I caught up with Lightspeed Scout Sydney Sykes about her journey to VC and advice for aspiring investors. This is a continuation of Lightspeed’s new “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?
Sydney: I grew up in the Boston area and was always really focused/nerdy until I got to the end of college. I did a summer internship at a consulting firm, but it wasn’t a fit and I felt totally lost. Luckily, as I was stumbling around trying to learn about other jobs, I learned about VC and started cold emailing investors and applying to roles like crazy. NEA brought me on as their first analyst and it was an awesome job right out of college because I was forced to learn how to add value and create a role, while being around some incredible companies and people. Even though I liked VC, I wanted to explore all my other interests. I ended up at a mom and pop wedding invitation company and then a fashion startup called Dolls Kill, all while leading a nonprofit and angel investing. Now, I’m a lot more laid back about my future and choices than when I was younger. I really try to focus on doing things I like and not doing anything that’s not fulfilling.
Me: What led you to become a Lightspeed Scout?
Sydney: I had been curious about scouting for a while, but you were actually a big part of my decision to become a Lightspeed Scout, Mercedes! I was deciding between two great options, but the fact that you were leading the Lightspeed Scout program made me really excited about it. I felt confident that I would work alongside really great investors and alongside a friend who was looking out for my best interests. Those factors have definitely proven true in multiple scout deals.
Me: What’s your investment focus? Any companies / new investments you want to highlight for readers?
Sydney: I’ve typically been pretty focused on startups for consumers and small businesses. I like companies that are driven by what their customers want first and that know their consumer inside-out. When I worked at Dolls Kill I saw this first hand. We weren’t trying to sell clothes to everyone, but the ‘misfit’ customer — the goths, ravers, fashion trendsetters of the world — knew they could come to Dolls Kill for fashion that worked for them. I recently invested in a company called Apothekary, a plant based medicine and herbal wellness brand. Apothekary is a great example of a company that knows their customer well, knows what they want now and in the future. The trust and the relationship they build with customer shows in the health of the business.
Me: What advice do you have for other aspiring VCs out there?
Sydney: Bring your full self to the job, because that’s your advantage. When I first started in Venture out of college, I was insecure about if I had valuable perspectives to add because I was surrounded by so many smart VC’s in the bay. I’ve now realized that you can only add value by giving a perspective only you have, one informed by your background, jobs, identity, experiences, etc. The job is a lot more rewarding when you bring your full self.
Me: What advice do you have for founders out there looking to raise?
Sydney: Sometimes, the investor-entrepreneur roles can be perceived as adversarial, but investors are your allies. You want an investor you can work with for years and rely on when you’re struggling. Above that, investors are your partners, not your bosses. That means you should disagree with them, celebrate with them, call them with your stresses — they’re along for the full ride.
Me: Lastly, where can others learn more about you and connect with you?
Sydney: Well, my internet presence is honestly kind of weak, but I love meeting people at small group dinners or working with people on events — working with me is the best way to learn more about me! Beside that, my BLCK VC events and panels will tell people a lot about my values and my Faves content shows 100% of my weird sense of humor.