A dizzying week full of meetings, traveling, networking and cocktail events at Main Sequence Ventures made for an incredible Nova Residency experience. The week starts with the Partner Meeting, a full-day (and the only day) where all the Partners come together and download on the deals they have been championing. I quickly realise, this is not just a normal stand-up — it’s a forum for intense, vigorous and collegiate discussions and debate allowing each partner to assess and continue to re-assess decisions through a multi-faceted lens. It’s a rich, insightful, quick-fire approach to undertake due diligence.
During the meeting, I am warmly introduced to all the partners at Main Sequence Ventures and briefed on how the team operates — each partner is responsible for championing their specific deals, but all collaboratively work together to push the best deals forward.
Supporting and mentoring invested startups
After intense discussions, we are catapulted into a practice pitch session with one of their startups. The relationship between the founders and the partners is warm, encouraging and full of suggestions with mutual respect: “is this the best market to target first?”, “maybe you should show growth in another way?”, “I like the story, just not in the current order”. Contributing to the discussions where I could, I felt part of the team, eager to listen, learn and contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Creating new opportunities
I joined a workshop organised by the partners with one key item on the agenda: how can research organisations and industries work collaboratively together to generate new products and markets for an unmet need, and how does Main Sequence Ventures play a role in this? An industry partner details their problems and current solutions, followed by the Partners painting an image of the future of the industry if the problems are solved, assessing what more can be added. These real possibilities spark ideas with the industry partner, a research organisation, about how their special technologies could be amended to provide not only a solution, but a whole new concept that could address and disrupt many market sectors. The meeting is left with enthusiasm, contemplating the potential of this differentiating, disruptive and cutting-edge technology.
Throughout the week, I was actively engaged in conducting a range due diligence work to see if potential investments could and should be made. This centered around analysing the technical aspects of the technologies, customer interviews with key stakeholders and opinion leaders, and conducting market analysis. Soaking up all the information gathered throughout the week and contributing where I could, one clear stand-out difference I saw was that unlike the world of academia, where all conclusions are discrete and evidence-based, a decision to invest in early stage technologies is full of uncertainty, relying on experience, speed, your gut, the team, and having a good understanding of the market and the relevant channels, and supporting evidence where possible.
I also got to experience the Venture on Campus Program where the Partners engage and mentor young students. The program takes a very casual, open and engaging approach where students can sound out their entrepreneurial ideas without having to go through a formal pitch process. The topics and questions were highly variable ranging from “I just want to know if this is actually a good business idea?” to “I would like to know how to prepare an Information Memorandum for early stage funding”. Whatever the question or topic, the Partners were approachable, honest, encouraging, offered their time beyond the initial interaction with students, and willingly shared relevant contacts. The concept of sharing information, ideas and contacts is refreshing.
Reflecting on my week at Main Sequence Ventures, I felt I gained a much deeper understanding of Venture Capital, the ecosystem that it is within, and importantly how industry, investment firms and research institutions can work together to create impactful products. My experience of a life in Venture Capital is a life constantly on the go:
· Creating new opportunities for collaboration between science and business
· Assessing and building new investment opportunities
· Developing deals for investment
· Supporting and mentoring invested startups
· Mentoring next generation entrepreneurs
And what makes successful entrepreneurs and startups? The hunger to succeed, being a go-getter, having a sense of urgency, an ability to tell a compelling story, and the ability to take suggestions on board.
A big thank you to Mike Zimmerman, all the partners at Main Sequence Ventures and Translating Research at Melbourne (TRAM) for encouraging me and providing me with the opportunity to go through the Nova Program. The unique and rare experience gave me a new perspective on deep technology commercialisation, entrepreneurship and venture capital.