Work-Bench Spotlight: Kira Colburn on WTF is “Platform?”

Jan 23, 2024
Work-Bench Spotlight: Kira Colburn on WTF is “Platform?”
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Kira is the Head of Platform at Work-Bench. Originally hired as Head of Content, Kira was promoted to Head of Platform in 2022 with an expanded scope of responsibilities across content and community. Prior to that, she led VC accounts out of SparkPR’s NYC office. 

We sat down with her to learn what falls under the purview of “Platform” (hint: its a mishmosh!) and how she leverages these activities to empower pre- and post- investments. Read more below:   

How would you define “platform” in VC and at Work-Bench? 

Over my 6+ years working with and in a VC firm, the "Platform" role has always meant a mishmash of things - everything from portfolio GTM support and recruiting, to event and community planning, to content strategy and execution, to investor relations, to operations management, and so much more. Really anything under the sun.  

To put it simply, at Work-Bench, we're defining it as the strategy, planning, and execution between our two flywheels of content and community. So I lead:

Sounds like a lot. How do you do all of that with a team of just one?

While I'm a Platform team of one, I’m lucky to say (and this is relatively rare!) that my investment team is completely bought into the value content and community brings to our investing and portfolio support strategy. This means, instead of pulling teeth to get new content ideas and get events on the calendar, our investment team is already motivated in executing many of these initiatives with my support. 

But I do have two pieces of advice to fellow Platform people either trying to do it all or being asked to do it all: 

  1. Get your Partners’ buy in first and fast. If your Partner's don’t see the point in posting content and hosting events, your uphill battle just got steeper. While many of these initiatives are hard to calculate in terms of ROI (direct correlation between dollars and time spent, and new investments made), showcase value where you can. Also, one additional trick is to show them what your biggest competitors (similar AUM, geography, investing categories and stages, etc.) are doing well that you’re not. Ie. did they just launch a cool event that's all over social? Or did they just speak on a podcast that’s getting buzz? 
  2. Don’t boil the ocean. You don’t have the bandwidth to help every portfolio company with every GTM, talent, product, and marketing challenge as well as support your own firm. Pick a few key areas that match your expertise / background where you can make the most impact. 

How do you stay competitive with other firms' massive platform engines? 

Building a “Platform” has become a popular way for VC firms to outcompete one another for Term Sheets. And billion dollar, multi-stage firms have scaled their platform teams to dozens of people. What we’ve done as a firm without an infinite marketing budget and scaled out platform team – we focus on going deep in areas we’re exceptional at vs. going broad in areas we’re not well versed in. 

For example, a lot of our content and community events focus on the nitty gritty tactics of GTM at the earliest stages. With a team coming from a background in corporate IT, we are experts in how to navigate the enterprise sales process and use content and events as a way to archive and extend that knowledge to others. 

What’s one thing people might not know about what you do?

Honestly…stalk people online. When I’m looking to source speakers for upcoming events, I need to find people who generally: 

  • Good: NYC based; Have one or more enterprise startup logos on their resume
  • Great: Experience working at enterprise startups at various stages; Have written content on a particular topic relevant to our audience; Have a large social media following 
  • Jackpot: Have spoken at events or podcasts on a particular topic relevant to our audience and are awesome public speakers! 

What we’ve learned is that people can have a great title and company logo on their LinkedIn, and even be exceptional at their job…but that doesn't always translate into being a thoughtful and engaging public speaker. Determining this will either come from knowing the person in real life or seeing them speak at a past event. This work becomes 2x challenging (but also 2x more rewarding!) given we’ve challenged ourselves to always have diverse thought leaders speaking at our events – across gender, race, background, experience level, etc. We really cringe seeing all white “manels.”

‍‍If you’re an early-stage enterprise founder or operator — connect with us directly to chat about anything GTM or check out our events page to stay in the loop on all things happening in the Work-Bench community. ‍

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