Our perspective

Partnering for growth

Johan Duramy
15 Sep 2020
Partnering for growth

By Johan Duramy, Senior Operating Partner at CapitalG

CapitalG was founded in 2013 to help remarkable growth-stage companies realize their potential. While many VC firms help startups on their journey to product-market fit, we focus on what happens next: scale. Specifically, our objective is to support companies in their crucial shift from start-up to scale-up. We achieve this by unlocking access to the talent, passion and strategic expertise of Google and Alphabet’s technology and product leaders, combining that unparalleled access with 7 years of front row seats to the incredible growth journeys of our portfolio companies, as well as our own experience as investors, operators and entrepreneurs.

Unlocking access to unparalleled expertise

The CapitalG approach is focused and deliberate. Through our laser-like focus on growth, we’ve learned that growth stage companies typically face similar challenges in the areas of: Go-To-Market, Product & Engineering and People & Talent. We deliver meaningful value in these areas by:

  • Providing unparalleled access to Google & Alphabet’s most talented and most experienced technology and product leaders

  • Delivering highly personalized, custom-tailored support from our dedicated in-house team with expertise across marketing, business development and data science
  • Enrolling portfolio company employees of every level in structured training programs, ranging from machine learning to security and engineering mentorship
  • Actively sharing learning experiences across our network of hyper growth companies with whom we’ve been so privileged to partner

Yet, even though many companies’ growth stage challenges may be similar, we never take a formulaic approach. We design customized plans to provide optimal support to the companies we invest in, from 1:1 advising with industry leaders to carefully curated events, key partner and customer introductions and customized strategic engagements. And since we only invest in a few companies each year, every investment gets our full attention.

We set out to support companies in a way that no other investment firm can, and while every investment partnership is unique, here is how we frequently add value:

Go-to-market

Growth stage companies have achieved product-market fit and are scaling their abilities in sales, marketing, operations and customer care. They’re shifting practically overnight from 10 sales reps to 100, or expanding from one company to ten, or diversifying from the one marketing channel that works to many. That’s why we help companies:

  • Optimize and scale marketing by connecting them to experts within our firm or across Google in areas like pricing and SEO, SEM, content marketing and attribution.
  • Expand their sales pipelines through our active CXO network, by co-hosting highly targeted events with prospective leads and by connecting portfolio companies with Google cross-sector teams. We also sometimes help them create new sales functions and operational processes altogether .
  • Develop and navigate relationships across Google, both as a customer and as a partner, sometimes resulting in 6–8 figure deals.

How CrowdStrike’s inside sales team began in an unlikely home: the CapitalG office

CapitalG led CrowdStrike’s Series C investment in 2015. Back then, their sales team was small — consisting of about a dozen reps. To help CrowdStrike scale, CapitalG actually incubated their first inside-sales team; our office was their office, where we made customer introductions and co-hosted highly curated CISO events.

Product & Engineering

Growth stage companies quickly learn that what worked when they were startups will break as they grow. World-class dev ops, tools and security are all key to running any product truly at scale. That’s why we help companies:

  • Scale their infrastructure & security. Security is often not built into products during the start-up phase, but it becomes absolutely critical to companies on the cusp of growth. CapitalG designed a program with Google’s world-class security team to help portfolio companies quickly assess and prioritize their key potential vulnerabilities.
  • Train their teams in machine learning. Every technology company in the world struggles to find enough AI/ML talent to meet their needs, so we help our portfolio companies develop them in-house. CapitalG has partnered with Google’s unparallelled AI/ML teams to develop and run structured training programs for nearly 1200 portfolio employees — including the entire Duolingo technical organization.
  • Accelerate their product roadmaps. Whatever the technical challenge, we’re here to help in a highly personalized way. When Aye Finance and Credit Karma needed to deploy machine learning to make key operating decisions, we helped hire and interview their nascent data science teams.

How Gusto overhauled their payments platform while simultaneously processing billions in transactions

As Gusto expanded, it needed to dramatically revamp its payments system while concurrently processing billions in transactions. The changes required were immensely complex not only technically but also from a regulatory, operations and financial risk management perspective. The CapitalG growth team assisted with every stage of the transition, arranging for financial analysts, risk operations pros, a regulator-turned-compliance expert and the engineer who built the software architecture for all payments across Google to advise Gusto.

People & Talent

As companies scale, it’s the people who make all the difference. While many VCs provide connections to executive talent (and we do that, too), what’s really differentiated about CapitalG is how we help companies think of people and talent as a system, leveraging Google’s world-renowned leadership and wealth of data-driven knowledge in the field of people operations. CapitalG helps companies take a thoughtful approach to attracting, motivating and retaining their talent, helping them develop high-trust, high-performing cultures, craft fair and balanced performance review systems and develop effective, well-regarded managers. Specific areas of engagement tend to include:

  • HR process management. It’s critical for companies to establish HR/people operations processes as they scale. Google’s HR advisors provide data-backed advice on compensation and benefits, goal-setting and performance reviews, and operational processes such as expansion into new offices and norm-setting around distributed work.
  • Learning & development. The best companies hire incredible managers but also develop talent from within. We provide training programs and resources for new and experienced managers, with a special emphasis on engineering management and mentorship. We’ve facilitated the mentorship of more than 180 engineering managers to-date.
  • Talent acquisition. We help our founders and CEOs recruit all-star executives. That means helping them crystalize their needs, then helping them find and vet candidates, and supporting both the candidates and the portfolio companies through the hiring process. We also help companies develop strong employer brands, making it easier to attract and retain strong talent at every level.
  • DEI. We advise our portfolio companies on their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategies, leveraging both our in-house talent bench in this area, as well as Google’s.

How Credit Karma scaled its people operations to accommodate 5X employee growth

When Credit Karma was scaling from 200 to over 1000 employees, CapitalG helped them revamp their performance review, goal-selling and compensation systems; select locations for new offices; build out new manager training and leadership development programs; and beef up their engineering recruiting by connecting them with employer branding experts and actively engaging in the hiring of their first data science team.

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