Lessons from my first year at Version One

By Angela, September 03, 2014

Today marks my first full year in VC at Version One.  Over this time, I have grown so much and am happy to report that being an investor is still very much aligned with my core values. As I reflect on the past year, I want to share what I have discovered about these 3 core values: learning, compassion, and freedom.

Continuous learning

I believe that the more we know, the better our decisions are. I love being in VC because I get the opportunity to learn about new technologies and industries every day. The challenge is to push myself to learn faster and smarter.

What I’ve learned about learning at Version One:

Working on my PhD, I learned how to learn. I never anticipated how helpful or relevant my research skills would be in VC. At Version One, we aim to be as thesis-driven as possible.  Each month, we pick an up-and-coming vertical or theme and do a deep dive (with the help of Mattermark – portfolio plug). We create a market map to identify where there are opportunities for disruption and ask ourselves: if we were to build a company in this particular space, what would it look like? In other words, we try to figure out what a winner in the space looks like, then assess whether it would fit our fund.

We may not always be right, but it’s important to have conviction. And being thesis-driven makes us more efficient when filtering through all the startups we see.

Compassion

In addition to developing our investment thesis, we recognize that VC is still an industry built on relationships. My favorite part about being an investor is working with our portfolio companies, as well as other investors and entrepreneurs. I continually remind myself how lucky I am to get to be around people who are super smart, super passionate, and super courageous. These entrepreneurs constantly inspire me and in return, I aim to be as helpful and as kind as I can be.

What I’ve learned about being compassionate:

The first (and hardest) lesson I learned was that it is simply impossible to help everyone. We invest in 5-6 new companies a year, out of the 1,000+ that we see. In the beginning, I fell in love with every new idea, making it very difficult to pass on someone because they don’t fit our fund. Saying “no” is the least desirable part of the job, but I try to provide the most honest and specific feedback as possible.

I’m also thinking of other ways I can “scale” my compassion. Writing, workshops/conferences/panels, teaching, and paying it forward, just as so many investors have for me, all help to extend my reach as I try to be as open and transparent as possible.

Freedom

I definitely thrive when given trust and autonomy. Thankfully, this was the case as Boris “released me into the wild of the Valley” immediately after I joined him at Version One.

What I’ve learned about freedom:

VC is great in that we have the freedom to work anywhere and at any time… but this often results in working everywhere, all the time, making communication and time management all the more critical.  As a team of two who are usually working in different cities and/or countries, Boris and I constantly review our investment processes and internal operations. We can’t get to everything, so we try to do the right things well.

I’ll be the first to admit that my first six months were more reactive as I ramped up on my understanding of VC. However, I quickly learned how to prioritize. As a simple tip, I overcame my “fear of missing out” on events by only participating in those where there’s a plan to reconnect with someone I already know (and this still allows for those serendipitous encounters too!).

 

Thanks to everyone for making this first year so special, and for contributing to my personal mission of helping others recognize their potential and realize their dreams.

Here’s to an awesome year two!

-angela 🙂

 

 

  • Congrats on a wonderful year one! What do you wish you had done to better prepare yourself to be a full time investor?

  • ASG

    thanks for this post, angela.

    while we’ve met approximately 30 investors this year, you definitely stood out for having a refreshingly high IQ/ego ratio. regardless of whether version one is a fit for us, we’d like to stay in touch with you.

  • Great post, love the way you phrase the desire to “scale your compassion”. I’ve been thinking about the same things here at Madrona — we’re so lucky to work in this industry and it feels like there should be more and better ways to give back. Writing and teaching/speaking are the best I’ve come up with so far… would love to hear if you find others!

  • atkingyens

    Thanks, Avikk. You’re too kind 🙂

  • atkingyens

    Thanks, Dave. Good question. Having an engineering background has certainly been helpful in picking up fund economics organically… but a goal for Year 2 is to be more rigorous in learning VC finance which will likely involve reading a textbook, or two, or three 🙂

  • atkingyens

    Thanks, David! Next time I’m in Seattle, we should brainstorm 🙂

  • Great thoughts Angela. Don’t lose this perspective as you grow further in experience and exposure to the world of VC. As an entrepreneur I can understand Avikk’s (ASG)’s comments wholeheartedly. If you keep this outlook, you’ll win the admiration of your peers, competitors, all entrepreneurs (whether you invest in them or not) and that’ll be a great win….

  • atkingyens

    Thanks so much, Danny!

  • Would love to! Let me know when you’re in town. I’m david at madrona.com.

  • Rowan Grant

    Awesome to see freedom listed as one of your values. It’s one of mine, and probably a lot of peoples, however rarely vocalized…

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