Jessica Livingston is perhaps a less known co-founder of Y Combinator. She writes an interesting post on her story of growing up and co-founding YC.
I find it interesting, because she stated that people would often ask her what her role was as the only non-technical co-founder. Maybe she got asked this because she was a woman, or because she was non-technical, or as below is noted - she didn’t seek fame. Who knows.
However, as I was reading her post it became clear to me she was/is a community builder. She doesn’t call herself that. Maybe she doesn’t relate to it. But all the things she mentions that she did was about community building.
Please forgive me if I say stupid things, the below is purely observations from her blog post. Whilst I’ve followed YC on and off over the years, I really don’t class myself as someone who knows the ins and out of the YC world.
I see Jessica as a community builder because she:
- ran errands that needed to be ran, as is needed in any startup. This, of course, isn’t specific for a community builder role. But great community builders do what it takes to get the community off the ground.
- brought people together: “I had to set up Paul’s small office building in Cambridge to be our weekly dinner gathering space for 25 people.”
- did what she could to help the community. “I also had to learn quickly about how to advise them on filling everything out, so they wouldn’t have to pay any legal fees.”
- was organized. “ I was the only one of us organized enough to make all that stuff happen.”
- called herself the social radar. She had non-technical skills her founders didn’t have. “ I looked at qualities of the applicants my cofounders couldn’t see.”
- consciously tried to form a positive YC culture. “I always tried to create an asshole-free culture.”
- had the best interest at heart for YC’s community of founders. “We had to judge the founders not by what they were, but what they could turn into.”
- brought people together through events. “Another secret weapon of mine that was strangely well-suited to Y Combinator was that I was a very experienced event planner.”
- showed she cared. “Probably the thing that was most different about YC as an investment firm was that it felt like a family. And I was its mom;”
- was clear that money was not the main motivation factor. “One other thing Paul and I had in common was that we weren’t driven by money. We were interested in startups and we wanted to help people start more of them”
- didn’t care about fame or personal brand, her focus was on making a difference to the startup world. “I also never cared much about fame. Or my personal “brand”. I just wanted Y Combinator to succeed.”
All the kind of things above are things that I can personally relate to as a community builder. All so often Founders are Community Builders, whether they explicitly state it or not. The skill to build communities is powerful and all too often brushed aside as unimportant. Jessica is one example of how important the role can be.