What I did this Summer: Diving into the World of Venture Capital
John Langley, Wharton MBA 2020 candidate, shares his experience interning with Comcast Ventures
Over our 20 year history, we’ve learned interns are critical for sparking new ideas, infusing energy, and building our team. This summer, we were fortunate to have talented MBA interns based in our New York and Santa Monica office to evaluate different startups and industries for investment. John Langley is one of them. He’s a Wharton 2020 candidate with investment banking experience in communications, media, and entertainment, as well as hands-on operations and marketing experience during the early days of Epic Games (aka creator of Fortnite).
John worked closely with Kai Bond, who oversees gaming and eSports and manages the Catalyst Fund, our investment arm that backs underrepresented founders. They met two years ago at a Toigo Conference where John is a participating fellow. They connected on overlapping interests and experience in gaming, stayed in touch, and the rest is history. Actually, it’s just the beginning. We plan to stay in touch. In the meantime, the whole team here at Comcast Ventures wants to thank John for his contributions to our fund and our portfolio companies over the last two summers.
Let’s hear from John.
Why were you interested in exploring a career in venture capital?
Starting my career as an investment banking analyst in the Communications, Media and Entertainment (CME) group allowed me to learn about and work with some of the largest tech companies in the world. Although I gained insight into their unique perspectives of the market, our engagement was limited to the length of the transaction/deal and I wasn’t able to participate in the product growth that resulted from our financing/advisory services. After banking I knew I wanted to work in a role where I could drive lasting operational impact. At Comcast Ventures, I’ve been able to do just that: help portfolio companies work through the challenges of scaling their business to maximize impact.
Another key driver was witnessing the significant growth trajectory of a successful tech company through my experience at Epic Games. After my two year analyst program was completed, a friend at Morgan Stanley passed along my name to the startup because of my background in media and entertainment and my ties to North Carolina. The startup was looking for someone with a background in strategy and finance to market a new game called Fortnite Battle Royale, which until then had just been code and a long-term project that had been tabled for other priorities.
My name came up and I was one of the first hires on the finance team, reporting directly into the CFO. I then transitioned to a strategic marketing role when the game was initially launched. It was there that I got the operational experience and direct exposure to product growth that I desired. Being part of the Fortnite phenomenon was an incredible experience and opportunity. I know that working in VC will allow me to work with many other innovative companies and products that shift our world and culture.
Why did you choose Comcast Ventures?
Comcast Ventures sits at the unique intersection of media, entertainment, and technology. With a name that’s universally respected, I thought it would be a great place to start a career in investing. I met Kai Bond, Principal, at an industry event almost a year prior to starting my first internship with the fund. As a former gaming entrepreneur who made a successful transition to venture, Kai seemed like a great resource and mentor to provide insight into how VCs place bets in the sector.
Kai is also running Comcast Ventures’ Catalyst Fund, which invests in diverse founding teams at the Seed and Series A. As a minority and former entrepreneur myself, I know the important role that initiatives like Catalyst provide in access and inclusion for founders with a background similar to mine. The role with Comcast Ventures over the last year has been the perfect combination of combining my passion for tech, diversity/inclusion, and investing.
How did you spend your day-to-day?
Every day is different but the first thing I do is check my calendar to make sure I stay on top of any meetings/deliverables scheduled for the day. Next, I listen to the Robinhood Snacks podcast on the public markets, read a few industry newsletters like the The Daily Walkthrough, Axios, and Term Sheet by Fortune, then respond to emails. Over the course of my internship, I worked on a market research project, met with entrepreneurs, and created financial models for deals in the pipeline. After work, I attend industry networking events where I’ll meet with entrepreneurs in the gaming space or other venture investors from the Wharton network.
What are some interesting companies you’re tracking?
Over the course of the summer, I was focused on gaming and esports. The Catalyst Fund is sector agnostic, so I also covered a broad range of industries.
From a gaming perspective, a lot of the companies we are tracking have shown a unique ability to service both the publisher of the content and the user simultaneously. We’re excited about content creators who are focusing on creating a platform business and being innovative in regards to creating new ways to reach a community and build games that people love.
What was the biggest takeaway from your summer internship?
I’ve learned that the easy part is writing the check. The best VCs provide true operational expertise and help founders through problems that they’ve either faced as an operator themselves or have experienced while helping other portfolio companies reach scale.
There was a situation in which one of our portfolio companies was struggling to grow past their current scale. Due to some industry tailwinds, the company’s current business model wasn’t as effective as it had been in the past and they were beginning to face increased competition. Kai and I sat down to understand the intricacies behind the problem and offered a slate of potential product changes that could reposition the platform. The founders were genuinely thankful for the perspective and are working through some of those recommendations now.
What’s the biggest misconception about venture capital?
That VCs are crude money-hungry investors who are only concerned with returns on their investment.
My time here has shown me this couldn’t be further from the truth. Our team spends a good portion of our week working with founders to help them think through operational issues, raise their next round, and assemble their team with the best talent.
What’s next for you and how will you use this experience in the future
The goal is to secure a job in venture where I have an opportunity to invest in gaming and media. I also believe that all VCs inherently have an entrepreneurial spirit, so in the interim I’ll be using my last year at Wharton to work on a business idea with a group of classmates. Excited to see what comes from exploring both opportunities!
What advice would you give others who are interested in exploring a career in VC?
Find an industry where you have a unique view on the future of the market. Develop a thesis around investing in that market and show how your experience in that industry dictates your view. Pitch VCs who aren’t currently investing in that specific space and emphasize the ways in which you can add value as a member of the investment team.
VCs are businesses as well and they’re always looking for another way to generate great returns! Good luck and happy hunting!