Lightspeed Scout Spotlight: Cheryl Campos
I caught up with Lightspeed Scout Cheryl Campos about her 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?
Cheryl: I’m a first generation Peruvian American, born and raised all over NYC — Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx to be specific — but my story really starts with my mom who immigrated to the States from Peru back in the ‘80s in search of a better life. She raised my brother Brian and me all by herself and made incredible sacrifices to help us reach our full potential — as an example, my brother and I both went Harvard for undergrad. I’ve inherited her relentless work ethic, resourcefulness, perseverance — I always hope to make my family proud.
I attended the Brearley School for high school and graduated Harvard with honors in economics, while leading organizations like Concilio Latino / SWS and studying abroad in Paris and Rio. Economics provided a lens for understanding decision making at both the micro and macro level, while traveling and learning new languages helped me apply theory to practice. I started my career in investment banking at Barclays, in the Financial Institutions Group and Structured Products, followed by a low mid-market private debt/equity shop in Connecticut. Traditional finance was a great way to learn how to operate in a large professional institution and acquire modeling skills, but I knew I had an entrepreneurial spirit.
In 2018, I found Republic, an early stage startup focused on democratizing the private markets. I felt like all my experiences and education led me to this moment and joined as full time employee #10. Fast forward 4 years later, we’re a unicorn with 300+ employees all working to make the private markets more equitable and efficient. As Head of Venture Growth and Partnerships, I’ve created the first full stack investor ecosystem — helping folks not only break into the space through our Venture Fellow and Associate program, but also accelerate their journey to become emerging fund managers through our Venture Partner program. Along the way, as a scout for Lightspeed Venture Partners and an investment partner at The Community Fund, I have directly invested almost $1m into 20 companies, all of which are led by diverse founders. And I’ve cofounded the largest Latinx venture investor community, VCFamilia, that now supports 300+ Latinx venture capitalists throughout their careers and beyond.
My next chapter will be starting shortly, as an MBA candidate at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Class of 2024. I will continue to invest in companies while taking some time to recalibrate and explore new opportunities.
Me: What led you to become a Lightspeed Scout?
Cheryl: At Republic, we see close to 6,000 companies per year, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak to over 1,000 during my time. With every conversation, you really start to appreciate how hard it is to build something out of nothing and how much harder it can be to get something to venture scale. Those conversations helped me identify the qualities of a good leader with a clear unique insight that allows them to be the person to make the dream a reality. Eventually I noticed that the calls I tended to lean into most revolved around femtech and silvertech. The Lightspeed scout program was the perfect opportunity to back my convictions with capital and invest in overlooked industries and founders that solved for problems I had seen in my personal experiences or that of those close to me.
Me: What’s your investment focus? Any companies / new investments you want to highlight for readers?
Cheryl: I’m focused on investing in companies that improve people’s lives and wellbeing, broadly serving overlooked communities, and specifically interested in femtech (improving the lives of women through digital health) & silvertech (improving the quality of life of the elderly, because we’ll get there).
In femtech, I am interested in the following areas: post-partum treatment and care, sexual health & wellness, and menopause solutions and services. For silvertech, I am bullish on aging in place services and deathtech. For web3, I’m investing in defi & infrastructure only.
Me: What advice do you have for other aspiring VCs out there?
Cheryl: You can only move at the speed of trust — succeed with honesty and intention.
The VC industry is for those with network and access. Many folks find that the way to build their network and access is through twitter and building followings. The key thing to remember is that this industry is a long game. Whether it’s investment time horizons, the relationships you build, or the reputation that you have and cultivate, everything follows you here in a people business. Figure out what drives you and then make sure to find your tribe that believes the same thing — if there’s no tribe, build one.
Me: What advice do you have for founders out there looking to raise?
Cheryl: Figure out if you first really need to raise. When you raise from VCs, you’re giving away valuable equity in exchange for money and partners. If I created a company, I would hold off on raising until I truly needed growth capital. At that point, I would start with practicing your pitch with your friends and advisors to cultivate your strongest pitch for the funds you aim to bring on your cap table. I would also create a data room that had an investment memo written out rather than a pitch deck, as well as an FAQ that over time gets filled with the questions VCs ask the most. The fundraising process is a sales funnel at the end of the day that requires time and manufactured FOMO, so know that going in and give it your all to then go back to building.
Me: Lastly, where can others connect with you?
Cheryl: Find me on Twitter @modelvc or Linkedin!