Tonight I reflected on my last couple of months, thinking about my summer experience between my first and second years of Business school. I don’t think I truly realized how lucky I have been with two phenomonal experiences, both of which I secured just a month or two before the summer began (so GSB’ers don’t stress out if you are a bit of a late-bloomer in getting your internships). I began the summer working to help on different aspects of three startup companies in industries all over the place (from retail to security to high tech) and ended up really joining the team of the hi-tech startup as we began the process of fundraising. We pitched to a number of VC’s on Sand Hill Road (mostly, meetings were setup through the strong Stanford network). By the end, we were simply comparing the different VC’s by the type of snacks that were in the middle of the table. I preferred the chocolate mints that one particular VC had ( I actually didn’t have time to eat breakfast that day so I think I ate about a dozen in the hour meeting). It was very educational and helpful to see exactly what it is like to pitch VC’s with an idea as I know it won’t be long when I (hopefully) will be bringing my own idea to them- mostly so I can get more chocolates. In general, the experience with the startup was everything I could have hoped in the summer and I had a very difficult time leaving the company and the team. They were a brilliant group of people who worked extremely hard- exactly the kind of group of people I want to pull together when I start my own venture. Thankfully, they let me stay on and I have been virtually working with them since coming to South Africa.
The second portion of my summer is what this blog has been about. I went from asking for money at a Startup to hearing other people asking us for money as a VC. Again, an amazing team and an amazing experience. Since the firm is pretty new, we have a lot of activity both from the company standpoint and our standpoint as we have funds ready to start delving out. The team has also really believed in me and given me responsibilites all over the map…sitting in on pitches and giving feedback, sourcing dealflow, helping with valuations, talking to customers, talking to experts, discussing investment opportunities, due diligence, getting tea and coffee for guests (we ALL do that up to the managing directors which is exactly the type of shop I want to run), you name it! It is an incredibly stimulating environment where we see new ideas, and meet dynamic new people every day which keeps things interesting. Most importantly, I really feel like I am getting into the mindset of a Venture Capitalist, figuring out what things are most important to think about in a startup and an entrepreneur, especially when in the fundraising stage. I think this experience and knowledge is vitally important and will definitely be valuable going forward.
Today, I had a day that summed up my summer experience quite well. It began as another exciting day at the VC firm…I had a couple of customer interviews with a potential investment, then we had an all-company meeting to go over a term sheet and discuss next steps of due diligence for a couple other investment opportunities. In the middle of this, we had a quick ‘break’ where I picked the brain of my brilliant colleagues about a business idea that I have been working on recently. Of course, there was also dozens of emails and phone calls from people with ideas, journalists with questions, and people trying to figure out what a VC firm in Africa actually does. When work at the firm was finished, I went home and prepared for the start of the business day in San Francisco ( the time difference is 9 hours which is PERFECT; when I leave the VC firm around 6pm, it is 9am on the West Coast so workday part II begins for me :-)). The startup hi-tech company that I am working with had a conference call to pitch to a well-known VC firm in the U.S. (I had a chance to put some of my new VC knowledge to the test in revising our slide presentation to be more VC-friendly) We had a one hour phone discussion that went very well and are looking to setup a face to face meeting as the next steps. After the call, we had a discussion as a team to talk about strategy going forward and other investors we are speaking with. It is now almost 2pm in Cali (but 11pm here) so the emails are starting to roll-in from people I have emailed on the West Coast and at Stanford. I’ll respond to them for a couple hours, read for a bit (I just began reading “The Monk and the Riddle” by Randy Komisar who is a Rockstar VC for Kleiner Perkins and somebody who I think has a similar outlook on entrepreneurship as myself), and head to bed around 3am, getting ready for another incredible day tomorrow. Carpe Diem!