I joined KPCB right after I graduated from UC Berkeley. I was the youngest person at the firm by 5-6 years, and I was charged with building and executing the firm's "next generation" strategy - our efforts to meet the brightest young founders, source investments, find the most promising talent and build our brand at the college and post-college level.
The strategy centers around a unique program that I led called the KPCB Fellows Program which matches the brightest students from across the country with portfolio companies like Nest, Square, Uber, Airbnb and many others. Beyond the program, I worked alongside founders to create compelling brands & companies, built a life-long community of talented young professionals, leveraged their networks to invest in a new generation of companies and continued to grow a more thoughtful story around the #KPCBFamily.
We realized early on that we had to play the long game. This wasn't something that could be instantaneous popular or instantaneously prestigious. We had to sell people on the magic, as if to say being a KPCB Fellow was something not only to be proud of, but something that you would go out of your way to tell people about. That's right, word of mouth, as slow as it is, was our primary growth method. In addition, we piled on experiential, digital and email campaigns, but all centered around the individual fellows and the communities they touched. This is how we grew this segment of our brand from the ground up.
The cornerstone of all of KPCB's next generation efforts is the KPCB Fellows program and the short time that fellows spend with our partners, companies, executives and other fellows. Every summer, I pulled together a series of memorable (and what I've been told to be "life-changing") events and experiences to expose fellows to Silicon Valley and the KPCB Family. I've had the pleasure of working with all of the partners at KPCB, executives like Sam Lessin (Facebook, Fin), Andrew Kortina (Venmo, Fin), Jini Kim (Healthcare.gov, Nuna Health), Jeff Holden (Amazon, Groupon, Uber), Marcos Weskamp (Flipboard, Uber), John Maeda (MIT Media Lab, RISD, Automattic) and many others. Because our experiences are so incredible, our fellows constantly give back.
The program has been covered in Business Insider, TechCrunch, Fast Company, Co.Design, GigaOM and several college newspapers including The Daily Pennsylvanian (University of Pennsylvania), The News Record (University of Cincinnati), The Daily Collegian (Pennsylvania State University), the GW Hatchet (George Washington University) and many others.
I storyboarded and produced videos telling the group and individual stories of the KPCB Fellows. You can watch most of the videos above.
I learned pretty quickly that to compete in an environment where lots of other VCs were launching "young people" type of programs, we had to be active on digital - something an old firm like Kleiner Perkins wasn't always use to doing. To me, this didn't mean sending a tweet every two hours, but to be as thoughtful as possible about combining community, social platforms, storytelling and a creative, people-first mind-set. To this end, I worked on building powerful social campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, creating videos and other digital content that highlighted individual stories, and taking our community and the #KPCBFamily from the physical world into the online world.
Over the course of several years, I developed and adopted a simple design language, copy style and set of brand guidelines to establish a consistent feel throughout all of our content and platforms.
At such a small firm that has very little focus on brand or design, it was difficult to make sure that these guidelines seeped into every thing we did. But for all, programs or communications that touched young people, a consistent bright color and lighthearted, but inspiring language was used.
The KPCB Fellows Program has grown tremendously since I first joined Kleiner Perkins. The fellows who I first got to know are now leaders within their companies and some like Dylan Field (Figma), Stephanie He (Pharmeo), Hallie Lomax (VotePlz), Joao Batalha (Orankl) have started their own companies and projects.
When a community like this one reaches maturity, the work becomes a lot easier and shifts to facilitating rather than organizing. For example, we've built such a powerful culture of giving back and doing good, that fellows feel responsible for each other's' success. We sought to codify these values and are making sure that it permeates across every aspect of the program from the application down to the nitty gritty of programming and events.
What I am most proud of, is that these people don't consider us a business. We are a partner in their success and they are a partner in our success. They let us know when their colleagues or friends are working on new companies, projects or when they are looking for new jobs. This is the magic of the #KPCBFamily.
The tough part about building a brand or community is measuring growth, setting KPIs and trying to understand how (and why) it changes overtime. The KPCB and KPCB Fellows brands are so heavily intertwined and to truly understand how the work I did was making a difference for the firm, I conducted the same brand survey twice during my time at Kleiner Perkins.
The brand survey measured our brand equity within my cohort audience of young entrepreneurs, engineers and designers. The surveyed asked about KPCB and the KPCB Fellows Program in comparison to other venture capital brands in both quantitative "top-of-mind" and "aided awareness" terms as well as qualitative "personality" or "image" terms such as Declining, Diverse, Trustworthy, Arrogant, and Product and Design-Focused. The student surveys showed incredible success across time and was a sharp contrast to survey results from a similar survey delivered to entrepreneurs.
Happy to discuss my approach to creating the brand survey and it's results, just ask.