Combine, Share Knowledge and Conquer Posted at 0:00, Tue, 27 October 2015 in Industry Insights

If you’re a VP, you’ve got enough on your plate to spend sweating the small stuff that others in your position have already solved. Right? Yet time and time again we see closed-up competitive industries leading people to continually reinvent the wheel. So it’s a nice change when you see something bucking the trend.

Enter The Bay Area Operators (The BAO), an intimate group of VPs across business, finance, operations and strategy. They host a bi-monthly in-person catch up, to keep the conversation flowing in between, they’re all involved in what is probably the most active Q&A Google Group forums in existence.

Founded by MitchelLake’s Jamie Ceglarz and Casey Woo from Pantheon, The BAO – a hugely simple yet effective knowledge-sharing group – has been operating for close to 12 months, helping solve issues through other people’s learnings.

We spoke to co-founder Jamie Ceglarz about the inspiration and execution of this group.

Q: Who is The BAO?

Jamie Ceglarz: Casey Woo from Pantheon cofounded The BAO with me. Everyone within the group come from companies that are VC-backed technology companies in The Bay area.

Q: What was the impetus for getting this group up and running?

JC: I’d caught up with folks in my network over a series of coffees – most of these people were ex-bankers or ex-consultants who had turned into operators within tech companies (VP finance, VP strategy, VP operations, VP business) and they all were talking about the issues they needed solving – and the same things kept coming up. So I decided to get them all together for lunch. I shopped the idea around to a few of them beforehand to make sure people were interested, and we found that there was some real interest here.

Q: You’ve spoken about people experiencing the same type of problems: what type of questions are being brought up?

JC: The questions are incredibly varied, but we’ll always find that others have solved similar issues in the past, so the fact they’re vastly different doesn’t matter. Topics and questions have ranged from “what is your paternity policy?” to “how much travel allowance do you give to your sales team?” to “has anyone ever used [XYZ] service provider as we’re thinking of using them” or ”how often does everyone do staff reviews?”

Q: What’s the format of the bi-monthly catch up?

JC: It’s typically a lunch, with rotating hosts. One of the rules of the group is that everyone has to participate, which includes hosting an event.

It’s otherwise pretty informal. We figure out ‘top of mind’ topics in the week leading up to the event, and list them up front at the 90 minute session. People then start spit-balling ideas and the rest takes care of itself. The conversations are always very fluid. Outside of this there is lots of chat between sessions via a Google Group – so people put out topics and try to get other’s 2 cents. Yesterday for example it was “Hey everyone, we need to incorporate in Singapore, does anyone have any suggestions?”.

Q: Why does the group work so well?

JC: I think because everyone is in a similar role, within a similar size / stage company, it means they’re all looking to solve similar issues.

Q: Sounds great! How does one get involved?

JC: We do take on new people but they have to be the right fit. We’ve got a pre-agreed set of criteria to make sure we’re getting the right people in the group who are effective, proactive, involved. We also make sure that everyone agrees to new inclusions. Having said this the group works well because it’s pretty small so everyone is accountable for being involved.

We’re excited to see such collaboration within industry, and we hope that this extends far and wide, allowing people to be more efficient in their role, and focus on the biggest tasks at hand.

To get in touch with Jamie Ceglarz email him on