Management Advice from a Startup All-Star
- by Katlyn Grasso
In her latest “Perfect Pitch” column, Katlyn Grasso W15 discusses leadership, startup strategy and increasing gender diversity with WME Ventures managing partner Beth Ferreira.
Operations expert Beth Ferreira is no stranger to creating value in a rapidly changing environment. She was the twelfth hire at Etsy, the COO of Fab.com, and is currently the managing partner of WME Ventures, the new investment arm of the WME-IMG talent agency led by superagent Ari Emanuel. In her new role, Beth leads the strategic development of WME’s $50 million venture fund based in New York City and Los Angeles.
Throughout her career, Beth has been inspired by the challenge of utilizing uncertainty to redefine traditional industries. As a leader who has sat on both sides of the table as an entrepreneur and investor, she has found that the most successful people are those who embrace change. In the fast-paced world of startups, Beth encourages the management teams of her portfolio companies to ask themselves “how do we take the resources and people that we have and make today better than yesterday and tomorrow better than today?”
During her time at Fab.com, Beth recalls that the former CEO would start off his weekly meetings with his executive team by prompting them to consider, “What is your one thing?” Since it is understandable for startup leaders to have an extended list of justified priorities, the purpose of this exercise was for the executives to identify the most important way they could contribute to the growth of the company that week. After vocalizing this objective with their colleagues, the executives would also share this goal with their respective teams, creating a company-wide culture of shared accountability.
Beth advises startup companies and advisors to focus on one important factor: the metrics. The needs of startups are constantly changing; a week at a startup can seem like a year at a traditional business. Beth has found that, “the faster a company grows, the shorter the cycles of change happen, which is why senior leaders need to evaluate the importance of their metrics daily.” As young professionals continue to explore potential career paths, Beth understands the allure of working for startups, which provide valuable experience that can be applied to any future role. Within 16-18 months at a startup, new hires can develop a comprehensive understanding of the business, cultivate expertise in their department, and affect real change at the company. Startups also tend to hire for more senior roles from within because they need to fill positions quickly, which creates more opportunities for early stage employees.
The face of venture capital is changing and Beth is a strong proponent for gender diversity on the cap table. Since only seven percent of partners at the top 100 venture capital firms are women, it is clear that achieving gender equality in this arena will require a seismic shift of the startup ecosystem. Beth recognizes that this change must start in the talent pipeline, and that we need more female founders, CEOs, employees, and advisors who can become prospective investors.
When it comes to planning your next career move, Beth shares the same advice with professionals as she does her startup teams: focus on the metrics. “What is it about what you are doing today that ladders up to what your ultimate goal is?” she asks. “If you want to be a CEO, if you want to be a venture capitalist, whatever it is, it is important to understand how you can utilize every professional opportunity to achieve that goal.”