Elaine Russell is a Partner with PLG Ventures, a leading early-stage family office venture capital firm providing pre-seed and seed capital to technology startups. A founder-turned-investor herself, she has a knack for discovering passionate founders innovating incredible products. Elaine gave us a closer look at her day-to-day life — including her main gig as a mom of three — and the essentials she depends on each day.
I take my laptop everywhere I go. It’s probably older than it should be — I got it during the first iteration of Macbook Pros being available in various colors. So, why choose silver when you can choose gold? My iPhone lives in my bag, too, of course. My phone is actually the gold version as well, but I've dropped it so many times, as have my children, so I now have a big bulky case on it. It really defeats the whole purpose of having a pretty phone because you can't see it! My Airpods are vital, too.
I am a huge list person. I make lists for myself. I make lists for my husband. I make lists for our nanny. When my kids are a little older, I’m sure they will have their own lists as well. Mine usually consist of 75 percent work and 25 percent personal stuff. Sometimes I make lists on paper, but I often use my phone — mostly on Wunderlist. It’s an amazing app to help you stay organized. I use it to keep our household on track, tracking things that I need to buy for the house, a list for groceries, reminders of birthday presents for upcoming parties on our calendar. It's especially helpful because you can share the to-dos amongst the family with a feature allowing you to assign things to different people.
My wallet and car keys. I keep a great Bobbi Brown nude lip color in here, too. I always carry around food of some sort, as well — usually snacks to entertain my children at any given time. We run a busy ship over here. Part of my life is my career; we have 40 portfolio companies. We work fairly hands-on with all of them and talk to hundreds and hundreds of companies a year. Ultimately, we’re in the business of helping entrepreneurs.
My other life is at home with my kids. I have a 6-year-old daughter, a 4-year-old son, and an infant son. Everything I do is based around efficiency. My husband kind of makes fun of me for this, mostly surrounding the fact that he's never witnessed me watch a TV show without being on my computer, my phone, or simply not watching it at all. I rarely turn on the TV myself — maybe once a week. When it is on, it’s true, I'm getting something else done at the same time.
That’s not to say that I am just too important for TV; it’s more that, for me personally, it did not make indulging a priority in the last year. Some people choose TV. It's not for me. There's definitely a lot of prioritization that happens in my life around where I spend my time and where I need to spend more time. In terms of priorities, first and foremost? My kids. Making sure that I'm present. I don't have the luxury of being around all day every day because I did make the choice to have a career and be away from them at times, but they still get plenty of attention. They are without a doubt my number one priority.
Second is just keeping the household running. It sounds silly, but that's another job in itself — making sure that sports practices are set up, that dinner is organized every day, that playdates are on the calendar, that everybody knows what they need to do and where they need to be. Also, that our kids are being challenged academically, but also socially and emotionally, and just having fun and enjoying their youth. Surprisingly enough, all of that takes a lot of logistics and coordination. Part of the solution is having a village around you — it can't all fall on you alone. We have great people in our life that help us — my husband is very involved and we have a support system that includes excellent childcare.
Next is definitely my career, which is very important to me, right after my family. It's something that I've prioritized my whole life and something I plan to continue focusing on. I spent ten years on the other side as a founder, so being on the venture side of the equation has been really fulfilling. It’s all about adding value for entrepreneurs, whether that be through funding or trying to work with them directly to have an impact within their companies.
We focus heavily on organizational behavior, which means we try to get involved with early-stage startups, creating value through mentoring and advising around four different pillars, one of which is leadership development. At the end of the day, the happiness and success of a company comes from the leadership. The second is retaining top talent; helping them understand how to keep the amazing people within their company happy. The third is co-founder relationships. It really is similar to a marriage and, like any marriage, you need to work on it. The last pillar is building company culture: helping founding teams focus on this and remain cognizant of the importance of a strong culture.
I don't take enough time for indulgence. I used to read a lot. Now, I spend a lot of time decorating our house — I don't know if that is truly indulging because it can also be a point of frustration. We’ve been working on a home renovation which has been a major project over the last couple of years. So spending time outfitting and decorating our house has been a nice creative outlet.
What would I like to indulge in, though? I used to be an equestrian, so riding horses was a huge part of my life. I was on the Olympic track in my youth, but I haven't ridden a long time. I’d love to pick it back up as a hobby, especially now that I live in LA where there are horses and great farms in close proximity — it would be easy to join a stable and start riding again. But, as you can imagine, riding is a very time-consuming sport.
Want to learn more about Elaine? Follow her on Instagram @mygraybird.