a reflection on 5 years in vc at 23

Harry McLaverty
Jul 17, 2018 · 4 min read
Those who know me well know just how iconic this funnel neck has been over the last 5 years 😂 (📸: YSYS, 💈: TRIM-IT)

VC is slowly becoming more accessible…

Between the times that I finished secondary school and I received my A-Level results, I got my first job in venture capital. Exactly two weeks after I started that internship, fundraising for the first ever ICO took place — in hindsight, that changed everything. I met partners who were based in London, Berlin, and San Francisco which helped me gain a global perspective on the space. As investor number 4 (and number 2 in London) guiding a fund of £100M, I knew that the field was unique and incredibly exciting — definitely the right environment for me.

A year prior, the Kauffman Foundation had released their seminal paper which has now led to a flurry of Micro VC launches over the past 5 years — it was becoming much easier to raise a fund, but much harder to drive the expected returns. While many VCs struggle to become operator-oriented — many first-time fund managers are launching Micro or even Nano funds. They often have had no experience in venture before, but understand how to support and scale companies. I believe that the number of services companies that transition into funds will increase sharply over the next five years.

Most VCs don’t make any money, Diane Mulcahy explains ☝🏿

…which means more people can work in the industry…

My observation is that founding a startup is about solving a problem, or a concentric set of problems, while VC is about realising a vision by solving connected problems with an ecosystem of startups. Another field that resembles the latter is the music industry. Recording artists like JAY Z, Nas, and Kanye West have demonstrated huge success working through extremely tough pipelines of new artists to find diamonds in the rough and managing entire portfolios of artistic talent, so it is no wonder that they have such a knack for venture.

The other aspect is that they are all extroadinary influencers who understand what makes people tick. This is something I’ve found that VCs often miss out on, especially in the consumer space. I’ve written before that we need to renew our focus on isolated market verticals, namely, the 14–18 year old age group. To find promising startups in these verticals, we need investors who reflect these backgrounds, and so in the next few years, I am expecting many more VCs to enter the field during their teenage years, especially around consumer tech, AR, social, and crypto.

Most people didn’t see this coming in 2005 👀

…and scale their impact!

After spending only one month in any industry, it is difficult to prove to yourself and others that this is where you should spend your future. To prove to myself that VC was the right career path, I worked in a range of startup and corporate gigs to compare notes. Unsurprisingly, VC remained the clear winner, and this taught me that it is best to figure out what you want to do and drive towards it relentlessly, perhaps even if no one in the whole world has achieved that goal. However, one important skill I did pick up was (extreme) self-organisation and understanding the deep connection between time, stress, and sleep management, ultradian rhythms included.

I’ve found that VC and startup culture is blending — not just in how the funds support the startups, but in how they operate with a product mentality. With waves of platformisation and constantly changing regulations, the way we assess deals can change weekly, and as a mathematician, I am adamant on measuring the effects these changes have on the pipeline. But numbers aside, investment is an art rather than a science per se, and the art of innovation is radical simplicity. These startups are very difficult to find and even more difficult to build and so these careers are risky, but the risk is definitely worth the reward even if that comes in the form of experience. This industry’s negative career perceptions (for both founders and VCs) will eventually change, because this is the best way to scale your ambition.

EF is driven by technology entrepreneurship and the disruption of ambition 🙌🏿

SimplifyVC

Enabling specialists to support idea-stage startups

Harry McLaverty

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Founder at SimplifyVC

SimplifyVC

Enabling specialists to support idea-stage startups