June 2, 2020

Venturing into VC

Sarah Leary
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Editor's note: 

Over the last two decades, I’ve built a career around a love of building products that enable communities to do amazing things together. This passion inspired me and my co-founder, Nirav Tolia, to begin the journey to start Nextdoor in 2011. Our founding team recognized that we had distinct social networks in our lives. We had Facebook to connect with friends and family and LinkedIn for our professional connections, but, at the time, there was no solution to help us connect with the part of our lives that is closest to home—our local community, our neighborhood. Turns out we were onto something as building Nextdoor became an incredible journey that touched the lives of tens of millions of people. Over eight years, Nextdoor grew from 176 neighborhoods on the platform to over 250,000 neighborhoods, covering the entire United States, as well as 10 other countries around the globe. 

About a year ago, I stepped away from my day-to-day operating job, moved into a role on the Nextdoor board, and took a deep breath to figure out what was next. Today I’m excited to announce that I will be joining Unusual Ventures as a Venture Partner to help build out their consumer practice.

While building Nextdoor, Nirav and I were fortunate to have advisors along the way who helped us see around corners. Their feedback, support, and insights were invaluable as we built Nextdoor. Now, I want to use those experiences to help the next wave of entrepreneurs. In the past year, I’ve met with dozens of entrepreneurs and quickly realized that working with founders combines my love of building products with my passion for company-building in an exciting new way. Not only did I get a lot of energy from helping founders navigate the often bumpy road of entrepreneurship, but most importantly, these entrepreneurs found it helpful to hear from a fellow founder who could empathize with their journey.  

Around the time, I had breakfast with a college friend who was familiar with my journey and my passion for building companies. By the end of the meal, he suggested I speak to John Vrionis and the team at Unusual. He believed we shared a point of view on how to better help entrepreneurs build meaningful companies and felt there could be a rare opportunity to make an impact at a relatively new firm like Unusual. 

The more I dug into Unusual, the Unusual Method, and got to know the team, I realized their approach aligned with the original goal of venture capital: being a true partner to entrepreneurs and helping founders navigate challenges to increase their odds of success. It was clear that Unusual aimed to be that type of engaged partner for their portfolio companies. Ultimately, it was Unusual’s commitment to founders, their focus on the early stage, and the ability to leverage my expertise as an operator via their hands-on approach that drew me to the firm.

In my new role, I’ll be looking to invest in opportunities that take advantage of the transformative power of the Internet to create new ways to tap into the power of community, marketplaces, and networks in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues. 

Above all, I want to partner with exceptionally driven entrepreneurs who are willing to pour themselves into their vision to make a big impact in the world. The successful entrepreneurs are the ones who combine a steely commitment to their vision combined with the humility to adapt based on feedback and realities. And they have the resilience to persevere even when confronted with the countless adversities that arise on the entrepreneurial journey.

In my experience, there’s no substitute for a trusted coach who can share their own experiences and advice for the critical aspects of company-building. Having someone who has lived the journey and who understands the entrepreneurial roller coaster is invaluable. I am looking forward to partnering with a new wave of founders seeking a true partner on their own journey.

Connect with Sarah on Twitter and LinkedIn

Forbes shares more on Sarah’s move to Unusual

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