The Other Side of the Table | Why I’m Joining Correlation Ventures

When I was 19 years old, I met Pau Sabria, the Co-Founder and CEO of Olapic, over Skype. I was a Sophomore at the University of Michigan with very few hard skills, no background in computer science, and a schedule that contained far too many time slots devoted to selling Spring Break trips, organizing fraternity parties, and launching new nightlife alternatives to the “rah-rah” college community of Ann Arbor.

I guess what Pau saw in me was the desire to learn, the hunger to make an impact at a young age, and the strong intuition that was driving me to reject a job offer at a proprietary trading firm in NYC, and (somewhat) blindly dive into a young startup, with hopes of finding meaning in my work.

I spent Summer 2012 working with Pau and his team, and focused the majority of my efforts on exploring a new idea. We hypothesized that it would be powerful to offer the opportunity for online retailers to use Olapic’s technology in order to leverage customer activity and user-generated content to increase conversion rates and sales. During that summer, it seemed as though we, as a team, reached an inflection point, and, from there, it “clicked” for Olapic. The company has since raised $21mm, opened offices in London and Argentina, and recently completed its first major acquisition.

Needless to say, after my experience with Olapic, I was addicted to the startup world. Feeling as though I was “a part of the mix” provided me with a burst of dopamine and a sense of value and self-worth. I mean, I was a teenager who had been given the opportunity to help a company through a major pivot that inevitably resulted in true product market fit. I don’t know many people who can confidently say that.

As my momentum was building, I did not look back. I was determined to continue to tap into the NYC tech ecosystem. I wanted to do it all. I had ambitions of starting my own company one day. I had dreams of being an investor and an advisor one day. I wanted to learn everything I could wrap my head around and meet every smart person that would answer my cold calls and emails.

Now that you all know where the spark that ignited my involvement in NYC tech stems from, I’ll wrap up the next 4 years of my life, education, and career into a few bullet points:

  • I started my first two internet businesses while completing my BBA at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and learned how hard it is to build, scale, and sell both consumer and enterprise-facing platforms
  • I spent a summer at Insight Venture Partners and learned about growth-stage investing
  • I spent a summer at Metamorphic Ventures and learned about early-stage investing
  • I joined Mighty after graduation and learned how to rigorously experiment, fail, learn, and scale successes at a complex FinTech startup that is “doing well by doing good”
  • I met and learned from world-class mentors who continue to guide me professionally and socially through the early years of my career. I’d like to particularly shout out my friends, Randy Brandoff, Pau Sabria, Josh Nussbaum, and Ben Lerer. I’ve observed, with keen focus, each of you on the court, and it has truly helped me up my own game!

I met the Correlation Ventures team in March of this year, having previously learned about the firm due to its participation in Casper’s seed round in 2014. Once I discovered that the team was looking for an Associate to join them (shout out to John Gannon’s site) in an effort to bridge the gap between Correlation’s presence on the West Coast and the fervor and energy in the startup ecosystem in NYC and the broader East Coast, I knew that it would be a tremendous fit on both sides of the equation.

David Coats, Trevor Kienzle, and the rest of the Correlation team members are prime examples of what it means to have transitioned from entrepreneurs and operators to Venture Capitalists.

David founded Spine Wave, was the Director of Business Development at UroMed Corporation (URMD), and has served on the Board of PhotoThera, Transcept (NASDAQ: TSPT), and Egea Biopharmaceuticals (Acquired by Johnson&Johnson). He has also served as Managing Director of Hamilton BioVentures, Venture Partner at Windamere Venture Partners, and President of Forge Medical Ventures.

Trevor was Co-Founder and CFO of Loans USA (acquired by Mariner Finance), and has since served as Managing Director of Newbury Ventures, and Vice President at GE Equity, where he led investments in Okena (acquired by Cisco), Secureworks (acquired by Dell), and RSA Security (RSAS) (successful PIPE investment, acquired by EMC), and co-led an investment in Netscreen (NSCN, acquired by Juniper).

As graduates of Harvard Business School, David and Trevor, identified a hole and significant pain point in the startup ecosystem. The team recognized that a lot of great CEOs attract a VC firm to lead their round, and subsequently fill out the remainder of the round with other investors. Entrepreneurs are thus stuck in a slow cycle of repeat due diligence, renegotiation of terms, and slow investment decisions, which results in their teams spending too much time in “limbo”.

Correlation Ventures is focused on being the “dream co-investor” for teams looking to fill out a round. David and Trevor invested years building one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of venture capital financings that tracks everything from financing details, investors, board members, and management, to industry segments, business stages, and exits. This data has been used to create a powerful predictive model to make smarter and quicker “yes or no” investment decisions, without dragging a team through repetitive due diligence. Correlation truly helps entrepreneurs and their armies finalize rounds quickly so they can get back to building rockstar businesses.

The Correlation portfolio is made up of companies such as Casper, Upstart, Trumaker, and Earnest. We are clearly off to a great start, and I look forward to entering into the NYC and East Coast startup ecosystems with open arms and ears, both learning from and providing tangible and actionable value to the amazing entrepreneurs, operators, and other early stage investors that make up the community.

I couldn’t be more excited to join the squad, which invests nationally from offices in the Bay Area and San Diego. As an individual who has benefitted tremendously from the candor, guidance, and advice of others, I, along with the Correlation team, hope to pay it forward and deliver the same levels of assistance, transparency, and positivity to other members of our world.

We invest across all industry segments and investment stages, from seed through late stage, so if you or somebody you know is building a really interesting business, I would love to connect!

Cheers to the future.

Jake