Anchor List: Yael Cohen, VP Pet & Life at Lemonade

The Anchor List recognizes extraordinary operators in the startup ecosystem. Learn more at anchorlist.com

In highlighting our Anchor List 2020 honorees, the first operations executive we’d like to spotlight is Yael Cohen for her exemplary business leadership as Lemonade’s VP of Business Operations & Analytics. Since she was first recognized on the Anchor List, Yael has taken on the new role of VP, Pet & Life, leading Lemonade’s newest insurance product lines.

“The right people for Biz Ops are both strategic and operational, and are eager to get things done. They’re crucial for every organization due to their unique ability to see both the big picture, while mastering the details.” -Yael Cohen

Originally on the partnership track at a top management consultancy, Yael joined the digital-first insurance company Lemonade only several months after its founding in 2015. She started at Lemonade as the company’s first Head of Business Operations, and her responsibilities included both typical “BizOps” functions like strategic planning and what the company calls its “special operations” (a task force aimed at finding potential areas for impact in the company and executing on them).

For example, under Yael’s leadership, her team:

  • Helped establish the KPIs that measure customer facing teams’ success and efficiency

  • Led cross functional efforts to attract less risky customers to optimize for healthy customer growth

  • Developed and scaled the OKR program as the main framework for company-wide strategic planning

In one particularly impressive effort, Yael’s team recommended Lemonade’s first product line after its initial renters and home—pet health insurance—which Yael now leads in her new role.

When chatting to those interested in operations, Yael recommends fighting the urge to build one robust solution to solve it all.

“It’s hard to fight the drive to fix everything. If you do everything at once, you’re effectively spreading yourself too thin and missing the opportunity to gain velocity. So when new information comes in, and impact is proven to be elsewhere, you can course-correct quickly and effectively. That’s the only way to run an agile organization. Instead of solving every problem, we apply the 80-20 rule, focusing on impact while finding the quick wins by automating repetitive processes.”

Lemonade’s Business Operations team is tasked with taking the founders’ strategic north star and direction, and formulating it into objectives and key results (OKRs) for the company. 

This OKR strategic planning process creates objective ways to measure success, and forces periodic check-ins for teams to align. Each quarter, the Business Operations team translates the founders’ strategy into OKRs, and iterates on the high-level objectives with Lemonade’s global department heads. Then, the team shares the specifics of these OKRs with different teams within the company, while reviewing the previous quarterly results. Yael is a strong proponent of the OKR process, citing its ability to balance top-down and bottom-up design, and allows for a quick course-correction when needed. Plus, she notes the transparency and efficiency of the process, which avoids lengthy planning processes and “design by committee.”

Since being featured in the 2020 Anchor List, Yael helped IPO the company alongside its founders and CFO. Early in 2021, Yael took on the leadership of Lemonade’s two new business lines - Lemonade Pet (Pet Health insurance for cats and dogs) and Lemonade Life (term life insurance). 

Both in her professional role and personally, Yael has impressed us by her drive to set large goals and execute on them. She has formed elegant, reliable systems that promote team prosperity while also solving precise, thorny problems.