Welcoming Caroline Toch, Operating Principal

Tell us about your professional journey and what led you to DRF.

I started my career in the world of student entrepreneurship at Venture for America, a non-profit organization that connects recent college graduates with startups in emerging tech ecosystems across the country. In my time there, I became embedded in the college entrepreneurial landscape and by the end of my tenure was running VFA’s national on-campus recruitment efforts.

After VFA, I joined Techstars in 2018 as the ops lead of their first crypto program. I’m immensely grateful for my experience at Techstars as it introduced me to a population of humans whom I adore and am so excited to be working with again: founders!

Having worked on talent, investing, and portfolio support at that point, I realized that while I had operated around early stage companies in different ways, I had never actually worked at one myself. I wanted to walk the walk—so I joined Chief as the 20th employee back in 2019 as an operations generalist. At the time, Chief was a growing New York-based women’s professional network. It is now a billion dollar company with over 12,000 members nationwide. I was lucky to spend time at Chief across operations and product, building digital tools and experiences for a thriving community.

I’ve seen firsthand the ability of a well-harnessed community to move the needle for its members—whether that be a cohort of recent grads at Venture for America, a set of early-stage startups at Techstars, or a female executive at Chief.

What does being an operator at Dorm Room Fund look like?

There are so many stakeholders that make the Dorm Room Fund ecosystem successful—from our student investment teams, to our founders, and the team here at HQ. It’s my job to make sure these folks have the tools they need to be successful in supporting our mission of backing the best student founders.  

One of the things I’m particularly excited to work on is helping our alumni continue to support the DRF ecosystem. Today, 78% of DRF alumni are either institutional investors or founders themselves. They have so much to offer to our current investment partners and founders, and I’m looking forward to threading that needle.

What is one piece of advice you have for community builders looking to cultivate strong networks?

This seems obvious, but relationships are a two-way street! Nobody likes to only hear from you when you need something. Consistently contributing in ways that are mutually beneficial is how we are able to move the entire startup ecosystem along.

You’ve worked in organizations with vastly different structures, missions, and people. Are there any operating principles in managing organizational dynamics that apply across all different types of companies?

Trust is a key part of any successful working relationship, and the way that trust is built is with follow-through. Do what you say you will do (and do it well) and be transparent about where you have gaps (we all do!).

Another principle that I learned early in my career is to “BGH” aka to be-generally-helpful. Everyone has their own work to do, but at the end of the day you are working on a team. Within any organization, there’s a group of people who consistently BGH—you know who you are—be that person!

What is an underrated aspect in a startup’s success?

This can be easy to forget when you’re in the midst of company building, but ultimately the people make the company. And that’s particularly true at the earliest stages. Tactically speaking, early-stage startups often make the mistake of deprioritizing their initial people/culture hire because it seems like a nice to have. It is not! Behind every KPI is a human who is doing the work. Make sure they’re supported, and everyone will be better off—bottom-line included.

Outside of work, what are you passionate about?

I love camp! I spent my summers in the middle of nowhere (but really…without electricity or hot water) at an all-girls summer camp that was an incredibly formative part of my childhood.

While some of the skills I gained at camp haven’t translated to the professional world (ex. s’mores creation) much of them have—particularly resilience, how public speaking, and leading from behind.

Any final thoughts?

This is SUCH a special community—I’m eager to learn, excited to contribute, and thrilled to sneakily import the best of the many amazing communities I’ve been a part of over the years. And we’re just getting started! There are lots of exciting things on the horizon. 

Written by Editor in Chief Andrew Xu. Thumbnail created by Head of Design Raymond Banke. More updates on our TwitterMedium, and newsletter. Founders, apply for an investment from us. 🚀

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