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Included VC 2021 Reflection: Constanza Díaz

Constanza Diaz joined Octopus Ventures in August 2021 as a B2B Software Investor!

When Constanza decided to apply for Included VC 2021, she was just finishing her MBA at the London Business School and came from a different background to VC! Constanza reflects on how the Fellowship exceeded her expectations and how Fellow-to-Fellow support is really ingrained into the Included VC experience.

Highlights include:

  • 🤯 Three knowledge bombs from Included VC Partners and speakers that have really resonated with Constanza
  • 🔑 The key analogy from Constanza’s co-Fellow that helped in setbacks
  • 🌍 Constanza’s hopes and contributions to continue to diversify the VC industry

INVC: What were you doing when you were in the process of applying to Included VC?

CD: When I decided to apply to Included VC, I was finishing my MBA at the London Business School and I was working as a strategy manager at a company in the data centre space — so very different from VC! I was trying to see if VC was something really for me, because I was very interested in the sector, but I had also heard mixed comments from people working in VC, so I applied to the Fellowship.

INVC: What are three things (mic drop/knowledge bomb moments) that Included VC has taught you that you will remember forever?

CD: The first session we had with Matt Goldstein, from M12, still stands out to me. He was very candid and energetic! And it was extremely helpful to understand his journey into VC and the importance of creating your whitespace and building your own track record. At our final session with him, it was very insightful as well to hear about the things he looks for when he’s recruited. For example, intellectual curiosity and intellectual honesty. I believe that the concept of changing your mind when you see new information is a key one to keep in mind so we can make unbiased decisions.

Included VC also hosted a great session with Stuart Chapman from Draper Esprit. He was explaining how they have managed to innovate with different strategies that they have implemented, such as partnering with a competitor to expand their European presence. And highlighted the paradox that VCs try to fund innovation and push boundaries, but with a structure and setup that has been in place since the sixties.

Another session that I found super insightful was Gary Stewart’s, CEO and Founder of FounderTribes. A constant thought that I have from him is how you should try to give before you take, thinking about the things that the other person needs in order to make them successful. How to always be open to support that comes from people you might’ve never imagined, from who you don’t have much in common with, or people that might not have a diverse background as you.

INVC: How has Included VC exceeded your expectations?

CD: I always tell Nikita that she did an amazing job putting the Fellows together and selecting us. It’s a very diverse bunch in so many different aspects, and everyone has an extremely interesting background. I definitely learnt the most from my cohort. Also, it may sound simple, but the readings were definitely well curated! And I think the effort behind putting those together is something which people can take for granted. There’s so much effort put in to accelerate our learning through our 101s, readings, and ICs.

When we had our group mentoring sessions, the team from Kaya VC were fantastic! They were so candid and gave us so many nuggets of wisdom. I wasn’t expecting the level of involvement from all of the Partners and speakers. It has exceeded my expectations in multiple ways!

INVC: In what two ways have the Fellows contributed to your development learning current role and/or life?

CD: During the simulated investment committees, I loved to hear everyone’s opinion on the same startup and how everyone would look at it through a different lens. One person can see that the business opportunity is compelling, whilst the other is not interested at all. I learnt a lot from all of the different perspectives the Fellows brought and how to debate them in a constructive way.

From a more personal side, it was very helpful having the Fellows’ support whilst I was applying to VC. On this Fellowship, there are a lot of people in the same boat as you, figuring it out where they want to go next, and whilst you help them succeed, you also help yourself as you understand concepts more deeply or you reflect on your own plans. We have a Slack channel where we share our wins and losses, and it’s a great way to stay connected.

I remember when my co-fellow Boan posted something on the group about how maybe your journey seems like going in circles because you don’t see it in 3D where you can see you’re making progress. Comments and analogies like that were really helpful when we had setbacks in our projects and goals.

INVC: Are there any pieces of advice or wisdom from the Partners that have really resonated for you or you will take forward into your role?

CD: Chris Tottman, General Partner at Notion Capital, was extremely helpful when I was in the middle of my recruitment process. He gave me advice on both networking and the type of mindset you need to have as an applicant. That advice definitely helped me and many things would have not worked out as they did without his advice. I also clearly remember how he explained to us how he analyses start-up ideas by imagining the different directions a market can go and their likelihood. It’s a huge privilege to be able to talk to Partners as experienced and successful as Chris and Stephen, and it just shows how Included VC has exceeded my expectations as the Partners go the extra mile to support us, chatting with us even during the weekends and sharing their wisdom.

INVC: What do you hope will be your contribution to diversify venture capital over the next decade? How would you like to see a change in the next 10 to 15 years?

CD: If you are a diverse investor, or somebody that has a unique background, you’re going to have a different perspective and connections. So, you’re going to help a different set of founders to get funding and to provide advice and focus on ideas tackling different problems. All of us do this organically via our own networks and given our own unique backgrounds and interests.

As the Partners were saying at the end of the July retreat, this is just the beginning in terms of the impact that Included VC will have — we will definitely see a compounding effect!

We should also try to improve diversity in our portfolio companies, not only through a balanced hiring but also when founders decide on which products and markets to focus on. I always tell very early stage founders to think about creating a diverse leadership team from the start, because it also gets harder down the road, especially if you build a homogeneous team.

Also, we had an AMA session with Deepali Nangia, and she mentioned that we should always remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. Diversity in venture will still be a learning journey that can take decades to fix. I hope we can inspire other people that are very early in their careers to choose this path and try to correct our own biases to improve our firms in the long term.

INVC: Three words to describe Included VC

CD: Accelerated, unique, community.

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