How Camille Ricketts is Building a How-To Manual for Startups by Jenna Abdou


One of the most impactful insights I’ve learned from The First Round Review stemmed from Heidi Roizen when she urged an audience of Stanford students to leave room for good and random things to happen to them. 

Heidi, an investor at DFJ Venture, is one of Camille Ricketts' idols who wrote the piece, “8 Rare Gems from Heidi Roizen on Building a Fulfilling Life and Career,” simply because the presentation inspired her. 

Heidi learned of the piece and invited Camille to take a walk with her around her neighborhood. An experience Camille describes as surreal. 

I completely understand Camille’s thrill walking in the suburbs of Silicon Valley with Heidi and her dog. It’s exactly how I felt when I had the opportunity to interview Camille on 33founders. 

Camille is the Head of Content and Marketing at First Round Capital, where she heads the firm's efforts to empower entrepreneurs to lead smarter companies. She serves as The Editor of the The First Round Review, a career and life changing resource for anyone working in business. 

If you follow me on Twitter or frequent '33voices Things We Love,' it’s no secret that I love The First Round Review. Thus spending time with the writer who’s enabling me to reach my career goals is exactly how she described it, surreal.

Camille’s favorite interview question is, “What didn’t I ask you that I should have?” The mystery impending the open-ended request is exactly what Heidi urges us to do - Let good and random things happen. 

Experimentation is Camille’s guiding principle for The Review, where the team’s ultimate mission is to deliver “actionable and tactile insights for readers to change their careers.”

By allowing each guest to dive into his or her area of expertise, Camille is uncovering the cultural, engineering, and launching strategies behind companies like Slack, Medium, and Airbnb. 

The same level of experimentation guides each of the leaders she features on The First Round Review; A fearless, bull-headed notion that nothing is ever as good as it could be. 

The drive to unveil life-changing content is undoubtedly a big one and reflects the attitude Camille developed during her time working at Tesla Motors: Play every game like it's championship game. 

The company had so many eyeballs on it. To be the outward facing person for this company that everybody in the world was watching, there was just no room for error. That’s something that we all took as our main directive: All it requires is perfection.

Camille on her time working at Tesla.

Camille’s pursuit of perfection leading The First Round Review reflects the advice Ann Miura-Ko’s, the Co-Founder of Floodgate, father gave her before her first day of work as a research assistant at Yale: “Remember to be world class.”

From sharing Slack’s “epic launch strategy" to explaining why founders should care about happiness,  everything Camille does is world class. 

For those aspiring to do the same, her strategy is simple: Be guided by a single thesis in everything you do. 

First Round is relentless that “every article somebody reads should leave them with something that they can do today or immediately to change their career or change their work.”

This relentless intent inspires Camille to improve her interviewing and writing skills to uncover the most intricate and telling parts of founders' stories. 

Her process is best described as collaborative, an approach that’s rarely so immersive in the journalism world. She starts with an introductory call with founders, CTOs, and design leads. Next, she sends them questions to review before their official conversation. Then, prior to the piece being published, her guests review it to ensure that it’s as action-oriented as possible.  

The most impactful part of The First Round Review is Camille’s ability to underlie engaging stories with actionable ‘how-to’ steps to work smarter. Before you know it, you’ll have a list of notes on how to hire sales people, conserve money, and lead an engineering team. Personally I have a list of hundreds of notes I reference before each of my interviews. Camille has singlehandedly changed my career. 

Camille’s storytelling ability isn’t rooted in an innate skill to deliver incredible advice in 30 minutes. In fact, she experiences the same heart pounding, get ready to run feeling each time the dreaded blinking cursor prompts her to start her next piece.

Instead of succumbing to the taunting cursor, Camille eliminates the pressure by opening both documents - the interview transcript and a blank page - and copying every insight, she calls them  ‘gems,’ that can be helpful for a reader to take action.

The intermediate step serves as a path to a story’s core message, which shapes itself with each insight copied onto the page. It’s dipping your toes in the water instead diving head first into the waves (or getting thrown in by your abnormally large little brother - Thanks, Adam).

Most importantly, Camille follows Happy Brain Science’s founder Scott Crabtree’s advice to work for 20 minutes to get into a state of flow. 

The diversity of articles is what I love most about First Round Review. Whether you’re reading Elle Luna’s “The Crossroads of Should and Must” or First Round’s latest “Bureaucracy Isn’t Inevitable — Here’s How Airbnb Beat It.” I urge you to read the Review and see how it changes the way you live and work. 

Spending time with Camille made me feel like I was the Pee Wee quarterback passing with NFL legend Peyton Manning. It may sound trivial, but I urge each of you to reach out to your heroes. You never know if they’ll respond. 

To learn more about Camille’s work leading The First Round Review tune into her episode of 33founders, follow her on Twitter, and start reading here.  

Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss: 
  • How to conduct open-ended interviews 
  • Simple tactics for writers to get into a state of flow 
  • Why saying 'yes' shaped Camille’s career 
  • The key lessons she learned during her time at Tesla Motors 


Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Michael Serbinis: What I've Learned — Visionary Entrepreneur, investor and CEO and Founder of the new healthcare startup, LEAGUE, Michael Serbinis shares what he learned building three disruptive startups, selling two of them and working with Kimbal and Elon Musk.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.


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