What makes a great venture partner?

Gabrielle Munzer leading a session at UNSW Synbio 10x Accelerator program

This is a big moment. We have just promoted our first Partner at Main Sequence. Here’s the story about how Gabrielle Munzer (“Gabs”) and Main Sequence found each other and arrived at this incredibly exciting moment.

This story begins with a phone call

It was from Tushar Roy. He had interviewed a remarkable candidate to join Square Peg Capital but had no open position at the time.

This was our first introduction to Gabs, and I remember the call vividly. I learned about a person who began her career in capital markets with the likes of Challenger and Morgan Stanley but always dreamed of a career in venture capital. She spent her ‘downtime’ on maternity leave reading, listening to and watching everything on venture capital.

She came to the call with questions. Questions about every nook and cranny of our work as investors.

Enthusiasm. Curiosity. A point of view throwing itself at ideas to see how it lands.

When we are hiring at Main Sequence, we want something different in each hire. It’s challenging because we don’t know what it looks like until we see it. But when we do see it, it is clear.

We saw it in Gabs. There was a curiosity that lay above any formula or cliche about what it means to be a venture builder.

We hired Gabs as a Senior Associate in 2019.

You can’t learn the craft of venture from a book

Venture capital is an apprenticeship, and this is where blog wisdom crumbles away to leave the real experience of venture building.

It is messy, emotional and risky. Everywhere there is a lesson to be learned, there is a counter lesson.

At Main Sequence, we operate an apprenticeship approach that places the new investor into real experiences. We reflect to learn explicit lessons along the way. Some of this is the technical part of venture capital — valuations, term sheets, cap tables, portfolio construction… Some is the human dimension — empathy, how to be persuasive, how to listen, how to build a thesis that you give a shit about…

Gabs has been in the deep end of all that since she started, forging the instinct needed to back early-stage opportunities.

She rose to Principal in 2021.

So, how do you know a Partner when you see one?

This is a harder question to answer than you might think.

It is easy to say that Partners must have led investments, sat on boards, etc. These are the table stakes. But what does it really take to bring on a new leader for a venture firm?

Here are some things we watched grow in Gabs.

#1 — People go to her for help

At the start of a career in venture it is ‘Push’, but after a while, people come to you if you are valuable. After a while, LPs, founders and co-investors started flowing to Gabs because she could help them.

#2 — She unlocks gnarly problems

Building a venture could be defined as a series of blocks that need to be overcome. Some of them are gnarly and not obvious to solve. Seeing problems fade through targeted introductions, workshops, ideas and products is seeing venture building in action.

#3 — She lands ideas with a heft of experience

It is easy to give advice and send blog posts to help, but there is a difference between an empty comment that keeps people busy and a thought that resonates and sends people away to think and an ability to execute.

You can see people leaning into the latter. Taking notes and following up.

#4 — She creates systems and products that scale the firm

Venture is an artisanal job but a firm needs to be bigger than the individuals within it. Observing a recurring activity that requires excellence to deliver performance and turning it into a product or system many people use is a habit to be fostered.

#5 — Ideas ripple through the community from her initiation

Venture building is making something from nothing. Participating in the creation of something no one thought of before. How do we build momentum that can increase the chance of impact? Some ideas resonate and are carried into execution by others. Some fall onto the ground, never to be picked up. Seeing Gabs command the stage of various events with ideas that spread was another signal.

Image courtesy of Tim Boyle

#6 — Trust with money

At its core, venturing is holding other people’s money for a while and then giving them more back. Seeing LPs trust an investor with this is an important signal of Partnership potential.

There comes a moment

At some point, the flow of learning equalises or even reverses. The student educates the teacher. This is the moment that matters to me. Where ideas that were taught have been augmented and refined to become something new. Something we all learn from and makes us better.

This is the moment of partnership. This is where we are with Gabs.

I hope you will say ‘Hi’ to Gabs on Twitter.

It’s a river of talent

Gabs is part of the next generation of talent for the Australian venture capital industry. At Main Sequence, she is joined by Jun Qu, Alezeia Brown and Danielle Haj Moussa who are in the flow, building momentum as their own unique contribution to our wonderful world of opportunity.

I am so proud of our team. We all are.

🖖🏻 #hack+hustle+flearn

I am a deeptech investor and I’m building out loud. Subscribe here or follow me @philmorle

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Phil Morle

Phil Morle

2.6K Followers

Deep tech VC — Main Sequence Ventures. Ecosystem builder. Maker. Director. Startup Scientist.