Lightspeed Scout Spotlight: Brian Hollins
I caught up with Lightspeed Scout Brian Hollins about his journey to VC and advice for aspiring investors. This is a continuation of Lightspeed’s “Scout Spotlight” series showcasing our amazing Scouts, what they care about, and some lessons learned along the path to venture.
Me: Let’s start with who you are! What’s your story?
Brian: Hi Mercedes! Let’s take it all the way back…I’m originally from just outside Washington D.C. (Rockville, MD), and grew up as the oldest of three boys in a bi-racial (Black & White) household. My middle brother is a wide receiver for the Miami Dolphins, and has been in the NFL for 5 years now! My youngest brother served our military- he enlisted out of high school, was in the special forces as a Marine, and is now a Junior at Columbia University, one of the top military/vets programs in the country.
I ran far away from home :) Went to Stanford for undergrad, studied International Economics and wanted to learn capital markets / investment management. I started my career at Goldman Sachs in the wealth management division, then two years later helped build a new group at the firm focused on the early stage venture capital ecosystem called the Emerging Entrepreneurs Coverage group. I was lucky enough to help source the Plaid investment for the firm, which opened my eyes to fintech/infrastructure investing and led me to the Merchant Banking Division, where I did growth stage software investing off Goldman’s balance sheet for two years before leaving for Harvard Business School in 2019.
Along the way I helped build BLCKVC, which today serves as the largest investor ecosystem supporting Black investors across the country. Last year we launched the Black Venture Institute, a platform to equip Black tech executives with the skills and resources they need to become angel investors and catalyze the “friends and family” round that so many underrepresented Founders are missing.
Me: What led you to become a Lightspeed Scout?
Brian: I interned at Lightspeed while studying at Harvard. It was an incredible opportunity where I got to meet some of the best investors I know to this day, and I wanted the opportunity to continue learning from the LSVP deal philosophy. As an aspiring fund manager, learning the intricacies of a “Lightspeed deal” was invaluable, and I have taken a mosaic theory approach to building my own investment philosophy as I diligence scout fund opportunities. So far I have had the chance to back 7 incredible teams, have had several up-rounds, and even had an acquisition in the portfolio!
Me: What’s your investment focus? Any companies / new investments you want to highlight for readers?
Brian: I tend to focus on three core investment areas:
- fintech API solutions — things like Plaid, Weav (my first acquisition in the LSVP portfolio!), Atomic
- ecommerce infrastructure (things like ParrotMob, )
- future of work (things like Tango and Brevy)
Unlike growth equity investing, where I used to have 3 years of cohort data and a scaled go-to-market motion, the seed stage places such a heavy emphasis on “founder market fit”. Is this the right team to solve the unique problem they are tackling, and maybe more importantly, have they brought this solution to market at the right time? I have backed some exceptional companies so far and thoroughly enjoy trying to solve this riddle, but definitely still have a lot to learn!
Me: What advice do you have for other aspiring VCs out there?
Brian: Don’t join venture if you just want to get rich. It takes 10 years (if you’re good at it!) and there are plenty of industries that get you there faster. Join if you get fulfilled helping other people see their dreams come to life, and if you have a genuine curiosity for identifying the technology that will shape the World for the next century.
Join venture networks and bring a “listen and learn” mentality! For people of color, checkout BLCKVC. For women, checkout ALLRAISE. There is an organization for everyone, and you shouldn’t try to tackle this industry alone!
Me: What advice do you have for founders out there looking to raise?
Brian: It takes one yes to change your life and set you on a path to success. Don’t let an investor’s feedback change your North Star. Ask for feedback, iterate, improve, and continue believing in your vision. No one knows your product better than you do!
Me: Lastly, where can others connect with you?