Overheard on Slack: What It Means to Be a Community Today

From Richard Branson to Paris Hilton, here’s a look back at M13’s Founder Day.
By Christine Choi, Kindra Mason

Last Updated: April 6, 2021

Published: October 21, 2020


Christine Choi  11:17 AM

Hey, did you see the Founder Day recap video? I can’t believe it was only three weeks ago; it feels like three years ago. It was a nice reminder of some surprising and unfiltered conversations and that even though many of us haven’t met in person, we’re still showing up for each other. Is that what community means to you? 

Kindra Mason  11:19 AM

For me, community means the people who give your business life and those you can provide the most value. In our case, the core of our community is our founders, and M13 exists as a company to make sure our founders thrive.

Christine Choi  11:20 AM

What do you remember about our first conversation, what I said we’d set out to do if you joined us as Director of Community? And are we fulfilling that promise?

Kindra Mason  11:21 AM

Yes, back in April (which feels like forever ago!), we said we wanted to build a place to help founders grow their businesses and build a place where founders felt they had true partners in M13. A place where they could go for advice and to help build and grow and accelerate their and others’ businesses. And I think we are at the precipice of paying off on that promise. Relationships take time to build; it’s a long-term game and we’re at the earliest stages of making that promise come true. It’s exciting to see where we started and exciting to see where we’ll go in the future. 

Christine Choi  11:23 AM

One unfortunate consequence of our times is that we are cut off from the daily banter that forges friendship and work relationships—that’s why I devoted today’s stand-up exclusively to what you all did over the weekend. I resent that after hosting big community events, our debriefs can’t end with a glass of wine and laughing off our shared crazy pre-production weeks. I don’t want to be robbed of these moments and details that may seem extraneous but foster closeness. We have always valued conversation and peer-to-peer learning—is that why we, even pre-COVID, decided to host gatherings specifically for our founders in the first place?

Kindra Mason  11:25 AM

We started the founder gatherings because the founder experience is so unique. It’s good to be with people going through the same experience who you can learn from—people who are at the same stage and those who have faced the same problems as you so they can help you see around corners. Peers are the best people to learn from so we wanted to create a forum for founders to meet, learn, and help each other succeed. And then Founder Day took the gathering to the next step: it was not only about learning from each other but also all the experts, operators, and entrepreneurs we have access to within our broader community.

Christine Choi  11:27 AM

My personal highlight was chatting with Richard Branson about how he’s holding up during the pandemic and his unfiltered thoughts on the world. During my year in Silicon Valley, I kept thinking that leaders could benefit from a dose of Richard—his humility, his humor, his ability to connect with people on a deeply human level. So I’m grateful that our founders got a taste of his honest self at Founder Day. Experiencing that up close and digitally personal is what it means to be part of our community.

Kindra Mason  11:31 AM

Among all the events we did this year, for me Founder Day was a personal highlight. Our founders came together for their first meetup only three short months ago—and they were willing and able to show up for our three-hour Founder Day, which means we earned their time. That was really encouraging.

Christine Choi  11:32 AM

Yes! The other highlight was ProGuides founder Sam Wang’s question; he asked Richard, “What is your purpose? And how old were you when you figured it out?” It floored me. Also I enjoyed the founder dinners we hosted in SF, NY, and LA. It was a no-pressure, come-hang-out-if-you-want-to-get-out- of-the-house-in-a-socially-distanced-outdoor way. We picked restaurants that met our health standards. For some folks, it was their first social event, and it meant a lot that they trusted us to do the right thing.

Kindra Mason  11:36 AM

Most of the feedback I received was, “It was so good to see you in person! I feel like I know you, even though we have only seen each other virtually so far!” That was encouraging. We got such great feedback about Founder Day. The founders said that three hours flew by; on a Zoom, that is inconceivable. It validated that we built the day correctly … it was a day by founders for founders featuring topics that were important to them. We had the right people in the room, and we started to create those inter-founder bonds that make these founder experiences even more valuable.

Christine Choi  11:38 AM

Because of how platforms work where it’s hard to cross-talk or lob jokes and asides, digital events feel like conversations that are being overheard by like 70 people. Richard and I were talking shop assuming you all had contextual knowledge. And Overtime co-founder Dan Porter gave a fresh account just for founders of how to be with investors, staff, and partners.

Kindra Mason  11:41 AM

We are fast learners! The goal of Founder Day was to hear from industry titans and founders who are a few steps ahead. We set up Founder Day sessions as if you were overhearing dinner conversations where established founders shoot the breeze with people they are comfortable with and therefore share raw unfiltered knowledge. What’s next is continuing to push the envelope on content and experiences. 2020 forced us to think differently about what it means to gather and what content should look like. Going into 2021, it’s going to change again. And we need to be okay with that and ready for that and think through what the future will look like. I know for sure that it will involve giving founders ways to participate and engage with M13 in a deeper way.

Christine Choi  11:44 AM

True true. In the last six months of nonstop Zooming, I have learned to suspend belief, suspend the need for perfection, accept imperfection, and take the time to get to know each other. It does not feel like enough, but we are using all the channels we have to strengthen our bonds.

Kindra Mason  11:45 AM

Our community is still early in forming bonds with each other and also growing. Since the last founder gathering, M13 has added around eight more founding team members! We need to make time for each other, and I’m glad to play a part in continuing to help our founders thrive.

Christine Choi 11:54 AM

Love the direction in which our portfolio is going and growing! Part of helping founding teams is to foster connections across the broader community investors, future founders, and all the great talent interested in joining and growing our portfolio companies. Excited to take all that we have learned this year to support our cherished community.