Meet Oper8r Cohort I

Build Something LPs Want

Oper8r is focused on enabling the next generation of great founders in VC by empowering the next generation of great emerging micro-VCs that fund them.

Tell us about yourself and how we can help:

  • Emerging VCs go here

  • Friends of VCs (LPs, mentors, experts, partners) go here

Identify The Problem

A conversation with a friend last year, a former institutional LP now at a multi-family office:

LP: We get the value of emerging VCs. But there are - what - 800 emerging VCs in the US? And 1,000 globally?

Oper8r: Likely over 2,000 globally.

LP: …Right, over 2,000. And underwriting a $20M fund takes about as much effort as underwriting a $200M fund, where we can put more capital to work, which we need to do. So how do I justify this strategy to my team? It’s paralyzing!

In other words, even some of the most sophisticated LPs are completely ignoring the emerging micro-VC market because there’s too much noise.

We had a lot of conversations like these (too many!) so we decided to do something about it.

Learn From The Past

Emerging VC is important. The challenges faced by emerging VC are similar to those faced by startups before seed investing became cool (we wrote about this previously). Like the early pioneers in seed-stage investing that made seed investing cool, Oper8r is applying many of those lessons to make emerging VC investing cool.

We focused on pioneering organizations like YC and Techstars, which dedicated themselves to understanding and elevating a segment of the market—high-potential founders that incumbents were likely to overlook - that was rapidly growing, but under-served.

In our case, GPs are the founders and CEOs of their own (asset management) startups, so why not treat them the same way?

Bring Smart People Together

Here’s what we did beginning earlier this year:

  1. Program: Built a core curriculum of 18 modules (ultimately expanded to 25) focused on conveying what’s important to establish product/market fit with institutional LPs, which are in the business of selecting the best VCs

  2. Experts & mentors: Assembled and coordinated experts on the institutional LP perspective from 50 outside organizations like Accolade Partners, Airstream Alpha, First Republic Bank, Frank Rimerman, Hamilton College, Legacy Venture, Northern Trust, StepStone Global, Valence Advisory… and many others that were excited about supporting the next generation of institutional VCs (some of them were even excited enough to help underwrite production costs!)

  3. Cohort members: Selected 18 VC firms from a pool of 125+ emerging VCs that we met directly in the past, or through LPs, GPs, fund admins, law firms, banks, and other major nodes in the VC ecosystem

  4. Protocol: To ensure everyone could speak freely - members and experts - we held non-recorded modules with experts & mentors under the Chatham House Rule

  5. Execution: For 10-weeks from June to September, between formal programming, team-building, and office hours, we spent about 100 hours with each VC, and 2-5 hours with each expert

  6. Build Community: We recognize the importance of building trust to establish long-term relationships and a meaningful alumni community. In addition to our modules, we held optional internal debriefs after the sessions, instituted programs such as “Motivation Mondays” and “Finish Line Fridays” for support, moderated an active private Slack group now with almost 10k+ messages, and created a collaborative Airtable infrastructure.  These nuances helped create engagement that’s leading to strong connections between the GPs

Smart People on a Mission

It would be impossible to overstate how inspiring and energizing the people in the program were… so we won’t try to.

Instead, we want to tell you a bit about the firms and the GPs that were part of the cohort.

First, we want to thank all of the VCs that considered Oper8r. We got to know some amazing people, and continue to develop relationships with many VCs that weren’t a fit for this first cohort. We’re excited that a number of them are re-applying to cohort II.

The VCs selected for our first cohort shared the following traits: 

  • Our goal was to bring together VCs with outstanding track records (not new to VC); aspirations to build an institutional firm; and a desire to pull together, challenge one another, and share with each other to create a community of highly motivated peers

  • We focused on truly emerging micro-VCs - the equivalent of a first-time startup founder who is not a serial entrepreneur - which tend to look different from the more “obvious” emerging VCs going to market with a $100M or $200M fund I. Although starting a firm always requires an enormous amount of work, micro-VCs tend to be “non-obvious” when it comes to professional background, personal experience, and demographics

  • We are strong believers in the power of combining diversity of experiences, perspectives, and networks, so wanted to make sure we were helping to create powerful and incremental connections within the ecosystem

To make sure we connected with the best candidates, we tried to make the program as accessible as possible, e.g.

  • Fully virtual (this is the new normal!)

  • Full-time-job-friendly-schedule

  • Source across the country from major VC nodes - established VCs, VC associations, service providers, institutional LPs, family offices, etc.

As a result, we ended up with an enormously talented and diverse group representing the next generation of institutional VC.

Announcing Oper8r Cohort I!

Some fast facts:

  • 24 founder-GPs

    • 33% women

    • 25% underrepresented minorities

    • 50% immigrants

    • Some with training from top firms like A16Z, Insight, Lerer Hippeau, NEA

    • Some from top companies like Uber, SAP, CapitalOne, Verizon, Spire

    • Some founders of market-leading tech startups

    • Collective experience investing into >500 companies

  • 18 firms (not all listed above, e.g. to respect firms still in stealth)

    • HQs in NYC, SF, LA, Denver, Chicago, Israel

    • Focused on Pre-seed and Seed

    • Market-sector focuses include aerospace, agriculture, education, energy, financial services, future of work, healthcare, hospitality, logistics/transport, media/entertainment, retail, security

    • Tech focuses include AI/ML, automation, biology/genetics, database/cloud, devices/robotics/sensors

    • Geographic focuses including US, Canada, Latam, Israel, Western Europe

    • Backed by founders, partners, and executives of the world’s stop startups, corporations, established VC firms, and PE firms

Be Open

To ensure that their voices come to the foreground, and honor the value we place in paying it forward, we are going to spend more time having the member-VCs of Cohort I share their own perspectives to help benefit the emerging micro-VC community as a whole.

In the meantime: Ask us anything! We want to make sure we’re answering questions that are important to you, whether you’re a VC or an LP in this space.

Many thanks to Cohort I for feedback and edits!