Highlights from the Fourth Annual Two Sigma Ventures 2018 Summit

By Kat Rumbles on November 13, 2018

We recently hosted our fourth annual portfolio Summit at Two Sigma Ventures. We brought together founders and key leaders from 30+ portfolio companies from seven states for a full day of celebration, collaboration, and shared learning.

Over the past few years we’ve seen venture funds take various approaches to how they structure these summits — some have headline-worthy keynote speakers, others have lots of panels, and some take trips to exotic locations. While we don’t think there’s a wrong way to build programs and resources to support portfolio companies, our team’s approach has always been slightly different. We believe in connecting founders and teams with each other and with experts (both from within the Two Sigma network of talented engineers, data scientists, and operators and outside vendors), and then getting out of the way to help facilitate open and introspective conversations.

Our conference spanned 12 workshops, breakout sessions, and lightning talks, covering our most requested support, content, and connections from throughout the year. In the afternoon, we featured a fireside chat with Dennis Mortensen of x.ai and Boris Sofman of Ankiand a talk from Nir Eyal on his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products.

We offered tailored tracks for roles in human resources, engineering & data science, and sales in order to provide a space for conversations about challenges, solutions, and goals amongst people doing similar roles across a diverse group of companies. These discussions revolved around a variety of challenges many startups face, including the ins and outs of reliability engineering, how to build and evolve a sales organization, managing a business through cash constraints and pivots, growing your data engineering function in a scalable way, best practices for measuring people analytics for the whole employee lifecycle, among others.

Jordan Wan Provides a Crash Course on How Startups Can Build a High Performing Sales Function

Jordan Wan from CloserIQ kicked off the day with an information-packed presentation about constructing and evolving sales structures. Particularly, he pointed out the do’s and don’ts in talent architecture and sales strategy.

Michael Martin from RapidSOS Discusses How to Access the Right People in the Right Way

Michael stressed the importance of internal advocates at companies where you are seeking a partnership and understanding what potential partners care the most about as well as their weak points. That way, you can make yourself indispensable by offering a solution to their problems.

Brad Wellington and Matt Greenwood of Two Sigma Host a Discussion on Effective Information Streams

Companies of all sizes struggle with calibrating the most effective methods to share different types of information streams, which can range in complexity from a quick text message (“meeting changed to eleven”) to a detailed discussion about company-wide policies. Two Sigma Engineering Manager Brad Wellington and CIO Matt Greenwood shared their extensive experiences with and insights into developing the right communication channels, identifying common trends and behaviors of teams, and figuring out the best way to keep everyone on the same page. Both stressed the importance of critically thinking about what communication tools are most effective in different contexts: “The value of one phone is 0 because it can make no calls to anyone else, so the value of a network is how many people are plugged in.”

A Toasty Fireside Chat with Dennis Mortensen and Boris Sofman on Lessons Learned Along the Way

While AI can sometimes feel like magic, the reality is that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears go into making AI products and experiences. Dennis Mortensen from x.ai and Boris Sofman from Anki discussed the impact of AI on everyday life and their experience as entrepreneurs and experimenters bringing AI products to life. They talked about the challenge of continually adapting products to address customer input and how to educate consumers. Boris and Dennis reflected on their roles as leaders at the companies as well, sharing their thoughts about the importance of managing people effectively with transparency, building trust, and helping employees see a long term career path at the company. They concluded their chat by encouraging people to go for long walks, have lunch with new hires, and actively work on company culture.

Nir Eyal Brings the Summit to a Close with What We Can Learn From Habit-Inducing Companies

Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, closed the Summit with a keynote on the psychology between the human need to seek pleasure, hope and acceptance while avoiding pain, fear and rejection. He showed how many social habit-forming products design for the internal trigger to capitalize on the need to modulate moods.

Overall, it was an inspiring day and a chance to remind ourselves about what a privilege it is to be working with such data-driven teams constantly pushing the envelope. We’re already counting down the days until next year.

The views expressed herein are solely the views of the author(s), are as of the date they were originally posted, and are not necessarily the views of Two Sigma Ventures, LP or any of its affiliates. They are not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment advice.