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:
Grace Chen – Controller, Sierra Ventures Operations Team
What is your focus at Sierra Ventures?
I am the Controller on our Operations Team. I help manage our financial reporting, audit and tax compliance, and portfolio company data management.
How did you get into Venture Capital?
I started in public accounting to assist Fortune 500 companies and large partnerships with their tax compliance. This focus eventually shifted to managing tax compliance for the executives who had international assignments. With the partnership and individual tax background, I managed to transfer my skill set to assist venture capital partners with their tax concerns on both a firm and an individual level.
What finance tools and resources do you recommend for entrepreneurs?
- Find and lean on a network of peers, investors, and external teams. The strength of your network helps generate thoughts on a particular process or issue that someone else has already experienced.
- Implement platforms that address your processes and help you achieve your objectives is key. A very popular platform that entrepreneurs should be considered is Carta. Carta allows you to manage your capitalization table, stock certificate issuance, storage, and other reporting needs such as 409A valuations.
- Consider regional or local accounting firms rather than the Big Four for your compliance needs when in the early stages of your company growth.
What are the top three pieces of advice you have for entrepreneurs?
- Be nimble. You have to be ready to adapt to constant change and shift in an unassigned role.
- Know your numbers. Your focus can initially be on sales or product but if you don’t understand the numbers or financials, then you may lose sight of a shrinking runway.
- People count. Who you add to your team can affect your dynamics and output. Make sure you’re vetting and hiring the right people that can help you reach your goals.
What tips do you recommend for entrepreneurs when it comes to working with their Investors?
- All investors will ask for your financial reporting and related data and many have their own processes and systems in place for delivering the data. It is beneficial to build a rapport with your investors and their teams and have an internal process in place for collecting and distributing this data to your various stakeholders. In some cases, they start with a “one size fits all” reporting template, but can modify if they better understand your business.
- Consider releasing quarterly updates (usually a short email) to your stakeholders that are outside of the periodic board presentations. A few of our portfolio companies release this type of newsletter and they help shed some light on your company’s business.
- For early-stage startups, many investors now have resources to help them scale operations. You just need to ask. Investors want to help ensure that teams are spending time on the things that matter for them to execute and scale and that they’re getting help for the other operational matters.
What is your best “life-hack”?
Dive into the platforms that you use at your company. Getting to know the functions and features of your applications saves time when it comes to getting deliverables completed for your job functions. There may also be value-added reports you can generate from these platforms to build efficiencies in your workflow.
Anything else you want to share?
I enter my five-pound toy poodle, Tofu in dog contests. Her biggest win is placing first in one of the nation’s biggest poodle events, Poodle Day, in California. I get all her trophies but she gets all the treats!