Welcome Stephanie Palmeri, the gal I meant to dissuade taking a job in venture… and ended up hiring

Stephanie Palmeri

We’re super excited to announce that Stephanie (“Steph”) Palmeri has joined SoftTech VC as Senior Associate, a brand new position in our firm which has grown 400% since January 1st. Steph is awesome: smart, workhorse, funny, New-Yorker, swear-proof, determined, Columbia MBA — in no particular order. And we can truly say that serendipity is responsible for that lucky find for us.

If you follow me on Twitter/Google+, you might recall a post I wrote a couple of months ago (which generated a lot of great comments):

A very smart MBA (who just graduated) wrote me asking if there was a job opportunity at SoftTech VC. She really wants a job in venture apparently, which I can respect, but I really think that venture (aka “the dark side”) is a gig you do after accumulating operating experience. Here is what I wrote her:
“In any case, I don’t think that we are going to be able to help: we are building the firm with Partner level investment professionals who have 12+ years of operating experience. We may at some point bring in a principal as well, but once again, we’d look at bringing in someone who has had at least 8 years of relevant operating experience. Why? Because you can’t really advise or provide perspective to a young CEO/founding team if you have not been exposed to “real life” yourself.
So what am I saying? That you should take that offer from <redacted> — they seem to see a rockstar in the making in you, and it is a great, promising company. And ask <redacted> to give you some exposure to the different facets of the business, and try to take on different challenges over the next few years.
If you really want to go for a venture role now, only sign up for a top firm. And after two years, cut yourself loose and join the most exciting portfolio company of theirs (or others) you have seen. You can’t really have a career in venture, you have to move in and out.
Sorry if it is not what you wanted to hear, but I’d hate you end up in venture too early — when it is not the most fun and rewarding.”

Yes, that gal I was referring to was Steph. Read on.

I figured in the first five minutes of our discussion that I was wasting my time (and hers) trying to dissuade her from joining a VC firm. Despite having opportunities in the New York scene, she had packed her stuff and was crashing with friends in the Valley determined to find a VC gig here. With almost 10 years in operating experience in Marketing and consulting roles (something Steph almost neglected to “sell” in her email intro to me), and a real passion for the investment side, I thought that she’d have a very decent shot despite the “local” competition.

Mind you, the venture world desperately needs more women — especially for those of us investing in Consumer Internet where a majority of the traffic and revenues is generated by… yes, women and investment decisions are mostly made by a bunch of dudes. And it had always been my intention to fix that flaw upon finding the right person/fit for us.

We had originally built SoftTech as a “Partner-only” firm, where each investment professional would have seen “enough” of the entrepreneur/executive side that they could use their better judgment and personal screw-ups to support portfolio company challenges and opportunities. There are limitations to that model, ones that Charles and I were definitely feeling (with 200 to 300 opportunities hitting our inbox a month). When a model shows its limits, you change it — and that’s we did by offering Steph to join us for an “experiment” (the VC equivalent of basic training).

We told Steph that she would have about 10 weeks to demonstrate to us that we needed someone to come in and help us working on our inbound dealflow, getting involved in due diligence checks and models, doing more proactive research on areas of potential interest, etc. And I think that it is fair to say that we kept Steph really busy — asking her to cover a wide array of things so she could get an acute feel of what her job would be, and we could see how she was doing. A reciprocal “try before you buy” of sort that she accepted without blinking.

Long story short: after 5 weeks, a ton of work and a number of very positive reference checks, Charles and I caucused one last time, and agreed to terminate the “experiment” to offer Steph a full time role of Senior Associate. And obviously we are super stoked that she instantly accepted!

Steph will work with us on opportunity reviews, due diligence, market analysis and dealflow management — to start with. Not bad for someone who I wanted to dissuade joining the venture world, uh?

You can follow Steph on Twitter at @stephpalmeri or on 280 in her red Mini. And join Charles, Ashley and I in welcoming her to the dark side!