4 Mushy Takeaways from 6 Months in Venture Capital
As I sit here in our Corigin meditation room, listening to the “Peaceful Indie Ambient” playlist and inhaling the amazing oil diffuser citrus fumes, I find it hard to figure out where to start. I’ve been waiting a while before writing a first blog post; mostly because I have no idea what I’d want to say and if I even have anything someone might find worthwhile of reading. In light of this, I’m going to start at the beginning. I’ll make this like a first diary entry.
I started in venture almost exactly 6 months ago, at the end of July, 2015. I hustled my way into a job that would start after completing my MBA at Wharton. This is not a unique story, and I’m positive people have gone to crazier lengths for one of these coveted positions. The night before I started working, I couldn’t sleep. I remember rehearsing over and over in my head what I’d do and say the next day. When I woke up, I couldn’t eat anything. I hadn’t been this nervous for the start of a job in…. ever. I rationalized that I was particularly nervous because I was leaving the comforts of school, and was off to “conquer” the world after gaining my prized MBA. The truth is that I was nervous because I’d never really liked anything. I came from the banking world, with 2 internships and 4 years under my belt. It’s understandable that I didn’t really belong in banking. But then I worked at a start-up in the summer of my MBA, and I hadn’t really liked that either, and there are various other reasons for that, for another blog post. I had contemplated going to a hedge fund. Ultimately, I surmised that VC would be a better fit for me. This first day carried a lot of weight then — it was the beginning of another chance. At the ripe old age of 28, I was trying something new that I just hoped I would like a little bit.
Thankfully, my first day was a huge success. I promptly ate lunch once I calmed down and got in the swing of the day’s activities. I have my team to thank for that. Not only am I in an incredible industry, but I’m surrounded by truly amazing people. These are people who teach me, forgive me, question me and thank me. What more could anyone want for their first foray into a new career?
With this, I want to reflect on some of the “mushier” things I’ve learned (and not learned) from the past six months.
One. Intuition and instinct aren’t made overnight, they’re made through experience and observation.
I thought when I started that I had to have this killer gut instinct. This is a do-or-die kind of industry where a couple big bets can make you a rockstar. I wanted to be (and still do) this hotshot with a killer instinct for winning companies. But I’ve realized after a couple months that being thrown into meetings means I’ll have a hunch, and sometimes a ton of conviction for a company, but not all the time. I can’t go into a first meeting and decide in five minutes whether it’s the next Facebook or not. And I’ll become ok with this.
Two. Impatience is a good thing.
Along with the point above, I wanted to be a rockstar out of the gate. This can’t happen. It takes a broad network, the right people and mentors, and a bit of luck to become truly stellar and gain a phenomenal track record. But that’s ok. My impatience to want to be successful right away is what’s made me go to those networking events on Mondays when I’m tired from a long weekend. And they’ve made me take those meetings that are 25 minutes away when it’s raining outside. Exposure is everything.
Three. There’s a lot more you don’t know, and you don’t even know what you don’t know.
Talk about a tongue-twister! I was very aware that I didn’t know much six months ago, but I wanted to fake it and pretend I knew everything. Or at least try and ask the smarter questions. I realize that I don’t know a ton of things, and I’m not even aware of some of the things I need to learn! But now I can ask more questions. It’s ok if you don’t know every startup and you don’t know every single vertical and their valuation metrics. Ask questions, look stupid, that’s how you learn. Then, someone will probably tell you a little tidbit you weren’t even aware to ask about.
Four. People are so much less scary than we all think, especially the really important people.
Since VC is all about networking and making connections, it’s important to find ways to meet new people. Most of the time, and this is the beauty of the New York VC scene at least, they’re totally interested in meeting with you. You never know where a cold email can get you — hey, it got me this job! I wasn’t going to email Joanne Wilson because I thought she’d be too busy for me. On the suggestion of a colleague, I tried. She responded in ten minutes, and we had a meeting setup. Voila. Most people want to meet new people too, and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
If you’re new to VC, or any industry really, and have some insights into what you think has been truly valuable, please drop me a line and let me know. Tweet me, email me, call me — I’ll answer all of them, and probably re-post some of the responses!
I’m also pretty outgoing and love eating, so let’s get a meal together. Cheers!
Follow me on twitter: @clairefauquier