First week as a VC associate

 

“Thank you for your interest in the Investment Associate role at Episode 1. I’ve taken the time to review your application and I regret to inform you that it has not been selected for further consideration.”

… words that thousands of ambitious young members of the workforce have read time and time again, coupled with a horrible sinking feeling, foreboding the imminent return to the job search drawing board.

There I was, waiting to go into a meeting, having typed out the customary ‘thanks for your time, please let me know if any suitable roles come up in the future’ (ie. thanks and goodbye), when I thought I’d just have one last go. I deleted what I’d drafted and composed a new message, urging them to reconsider. I also turned up at their office unannounced in a last ditch effort to stand myself out from the crowd of ACA and CFA wielding ex-bankers and consultants.

Anyway, soon after I received an email from Anouk (Head of People and Culture) saying, amongst other things:

“As a result of your persistence, I will put you through to phone interview.”

What a result!

A phone interview and three partner interviews later, I was offered the job, largely down to the enthusiasm I showed for the role. Never underestimate the power of enthusiasm!

Day 1

Get set up on G-Suite (great news, huge improvement from Office365 at the old job), intros to the team, and straight into a meeting with the founder of one of our recent investments. He needed to work out what stock options to give to his early employees.

Due to the open plan office and small team, it’s easy for me to chat across the desk throughout the day and ask them some of the hundreds of questions I have.

I also get the compulsory training from Paul on using our enterprise grade coffee machine. I’d pretty much given up coffee, but this is going to change things.

Day 2

We assemble the team for a review of hot prospects in our dealflow. This is something we do to gauge interest in some of the best companies we’ve seen that week. As a firm that makes around six to eight investments per year, we set the bar extremely high, so these discussions typically result in just a couple of first meetings with entrepreneurs.

I’m also given the demo on Fundstack (our deal flow/CRM software) and Beauhurst (one of the tools we use for research). These are powerful tools which allow us to efficiently track and analyse deal flow as well as track our relationship with companies in the portfolio and ones we’ve said no to.

Day 3

A portfolio meeting to review the progress of fund 1 and 2. This was fascinating for me to see and gave me a real taste of the kinds of companies we like to invest in. There are some extraordinary companies: CloudNC could totally disrupt CNC milling – an enormous area of manufacturing; Carwow are successfully disrupting the car dealership model; Klydo allows companies to see where they should innovate, unlocking billions in potential revenue; Attest lets you get accurate market research from huge sample sizes, within hours, rather than weeks. All the companies are doing really exciting things and the team hold high hopes for them. In fund 2, we’ve invested in companies with radical visions in edge computing, fintech, marketplaces and customer service. These are huge bets which each have the potential to return the fund if they come off.

This was my first real taste of what was to come. Investing in and working so closely with these exceptional founders is exactly why I moved into VC.

Day 4

Big day. Meeting two potential investments we’re excited about. As a newbie in VC, these initial meetings with entrepreneurs are difficult for a number of reasons:

  1. The companies we invest in are often doing complex things in complex markets.
  2. The founders are supremely intelligent, top-of-their class graduates, entrepreneurs with multiple previous exits, you get the picture. A relatively common trait amongst these entrepreneurs is speaking at about 20 words per second, making it hard to take in what they’re saying at the best of times, leading me onto point three.
  3. We have to take notes while listening to these complex businesses being explained at 20wps.

I’ve done a few of these meetings now and a couple of things allow you to get the hang of it:

  1. You gradually learn what information is relevant and learn not to be afraid to ask for recaps, pauses and clarification.
  2. Your mind is a muscle. When constantly stretched and exercised, you increase its capacity and ability (at least that’s what I’m told and like to believe).

Day 5

I’ve been pinging out messages on LinkedIn to people in my network who work in VC. It’s a tight knit community of relatively few people and one quickly finds that everyone knows or knows of everyone. Time to get myself in gear…

I go for a coffee with Nick Daley (Plug and Play, SV). It’s good to see a friendly face and it also proves to be productive. Our funds focus on quite different areas and yet we both come across companies that might be suitable for one another. These are the kinds of symbiotic relationships that can lead to the unearthing of diamonds in the rough, exactly what we need to hit the fat part of the power law distribution (make money). Everyone’s open to this sort of deal sharing and from my initial impressions, there’s no sense of toxic competition amongst associates.

Networking is a big part of the associate role and at the events I’ve been to so far, I’ve met many interesting, helpful and like-minded people.

Conclusion

Now at the end of my second week in VC (at time of writing), I’m looking forward to a three day bank holiday to let what I’ve learned sink in and unwind for a few days. The team at Episode 1 is exceptional and they’ve welcomed me like a new member of a family. The atmosphere in our shiny new office reflects that – lots of fun, with plenty of healthy tension when challenging each other’s way of thinking. I’m thoroughly enjoying this job so far and feel incredibly lucky to have found something where I feel I could spend a long time. In the words of lots of very poetic people, ‘love your work and never work another day.’

I’ll write another of these posts in the coming months and we’ll see how it’s going then.

Hector Mason

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