Looking for a job in venture capital? Here’s what you need to know.
A Q&A with Michelle McCarthy of Verizon Ventures
Michelle McCarthy has a front row seat to innovation. As a director in Verizon Ventures, she is responsible for identifying, structuring and closing investments in promising startups that support Verizon’s efforts to strengthen and expand core capabilities and explore new, emerging frontiers throughout its lines of business. Once an investment is made, she then serves as a Verizon board observer for several of those companies.
Michelle knows first-hand what innovative success (and failure) looks like. But here’s what she says about that and her role at Verizon.
What other positions have you held at Verizon?
I’ve been part of the Verizon family for more than 20 years. Prior to joining Verizon Ventures in 2012, I spent most of my career in the areas of corporate strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and tax credit investing.
What motivated you to join the Verizon Ventures team?
A tremendous amount of technological and business model development and disruption is coming from the startup community, so it’s an exciting time to be at the center of tapping into that external innovation to help shape the direction of Verizon’s future. Also, venture capital investing blends a lot of the skills I honed in my earlier roles at Verizon, such as thinking strategically about what might be impactful to the overall corporation down the road, analytically evaluating investment opportunities from a financial perspective, negotiating deal terms, and managing individual investments and portfolio fundamentals post-closing.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work in venture capital?
I recommend starting in an asset management or research capacity before investing. Dig into the details. Read the legal documents, review lots of pitch decks, build and tinker with a variety of capitalization tables and business forecast models, become fluent in sector-specific trends and identify factors that have contributed to startup successes and failures. It’ll make you a more astute investor if you understand what factors are commonly associated with success stories as well as what can go wrong. Also, build a strong and diverse network — both within the company and externally in the industry.
What incremental advice would you give women, if any?
Don’t be intimidated by the significant underrepresentation of women in venture capital. Know your own strengths and push yourself to develop the relevant skills and knowledge areas that you lack or find uncomfortable in order to maximize your effectiveness.
What traits do you bring to your job?
Optimism, a sense of adventure, diligence and a commitment to taking on new challenges. These have all been central to my career path at Verizon, but have also been with me since I was young. When I was in eighth grade, I volunteered to spend the year as an exchange student living with a family in Germany after my older sister changed her mind about going abroad. I knew virtually no German beforehand and had to get up to speed quickly. But by mid-year I was thinking and dreaming in German and was able to hold my own in the local high school classes with physics, algebra and even German literature. That experience forced me to find strength and determination to see a difficult challenge through to a successful conclusion and it gave me a boost of confidence in my ability to take risks and tackle the unknown.
What motivates you on a day-to-day basis?
Every day provides a blank slate to apply the lessons from yesterday’s successes and failures and to set out to do meaningful work that has a positive, lasting impact.