Our ‘A Day in the Life’ series highlights alumni in various fields and positions, offering a glimpse of what life after graduation is like. This post comes to us from M&T alum Jesse, currently working at IA Ventures in New York.
Please briefly describe what industry you’re in and what your particular position entails.
I work at an early stage venture capital firm called IA Ventures. Seed and early stage VC’s like IA make investments in private companies, generally with 1-20 employees and in their first couple years of existence. Our firm specifically focuses on companies whose core competitive advantage is data (sometimes “Big” data…).
I’m the only junior investment team member in a small firm, which means I do a lot of everything. I evaluate all the potential investments that our partners see, I meet entrepreneurs, I conduct due diligence (meaning review the product/tech stack, talk to customers, and dissect the budget), shepherd deals to completion (herding lawyers), and consult for our portfolio companies on strategic issues that I’m interested in.
What time did you get up this morning before work?
6am, but for fun. No one really shows up to our office before 10.
What time did you start working, and what time were you done for the day?
Technically, I set foot in the office at 9:30ish and left at 6:58 (running — not walking — to a dinner meeting). But practically speaking, I started “working” as soon as I woke up. Startups are not work hours bounded. So email and calls happen at all hours of the day. But I make my own schedule and many of my meetings are a mix of social and work, since lots of people in tech are also close friends.
What were some of the projects you worked on today?
– Met with an entrepreneur building a new education technology
– Helped a friend of a friend prepare for pitching her startup at a demo day in a couple weeks
– Built a budget model for a company’s 2nd half of the year, helping them be realistic about cash runway before they need to raise money again, and planning for different hiring scenarios
– Reviewed a portfolio company’s Board updates and connected them with two potential customers I know (investors have leaderboards for how much we can help out)
– Interviewed a potentially transformative hire for a portfolio company and helped reinforce the vision for her involvement
– Ate a copious amount of sushi with my team
– Re-allocated our fund reserves between portfolio companies (as one of them is planning to raise a large round of follow on capital) and modeled the resulting expected cash outflows for our fund
– Plugged for a few portfolio companies at a dinner with several payments industry execs (all of whom were way above my pay grade…)
Who specifically did you interact with today, besides coworkers (clients, interns, researchers, executives, founders, etc.)?
I met with entrepreneurs who were pitching us on their company, spoke with a potential hire, met some execs at a networking dinner, spoke with our legal team about a term sheet, and had reference calls with two important business partners for a deal we just signed.
Are you currently traveling or about to travel for work?
Nothing currently on my calendar, but I just got back from a week in London on site with one of our portfolio companies based there. I spent several days there, a combination of pub-crawling with all their new hires, and also helping the founders strategize both inside and outside their Board meeting.
What was your favorite part of the work day?
Finding out that a founder in our portfolio signed a deal for over 1/3 of their projected revenue for the year, and it’s not even the end of Q2 yet. He’s worked his butt off over the past two years and deserves every bit of this recent success.
What are some of the challenges within your position that you particularly enjoy?
Being an investor is all about tensions. You have to balance between optimism, believing in entrepreneurs, and maintaining a critical, objective eye when making investment decisions. And when helping companies manage, I need to gather data, trust my gut, but also be skeptical of both the data and the gut. So managing yourself and your cognitive biases is hard.
So are the uncertainties. My job is to help founders isolate the biggest risks to their business, evaluate a range of options, and make good decisions. But we know that our experimental design, data collection, and interpretation will be extremely imperfect. And that our limited experiences and pattern matching with similar situations won’t *really* apply. So it’s all about making decisions under extreme ambiguity for every single aspect of a company.
How did you end up in your current position?
I knew I liked tech and business, but didn’t follow any well-defined path. I followed what I liked at the time, and trusted in people who I looked up to. So each step along the way was guided by a close mentor — my first internship in tech marketing at Microsoft, giving that up the following summer to try growth equity at a firm called Insight, taking a chance on starting a company after I graduated, and then moving over to IA. All of those decisions were based on relationships.
How did M&T help prepare you for where you are today?
– Making me multi-lingual. M&T teaches you to speak the languages of technology and business. That’s a huge advantage in the workplace, as people usually have one default language and skill set. With it, we can bridge the gaps between functional groups who often don’t know how to communicate with each other effectively.
– Forcing me to be efficient and composed under time pressure. We all build up the ability to efficiently manage to deadlines on multiple, unrelated work streams. We learn to pull together extremely good work on short notice, by prioritizing and cutting out unnecessary tasks that don’t move the needle.
Jesse is currently an Associate at IA Ventures in New York. He graduated from Penn and M&T in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science in Systems from Penn Engineering and a Bachelor of Economics from the Wharton School with concentrations in Marketing and Operations and Information Management. Jesse also earned a Master of Science in Systems from Penn Engineering while at Penn. Outside of his career, Jesse is interested in the intersection of food and science – he loves to sous-vide different foods and his favorite book is Modernist Cuisine by Nathan Myhrvold.