasons. One being the market, primarily, we thought that a lot of early stage founders would not be interested in funding a company right now. And we thought that a lot of later stage founders would be in extreme austerity and not spending money on professional development and growth. And we found neither to be true.

There were a lot of people heeding the call to action - lean times are a great time to start a company and be skeptical of VC potentially. On Deck doesn't require that you take any investment or give up any equity. And there are a lot of people who are really excited to be building right now. We're seeing just excellent people coming into the community. And then later stage founders are finding themselves maybe more than ever in need of a brain trust of peers who they can talk to outside of their own company. When your super founder friendly investor is suddenly not that founder friendly. And maybe your company is going through challenges of its own, having that sacred peer group is super valuable. Again, with On Deck scale, we're just seeing a ton of interest. And then, what else am I most excited about?

I think the thing that has always gotten me most excited about On Deck and which is just continually true, is that you can check the receipts,and see all the impact it's had. We have this really fun tight feedback loop because we're working with people who are building at such high velocity. We can just see and hea r from our fellows how transformative On Deck has been for them. And that continues to be true. All of those little flywheels and all of those sparky interactions, where folks are finding their co-founder, finding their first investor, finding their first employee, finding product market fit, all of that is happening. And it's happening at such a fast clip. It's just motivating to do that every day and to facilitate that every day.

It does look like you're excited about a lot of things - fantastic. Echoing what you mentioned, I think fundamentals haven't really changed. People want to have a great community, highly selected people around them. And then tech generally is not going away. I mean, it's just going to be growing and growing and growing. Yes, as a setback, through the markets. But I don't think people believe that it's going to change fundamentals, going back to first principles. Thank you so much. I really enjoyed our conversation. I'm sure that some people would love to speak with you what is the best way to reach out to you?

You can find me on LinkedIn, I check LinkedIn - that works.

It's you if you're interested in learning more about On Deck, our landing page is We're also very prolific on Twitter, @beondeck.


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