One of the defining characteristics of being a Calm Company is taking time to reflect. We’ve been meaning to reflect in public for a while, but like any company, we also get stuck in the weeds so this is long overdue!
Here we look back on the last quarter to celebrate our wins, process our failures and look forward with new learnings:
In the first quarter of 2021 I sent an update to our investors that after 2 years of investing, I felt like we finally had evidence that we’re really onto something here. Early stage investing is weird. The feedback loops are so slow that you have to keep investing for years, moving forward pretty much on faith in your thesis alone, before you really get any hard evidence that you’re doing a good job. This is especially true for our investing model where we rarely get the quick validation of seed/Series A funds following on and marking up our investments. We have to wait for early-stage companies to mature and become profitable or exit before we start to see hard data on whether we made good investments.
Last quarter, we brought 150 founders to Mexico City to finally hold the inaugural Founder Summit. It was a smash hit by all accounts and we can’t wait to do even more. We also launched our long-awaited scout program. By year-end, we had invested in 27 new amazing portfolio companies, twice the pace of investing in 2020; increased our average check size from $150k to over $200k and invested in founders from 16 countries.
We also grew our incredible team from five to nine people.
This quarter, we have launched the Founder Liquidity Fund (rebranded from ‘Calm Fund Express' but the same exact investment thesis) and it’s about 2/3 fully committed at this point. I’m excited to begin making our first investments.
Many times doing right by the people is the best way to do right by the business. Some examples of that are being more accessible, giving people the space and support to fail, building a culture where it's OK to step away from the work and just be, and so much more.
Last quarter, one thing that didn’t go to plan was Calm Boards (we shuttered it). We need to find a different way to connect mentors’ desire to more actively support our founders while being more cognizant of their constraints, like the fact they run their own companies and have little time.
I’m most proud of the work we do, who we do it for, and who we get to do it with.
The best thing I watched was The Sex Lives of College Girls on HBO Max. It’s wonderfully written and absolutely hilarious.
This quarter I want to learn how to structure internal business operations to effectively handle scaling quickly. Not quite 10% MoM but also not "hyper blitz-scaling"; a happy middle ground where we don't sacrifice our founding principles for growth.
I hired Paige DePagter as portfolio operations manager last quarter. I learnt a few lessons from the hiring process on the best upfront filters: openly show your company culture; be clear regarding what the job does and doesn't entail; and be transparent about the skills and experiences you definitely do and don't care about. People are excellent at self selecting, which makes your job as a hiring manager that much easier.
Last quarter I underestimated how many individually small, but collectively large, tasks I could get done in any given week or month whilst still maintaining the ability to think at a high-level and push forward larger chunks of important work.
I’m most proud of being part of a sincerely great group of people — smart, passionate, caring — that work hard to not only build our business but to support our mission and lead by example. They’re proving that building a calm company is a viable path for founders.
The best thing I read was Wool by Hugh Howey, the first novel in the acclaimed Silo series. The dystopian future in which the novel takes place hits a bit too close to home at the moment, but the writing is phenomenal and there's a creeping sense of dread that builds to a truly mind-blowing crescendo. It’s an excellent exploration of human nature and the ends to which people will go to protect their semblance of sanity.
This quarter I want to learn to better balance the amount of ‘rocks’ and "pebbles" I'm focused on, and not be overwhelmed by the constant stream of "sand" that's inherent in a finance & ops role.
I joined in the last quarter of 2021. What’s been so great to discover is that everyone is an excellent writer — but that comes with its own set of challenges. Each person in the team has their own writing style and finding a voice that represents all of us is a much harder task than it seems on the surface because it has to be authentic, genuine and inclusive of the whole team.
One thing that I would have done differently last quarter would have been to create templates to help the team to help them get their ideas for content to me a lot sooner.
I’m most proud of betting on myself in the second half of 2021. I took control of my mental health, made some bold career decision and, of course, joined the lovely team at Calm Company Fund.
The best thing I read, well listened to, was Matthew Mconaughey narrating Greenlights. It’s very fun.
This quarter I want to learn what it takes to create a useful and successful podcast 👀
I learned a lot this quarter from the holistic team. One of my biggest takeaways is what a difference transparency can make, especially in terms of valuation, metrics, and overall financial workings. Relaying this information (and so much more) is awesome to see — building in public is definitely valuable!
One thing that I underestimated last quarter is the time consumption of reaching out to LPs 1:1. It’s super valuable but as we grow it’ll be best to come up with a way to track and note needs and frequent asks better. I’d love to be able to ease up the process to give LPs more information, sooner.
I’m most proud of having been able to jump in and help get some big projects done straight off the bat since I joined last quarter. I’m excited to take charge of some of them this coming year.
The best thing I watched was Tampa. I live in Tampa and I’m a big fan of real estate reality TV so it’s kind of a win win for me! It’s a super fun way to learn about where I live.
This quarter I want to learn more about displaying valuation information and include more visuals into our valuation update for ease of use.
I’m most proud of being able to work with such a great team. So so lucky!
I've learned a ton from my 1:1 meetings with our community this month — I'll be sharing more on that soon — but, honestly, my biggest learning was that no code is enough. Seriously, between what Michael R can do with Webflow and Zapier, and Tyler's use of visual automations and rules in ConvertKit, it's easy to see how the tech stack of the future could be totally code free.
I don't know that I've been here long enough to have regrets, but if I could do it all over again, one thing that I would have done differently last quarter is I would have probably started a couple of weeks earlier so I could have attended Founder Summit CDMX!
I’m most proud of beating my personal best in the New York City marathon by 23 minutes!
The best thing I (finally!) listened to was NPR's Dolly Parton's America on a road trip last month. It’s really excellent storytelling, and a strong recommend from me.
Next quarter I want to learn directly from our community about how we can better serve and support them, especially as the community grows and needs evolve. That’s my evergreen answer, to be honest, so since that will be true every quarter, I'll add that I'm hoping to learn more from my peers about their work. Finance is one area where I would like to close my knowledge gap and build up my vocabulary.
Last quarter I learned that I can burnout in a job I love. With the stress of "unprecedented times" and numerous ambitious projects, burnout can sort of just... happen. I learned just how important it is to have a work culture where taking time off and being honest about where I'm at is encouraged.
One thing that didn’t go to plan was I wasn't able to give my two new amazing team members the seamless welcome they deserved. When Anisah and Stewart joined, I was pretty unavailable — what with Founder Summit and a holiday planned. Grateful they were both super flexible about onboarding and dove right in!
I’m most proud of pulling off Founder Summit 2021 despite all the ambiguity and uncertainty that COVID brought with it. I'll write more about how we did it soon, but I can say it was one of the best events I've ever produced... and I can't wait for us to do more!
The best thing I watched was my new puppy have zoomies. It's GREAT. That counts right? In all seriousness though, I got back on my reading kick—a few books that stand out are: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, Memory called Empire by Arkady Martine, and The Sparrow by Maria Doria Russell.
Next quarter I want to learn how to bring in a little more play into our work! We've got so many projects in motion that sometimes we have to remember to pause to make sure we're having fun with it — that's where the magic happens!
To read about all the investments we made in 2021, have a read here.