Fulfilling a Passion for Helping Entrepreneurs
Harvard Business School 2020 candidate Al Yang shares his experience interning with Comcast Ventures
When you think of venture capital, the theme of “family” doesn’t usually come to mind. For Al Yang, family and relationships are everything. After college, his brother convinced him to abandon his childhood dreams of playing poker full time so that they could start companies together. So he earned a CPA and then co-founded an education technology startup with his brother and a few close friends.
They ran their startup from the living room of a small house in Phoenix, Arizona, sharing one bathroom and one bedroom between the eight of them, and creating a whole lot of great memories in the process. After securing a Series A round of funding, Al’s wife entered a surgery residency program in New York City. After much deliberation, he left his startup family to be with her and applied his accounting, finance, and startup skills at an investment bank focused on the technology space. Working closely with entrepreneurs, he discovered that building relationships while building companies was his passion.
That’s how Al came to Comcast Ventures for a summer internship at our office in Santa Monica. Here’s Al’s perspective on being part of the team!
Why are you interested in venture capital and why Comcast Ventures?
I find passion in working with entrepreneurs and helping them fulfill their missions. I heard about the internship opportunity from Andy Cao, a Principal who joined the firm in part because of the advantages that come with having affiliation with Comcast NBCUniversal. I met Andy when I was the sell-side banker on a cybersecurity deal, and he was the VP on the buyside. We became friends after that deal and I reached out to him to learn more about Comcast Ventures. He provided me with candid insights about the firm and the advantages of having a major telecom, media, technology, and entertainment corporate make early stage investments. The variety of sectors that the firm invests in was also intriguing.
However, what sealed the deal for me was an interaction with Dinesh Moorjani, a Managing Director at Comcast Ventures and an HBS Alum. I had heard of Dinesh as a case protagonist for an Entrepreneurship class at HBS, so I did my homework before meeting him. He was the co-founder of Tinder, former CEO/co-founder of Hatch Labs, Executive in Residence at Warburg Pincus, and had founded and been affiliated with dozens of other successful startups. What I didn’t realize, however, was how personable he would be.
He showed genuine interest in mentoring me over the summer. We spent a lot of time talking about how to make the summer productive for me, what sectors would be interesting for me to cover. Our first conversation didn’t feel like an interview, and I learned what drew him to Comcast Ventures: the people.
How did you spend your day-to-day?
My summer days in VC reminded me more of my days in a startup than in an investment bank. My days consist of mostly meeting with entrepreneurs and conducting due diligence on investment prospects. One of the highlights of my summer was being involved in an investment in a well-known last-mile mobility company and the internal and external due diligence process that came with it.
When I was not working with Comcast Ventures folks or meeting with entrepreneurs, I spent my summer researching opportunities in HR Tech, my sector of interest. Though I had some experience working on a number of HR-related M&A transactions during my time in investment banking, I was able to broaden my perspective on the overall space and better understand the nuances in HR Tech. I interviewed some well-known executives and HR Tech investors to draw insights about the sector and understand the latest trends. Overall, the summer consisted of nonstop networking, meeting, and talking to people.
What are some interesting companies you’re tracking?
Over the summer, I came across many interesting companies that were using artificial intelligence to automate HR processes such as recruiting or workforce planning. For example, I spoke to a company that helps with the recruiting process by creating a automated system that directly engages with candidates (via SMS such as text messaging) and asks basic questions such as start date and salary requirements, while allowing candidates to ask it questions. When there’s a question that the system doesn’t know, it pings a human recruiter to find the answer.
By automating the initial Q&A steps to help filter qualified candidates, this company is able to funnel the right candidates efficiently without human bias. It also allows every candidate to get a response without letting the recruiter be a bottleneck. Personally, I believe successful HR tech startups are those that find a way to embed itself in the workflow of an organization and enhance various parts of the HR journey (such as onboarding, engagement and payroll), while capturing necessary data so that the ultimate decision makers can become smarter with their hires to optimize their workforce.
What was the biggest takeaway from your summer internship?
In business or in life, it is all about the connections and relationships we make. My wife and I welcomed our first baby in the middle of the summer. It was an amazing experience on its own, but the experience was further enhanced by the people at Comcast Ventures who showed incredible support.
The Comcast Ventures team from offices across the country (NYC, Philadelphia, SF, and Santa Monica) reached out with personal messages to congratulate me and to provide support. Those with parenting experience gave me tips and others adored the newborn pictures and sent me gifts. My team in Santa Monica was particularly thoughtful, showering me with baby gifts when I returned to work after Dinesh asked me to take as much time as needed off during this special time. The personal connections I formed at Comcast Ventures reminded me once again how important it is to have the right people and the right culture in the workplace.
What’s next for you and how will you use this experience in the future?
I had an incredible experience with Comcast Ventures this past summer and am now returning to finish business school. My wife also accepted a role as an assistant professor at UCSF Medical Center, so we will be moving to San Francisco in the near future. Knowing that my passion is in early-stage startups and working with entrepreneurs, I plan to use this year to not only take relevant courses but to also leverage my leadership role with the HBS Tech Club and my involvement in the Entrepreneurship Club on campus to broaden my reach and to connect aspiring entrepreneurs with the right partners from Comcast Ventures.
What advice would you give others who are interested in exploring a career in VC?
Really ask yourself why you want a career in VC. Is it because you want to work with entrepreneurs or is it because you have a particular investment thesis in a sector? Is it people-centric or product-centric? Just like other industries, there are lots of different flavors of VCs and people who work in them. I learned that successful VCs have different hooks that got them started on their career path.
From there, network, network, and network. Build meaningful relationships. A typical VC partner interacts with so many different people on a day-to-day basis. You never know who will give you the right introduction/referral. It could be from another VC, or a portfolio company executive, or an entrepreneur making a pitch. Know why you want a career in VC, find the right firm that aligns with your values, communicate those values clearly to people who believe in you, and just keep working at it.