Last week, we held The Alignment Summit V online via Zoom webinar. Instead of a full-day in-real-life event that’s quite special, we made it entirely online, short, and still special, I think. For those of you know me, you know that this is a very special event and one I plan for all year. Earlier this year, we decided early to not have it in-person, which turned out to be the right call. We also decided to do something, even if it was short, to have a conversation from both GPs and LPs given all the movement in 2020. I’m glad we did that.
While the event is always off-the-record, I wanted to share some high-level reflections from this year’s installment. Before I do that, I need to thank a handful of people who made this year’s event possible — First, thank you to our GP speakers Roger Ehrenberg (IA Ventures) and Eric Paley (Founder Collective); our LP speakers Amanda Outerbridge (HarbourVest) and Mel Williams (Truebridge Capital); and my fellow co-hosts Jim Marshall (SVB) and Will Quist (Slow Ventures). I also want to thank the groups that make this event possible, our sponsors SVB, Cooley, Carta, and Haystack. Also, my Haystack colleagues Ian Hathaway and Aashay Sanghvi for supporting the event, and to Hillary Tyree and Courtney McClintock from SVB who run event “special ops.” We also had the pleasure of providing amazing live music during the two panels, with Effie Zilch And The House Band, which you should check out on Instagram! (In lieu of our event costs being only online this year, the sponsors have elected to make a donation to HBCU VC Fund this fall.)
Now on to my own reflections from the event. In our discussion on the LP perspective, we talked about how LPs do their work while most people aren’t traveling or getting together. Staying at home and the ease of Zoom means we can have more conversations, even if some of that is draining. And all investors have more time to reference people they may invest in. Before, referencing may happen in person or at events. In my own world, that’s shifted to Zoom, texting a lot, and then picking up the phone. In our GP discussion, it was a reinforcement for me to be comfortable politely pushing back or disagreeing in the heat of a pitch. Not disrespectfully, but to turn the pitch into a conversation, to bat around ideas, and use that as surface area to get to know the founders better. And in that pursuit, to think about people we as investors want to serve — that service mentality — before thinking about capital, ownership, returns. Like references, the relationships we forge early end up lasting for a really long time, and those create new opportunities down the road. Stepping back, I am immensely grateful that during this year’s (and likely next year’s) social distancing and lack of events/travel, that I spent the last decade building real relationships with a host of players, from press, to founders, to other investors, and even LPs. Carrying those discussions into the world of Zoom and home offices is not only seamless, but now more intimate, real, and leveling.
There’s a lot I miss about work during this time, but the forced adaptation to being entirely remote and distributed has reinforced to me just how important these relationships are. As this eventually reverts back to an in-person event (I hope!) that’s small, I hope more emerging fund managers and limited partners can experience it. For our normal event, we intentionally have space constraints, and now for the first time, I am not sure what shape Alignment VI will take. For the first time, I won’t start planning it immediately. Hope to see you all in person in 2021!