Core Partner Spotlight: Douglas Kim, MIT Media Lab Fellow

At Underscore VC, we believe it takes a community to build an enduring, iconic company. That’s where the Underscore Core and our Core Partners come in. In this series, we’re featuring a handful of our Core Partners, sharing their insights, and describing their impact. Read on to learn more.

With his decades of experience as an executive operator, co-founder, and advisor to entrepreneurs, Douglas Kim has been a truly impactful Core Partner to Underscore portfolio company Forge AI.

“Douglas is deeply reflective, experienced, and gracious with his time,” says Jim Crowley, Co-founder and CEO of Forge.AI. “He has been instrumental in helping Forge design the framework we use to close sales with key executives at some of the largest financial institutions in the world. Without his advice, we would not have landed some of our key customers.”

What’s a Core Partner? Core Partners work closely with Underscore VC to help source investment opportunities and/or advise portfolio companies. In return, Core Partners receive “Core Allocations,” a portion of Underscore’s returns on the company via an interest grant in our Core Fund. That means incentives are aligned for productive relationships—at zero cost to our founders.

These partners are hugely valuable. In this brief Q&A, Douglas shares insights from his many years of experience working with startups.

When Customer Traction Stalls

Q: In advising startups, what are you asked most often? How do you answer?

A: I’m most often asked: I had some early customer traction, but now things have slowed/stalled—what do I need to change?

My answer: You must diagnose and address three typical issues. Are the right people in the right roles? Do you have the right customer acquisition and value delivery process? Has the market shifted faster than your ability to respond?

Determination or Delusion?

Q: What’s something you’ve learned about risk-taking?

A: Learn quickly and adjust accordingly. There is a bright line between dogged determination and delusion—learn to spot it fast.

Constant Iteration

Q: What’s one thing you think all startup founders should understand?

A: What got you to where you are today (people, process, and systems), will not likely take you to where you need to go. Be prepared to accelerate your learning loops.

A Highlight as a Core Partner

Q: What was most memorable about working with Forge?

A: During their most difficult times, the grit to persevere.

Interested in our Core Partner program? Learn more about the Underscore Core and our programs here.