Being an intern @ Paua: Meeting the founders
by Niklas Pies
Working with Paua Ventures as an analyst intern covers a bunch of topics and I can assure from my own experience that every day is kind of unique. But of course there are some constants that you will face and one of them certainly is having a first look at incoming deals. As in many other VC firms, most of the incoming deals are abandoned after some quick analyses because of various reasons — let’s say not all of them match our investment focus.
What makes this job really interesting is when the two sides — entrepreneur and investor — meet for the first time to talk about projects and to dive deeper into the topic. The cool thing at Paua is that once the team has decided to follow on a specific topic (we meet 1–2x per week where we review all the deals that have been sent to us), one intern and one member of Paua’s investment team work together on it. So as an intern you are equally integrated in the entire investment process right from the beginning.
So what is it like to sit in your very first meeting with a founder who would like to explain to you how his “hyper security IoT big data analytics enterprise SaaS” product works? You might probably think ‘I have no idea how the technology behind it works so how the hell would I be able to ask a single meaningful question?’, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be like that. First off, good preparation should be self-evident. You want to meet good and well-prepared founders with deep knowledge about the product and the market it operates in. And so does the founder. Then, there is a huge range of possible products and business models that cross your path as a VC analyst. Of course, you cannot be an expert in every field. However, not every topic is so extremely sophisticated that hours of preparation are necessary to have a clue about what is going on. Finally, you are not alone in this meeting since your partner is sitting right next to you. In fact, be prepared that especially in the beginning you are usually listening and writing notes rather than doing a lot of the talking. Quite naturally, the partners at Paua have a much deeper understanding of the products than you, due to many years of experience. Take your time, listen to what they are talking about and try to absorb as much insights as possible from each meeting. But of course, it is always highly appreciated if you actively participate in the meeting and ask questions.
After a couple of meetings you will see that you get used to some routines. The more meetings I had, the more I was involved. I would assume this to be a part of the steep learning curve that interns will experience here at Paua.
One final word: It is interesting to see the different characters and personalities that will take a seat in the conference room to pitch their projects. After some time you realize that there are some types of founders that you meet over and over again. I guess this would be worth an own article though.
About the author
Niklas has been at Paua for a three months venture capital internship in the beginning of 2016. He has a B.Sc. in business administration from the university of Münster. For the moment he is finishing his master in management at the University of Mannheim. He gained working experience from working in consulting, a large german corporate as well as in the Berlin startup scene. He is a passionate soccer fan and an enthusiastic traveler, which he was able to combine with semesters abroad in Shanghai and Toronto.