Periodically, we feature a member from our Team to provide a behind the scenes look at the people that make it all happen at the firm.
Featured This Month:
Allie Klun – Head of Marketing & Platform, Sierra Ventures Operations Team
What is your role and focus at Sierra Ventures?
I run Marketing & Platform on the Sierra Ventures Operations Team. I manage all of the brand and marketing activities for the firm and I work closely with our portfolio companies to provide value added services and marketing advice as they build and grow their businesses. Platform has been a relatively new function at venture capital firms and we’ve been growing our offerings for our Portfolio Companies with things like access to our CXO Advisory Board members, a vendor resource database to tap into for special projects, event and educational opportunities, customer introductions and innovation briefings, a perks and discounts database, and more.
How did you get into Venture Capital?
I’ve always been interested in the startup ecosystem and have consulted for and held full time roles at a few early-stage venture-backed startups. I started my career at a marketing agency and one of my favorite parts about that job was being able to work with a lot of different companies and teams. When I learned about the growing Platform role in Venture I was immediately intrigued. I liked the idea of working with a variety of early-stage companies and talented founders while still working alongside a team.
I started my search by consulting for a few Venture Capital firms and Investors and eventually was introduced to Brendon Schmidt, our Director of Business Development. The Sierra team was looking for someone senior to run marketing and they were also looking to become a leader in VC platform offerings. I joined the firm at the beginning of 2019 to head up both initiatives.
What Marketing tips do you have for entrepreneurs?
- Be authentic and uniquely you – I’ve worked with startups and founders who are hyper-focused on their competitors’ messaging and marketing activities. If you focus on others you may lose out on finding the unique aspects that you and your team have to offer. Know what your competition is doing, but don’t dwell on it. Instead, spend more time on developing your own unique strategies and voice.
- Learn the PR game, or hire someone who knows it well – PR is one of the top things early-stage startups ask me about. It’s extremely important to have a great product, but if you don’t know how to get the word out about it, it can hold your business back significantly. There is a lot of nuance to building relationships with reporters and influencers. Take the time to learn about that world and find someone who can help you navigate it.
What are the top three pieces of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
- Prioritize building a diverse network – having a diverse network of mentors, colleagues, and acquaintances pays dividends. The more people you know from different communities and backgrounds the more you will learn as an individual and the more well-rounded your business will be. Treat each person you meet with respect and kindness. You never know who will have the perfect advice at the right time or a connection that proves valuable. Equally important, you never know who you might be able to help down the road.
- Don’t strive for success at the expense of your health – in the long-term, success is about sustainability. The whole “ramen and red bull” startup mentality is not sustainable. Building manageable wellness habits and making them (almost) non-negotiable can go a long way in ensuring that you don’t burn out as you build your business.
- Passion must play a part – the most impactful entrepreneurs I meet are the ones that are truly passionate about the products they are building or services they offer. They’re not just looking for the money and notoriety that founding a startup supposedly offers. They are deeply interested in the subject area and have an innate drive to change the world.
If you had to recommend one book to an entrepreneur what would it be? Why?
Jonah Berger has two great books about Marketing that are relevant to any business. Contagious: Why Things Catch On is his earlier book that talks about the science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission which are a core part of marketing. His most recent book The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind is a great read about how to overcome resistance to change – both within ourselves and getting others to change. Marketing is inherently about getting people to change and take action in a specific direction and this book has some good tips for applying change principles to business.
What is your best “life-hack”?
Meditating! I am a huge proponent of meditation and I try to meditate every morning before I fully start my day. Having that time to reflect and connect opens up a lot of space amidst the chaos. I use Insight Timer’s timer feature to track my sessions and there are a lot of great apps that provide guided meditations for people who are just beginning a practice.
Anything else you want to share?
I am a certified Yoga & Meditation teacher and I lead a weekly yoga session for our team each week virtually via Zoom. If you have any questions about wellness activities for your team I’m always happy to chat!
Also, I love food – everything about it! You can usually find me cooking up something in the kitchen or shopping at a farmer’s market or local shop. I’m fascinated by Food Tech, Nutrition, and Food Systems and can talk about the space for hours.