Meet First Round’s Newest Partner: Cristina Cordova, a Seasoned Company Builder From Stripe & Notion
Why this business generalist and operator-turned-investor is the partner founders need in their corner.
By: The First Round Partnership
When we posted that we were opening up our partner hiring process for the first time in 2020, we started off by noting that we don’t hire partners often. Venture is a team sport, and we’ve found that a small, tight-knit and focused partnership is the best way to operate. After six months of intensive recruiting, we were delighted to bring Meka Asonye on board as a partner in early 2021.
But our work wasn’t complete. We spent much of the past year continuing with that process, still seeking to add another teammate. As we met with candidates, we were looking for someone capable of ticking several boxes. We focus on investing at the very earliest stages, so we needed a partner who was incredibly fired up about — and experienced in — that initial leg of the company building journey. Our aim is for First Round to be the best partner in the world for founders who are just getting started. In order to achieve that, it’s critical to bring on a partner who can dive in from Day 1 to help increase the odds that a startup will become a generational company.
Ultimately, we’re looking for a person who the very best founders in the world want in their corner, someone they can call on to help them make their first hires, build their first product and find their first customers. Today, we’re thrilled to give a final update in this search and share that Cristina Cordova has joined as First Round’s newest Partner.
Cristina has established herself as a seasoned company builder and one of the most admired angel investors around — which is how our paths first intersected. Early on in her investing journey, she joined the 2019 spring cohort of Angel Track, and we’ve been big fans of hers ever since.
That’s because a career like Cristina’s is rare. As both a repeat early startup hire and a key senior leader, she’s worked at a collection of standout tech companies, developing expertise that spans several functions and industries. It’s actually challenging to find the right words to describe her operating experience — there’s not one label or title that fully captures the way she’s straddled the business, product, and technical sides of company building. (For a preview of some of the lessons she picked up along the way, be sure to check out her advice on The Review this week.)
Cristina got her start as a business generalist, going on to craft a specialty in partnerships. She joined Pulse (which was acquired by LinkedIn) as the startup’s first hire. She then kicked off what would be an over 7-year stint at Stripe, joining as their 28th employee when the team was mostly engineers.
Driving significant user growth and payments volume, Cristina went on to build out Stripe’s partnership team from the ground up. Like the best startup leaders, she also became adept at filling in gaps as the organization grew rapidly, taking on everything from leading engineering teams, to spearheading diversity and inclusion initiatives. For her final chapter at Stripe, Cristina headed up a new business unit, leading the teams that built new financial products, such as the corporate card and banking-as-a-service offerings.
After leaving Stripe in 2020, Cristina returned to her early-stage roots and joined a startup she’d angel invested in: Notion. As proud early supporters of the company, we were thrilled when Cristina came on board to lead Platform & Partnerships, as well as the growth product team. In this role, she built new business functions from scratch, made critical hires, and managed the launch of Notion’s API, third-party embeds and integration efforts.
Since leaving Notion last summer, Cristina has spent the better of the year ramping up her angel investing and advising. Since joining Angel Track, her personal portfolio has grown to include more than 50 startups. (She’s advised and invested in companies like Alloy, Canva, and Stytch, even co-investing alongside First Round in 8 startups.)
There aren’t too many angel investors operating at that scale, so this track record provided a rare opportunity to evaluate her judgment, unique network, and founder service up close. Cristina has backed a broad range of companies, but she’s particularly skilled at parlaying her expertise in SaaS, fintech and developer tools into helping founders in those spaces.
After getting to know her better and speaking with those who’ve worked with her over the years, we became convinced that Cristina’s operating experience would be a tremendous asset, both for First Round and for any founder who adds her to their cap table. Here’s why:
- Her experience with the nuts and bolts of company building: At her core, Cristina is an operator with deep early-stage roots, which we firmly believe makes for the best investors. She has always gravitated towards the 0 to 1 opportunities, even in the context of working at one of tech’s biggest companies. Whether you’re making your first ops hire and crafting your initial product marketing strategy, or spinning up a new business unit and wrestling with how to re-org, Cristina has been in your shoes recently. No matter if you need a sounding board as you iterate toward product/market fit, help “with the business side of things,” or support as you manage through hypergrowth, she’ll always have incredibly tactical advice.
- The way she bridges the technical and the business: “Cristina is a rare breed who is respected by engineers and can also talk to business folks. She is extremely good at understanding something technical and then translating that knowledge into something that someone non-technical can understand.” This comment from one of her former colleagues when we were doing references says it all.
- Her relentless drive: As we wrote in our Partner JD, we were looking for “someone with a competitive streak and intense work ethic.” Cristina has that quality in spades. She’s cemented a reputation as one of the hardest working and most impactful operators out there. Time and time again, we heard feedback along these lines: “She is one of those most productive people I’ve ever worked with. She is relentless and has an intense desire to win.”
- Her commitment to making the ecosystem better: We were perhaps struck most by this piece of feedback from her references: “At her core, she’s a very, very good and kind person.” Examples like how she routinely offers free chats with people who are early in their careers stand out to us here. Cristina’s default is to generously share what she’s learned, whether it’s offering advice on how to get started with angel investing or dropping pearls of partnership wisdom on an early episode of our podcast. Given our aim to open-source company building knowledge on The Review, and increase development opportunities through programs like Fast Track, we know she’ll fit right in on the First Round team.
As we’ve been slowly making our return back to the office, it’s been incredible to work together in person and see the impact Cristina is already having on the First Round team and community. We are convinced that she’ll be an incredible partner, especially for technical founders and builders in the SaaS, fintech and developer tools space — and we could not be more excited to welcome her to First Round’s investment team.