Startup to VC: My First Month at Main Sequence Ventures

Stella Xu
Main Sequence Ventures
4 min readSep 27, 2019


Photo by Billy Huynh on Unsplash

The surprising first day

I was extremely excited to join Main Sequence Ventures and work with the amazing partners and founders. My first day at Main Sequence Ventures was an adventure. The type where you jump in a car without knowing your destination.

So much fun!

Take-off: North Ryde

  • I arrived at 9 am to pick up my laptop and MSEQ merch. It was lovely to learn that we had the privilege of sharing the ‘dungeon’ with the ON team.

Pit stop: City

  • I was more than delighted to taste a delicious V2 plant-based ‘beef’ burger and give the team my feedback. (Yes, it is a part of the work) I also got a short introduction to synthetic biology. Brilliant!

Third stop: Crows Nest

  • The afternoon was time for some serious meetings. I joined partners in a pitch meeting with a prospecting startup. The schedule was so full that we had to dial into the meeting while having lunch. Learning about new technology and innovative ideas is one of the best parts of venture life.
  • The meeting was followed by a coffee catchup with another investor.
  • To wrap up the day, partners had a debrief call to discuss the pitch meeting.

My journey to Main Sequence Ventures

Joining Main Sequence Ventures feels like a homecoming for me. I worked in the same building at CSIRO as a global strategy analyst a few years ago. At that time, I was inspired by the ON program to join a fledgling startup called The Trade Desk in the nascent industry of media trading.

Amidst the rapid growth at The Trade Desk, I watched, engaged and learned as the company took its first steps, up to the IPO and rocketing onwards. We showed the industry how data combined with innovation is disrupting marketing in the digital age.

I learned several things from this unique startup experience:

  • A successful product creates consumer surplus.

Many interesting problems are not necessarily the most urgent problems to solve. The most advanced solutions are not necessarily the best solutions. The biggest accomplishment of a startup is to deliver more value for its customers than what people had paid.

  • Grit: never be afraid of failures and rejections.

The TED Talk ‘What I learnt from 100 days of rejection’ is highly relevant to the startup world. Building and scaling a new product, you will hear many ‘No’s before getting a ‘Yes’. Reflect on the rejections for improvement, and then move on as quickly as possible to the next opportunity.

  • It is the team that makes everything happen.

In a generous and smart team, I learnt that even the most capable person would not be able to solve every single problem on their own. An amazing team is where everyone helps and inspires each other. It is crucial for founders to build an open and collaborative team culture.

  • Changes will happen over time.

It is unavoidable to change when companies grow. To establish an efficient workflow, every team member needs to adapt to new ways of communication, implementation, and collaboration.

Learning in the first month

I indulged in a deep dive into the world of venture capital with partner discussions, board meetings, startup pitch events, ON Tribe and the Venture Down Under conference. The learning curve was steeper than I imagined, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are my key learnings in the first month:

  • Startup investment is philosophical

The word ‘Philosophy’ can be defined as the pursuit of wisdom. Startup investing, especially in the area of deep tech, is the frontier of discovering and translating advanced research outcomes into commercial products. There is no right answer during the heated discussion on portfolio allocation and diversification. Supporting founders achieve their moon-shot goals is a combination of art and science.

  • Investing is beyond money

The closing of a deal is the very start of investing. Venture capital is so much more than money. It is also about nurturing portfolio companies along their growth trajectory, cheering for every little success and providing honest advice in front of many unknowns.

  • Different views are invaluable

At VDU, many VCs shared their views on diversity. Everyone agrees that engaging different perspectives are crucial for a strong team. The best teammates frequently challenge each other.

  • Venture capital is a long term game

The normal lifespan of a fund is ten years; the average time to exit a deal is seven years; partners spend more time with each other and founders than their spouse. It takes a long time to prove an idea right (or wrong). Working in VC is like running a marathon. You need both passion and patience, except that there often is not a finish line in sight.

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Update in 2022, I am now building Start Frugal, if you would like to be a contributor or catch up for a coffee, please reach out:

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Stella Xu
Main Sequence Ventures

living in the present, making the future.