A Week in the Life of a Venture Capitalist (VC) in Lockdown!
It’s a very strange time to be writing my piece for GAIN to reveal a bit more about what a career in investment is like, because I am writing this whilst the UK is under the Covid-19 imposed national lockdown. Whilst essential and key workers have returned to work already, anyone who is able to work from home has been instructed to for the foreseeable future. I’m in the privileged position where I can do pretty much all of my work from home with my laptop and phone, but it’s still a fairly big adjustment now that there are no in person meetings, no conferences, no travelling and not being able to go to our office in Southwark.
It’s also a strange time to be writing this update because I’m still in the first three months of a relatively new role. I launched a new Venture Capital fund, Ada Ventures, with my co-founder Matt in December 2019. Ada Ventures is a £27m fund targeting investing in early stage technology companies, specifically looking to invest in people and markets that are underserved and overlooked by the wider venture capital market. As a result of launching the fund, my working life looks quite different this year to last year!
In spite of everything going on in the world around us, we are still making new investments and managing the four investments we made between January and March. We invest in very early-stage companies - often just two or three people with an early version of a prototype and sometimes (but not always) some users and revenues. This week we’ve been continuing to meet these early stage companies via Zoom and have found that it’s almost as effective in getting to know a company as in person meetings (and certainly more efficient!).
On Monday afternoons we have our investment team meeting where we discuss all the new companies we met and reviewed during the previous week, as well as any investment themes that we’ve been spending time exploring. This meeting can last two or three hours depending on how many companies each of us wants to discuss. We use a software tool called Zapflow to help us organise our notes and thoughts about each of the companies and track where these companies are coming to us from. As last week was a bank holiday we did our investment review meeting on Tuesday afternoon instead. Following this meeting there are usually a number of follow-up actions and meetings that need to be set up with the founders of the companies that are raising money so the shape of the week will often be determined by what’s agreed in that meeting.
Most of Tuesday to Friday last week were spent working on the final stages of an investment offer for a company that we are hoping to make in the digital health sector. This involved doing a market analysis of competitors, speaking to customers, doing reference checks on the founding team, reviewing information sent to us by the company and finally putting all of that together into an investment paper. This can take 2-3 weeks in total but sometimes, if there are other investors who also want to make an offer to a company, we need to move faster than that. Venture Capital is quite a fast moving industry as the best companies tend to have more than one offer so it’s important that we are able to either move quickly or provide compelling enough reasons for them to pick our offer over other funds.
Last week I also had two (virtual!) board meetings with companies we’ve already invested in. These meetings are an important part of our fiduciary duty governance role as investors and allow us to manage risk, help the founding team see around corners and input in strategy and execution.
The week flew by as it usually does and I ended it having a drink on Zoom with my business partner Matt as well as two of the team members working with us at Ada at 5pm. This Zoom drink has become a new tradition to end the week and create a bit more of a sense of routine and a transition from work to the weekend which is otherwise pretty difficult to differentiate when most of your time is spent at home!
I feel extremely fortunate to have a job that I really enjoy - particularly at a time when so many people are either out of work or worried about losing their jobs in the future. If anyone reading this is interested in a career in Venture Capital do check out the resources on the Diversity VC website. Diversity VC is a non-profit I co-founded with several others who work in the industry with the ambition to make the industry more inclusive. We share many of the ambitions of GAIN and I’m very pleased to be able to contribute to their excellent work.