Venture Capital/Opinion/

Dispatches from a new VC: cruelty-free kombucha and board meetings

It’s not every day that you start a job that you know is going to change your life — and change the world.

Credit: Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
Rosie Wood

By Rosie Wood

Meet our new (fictional) columnist: VC associate Rosie Wood, who’s utterly humbled to be sharing her journey into startup investing with you ovethe next few months.

It’s not every day that you start a job that you know is going to change your life — and change the world.

But that’s exactly how I felt on Monday — my first day as a venture capital investor. 

I’m Rosie Wood, the newest associate at the London VC firm Mild Conviction (MC). The fund hasn’t done a lot of PR in the past, but the partners have nominated me as ‘Culture Carrier’ to share a sneak peek into the industry and our firm through this column. As one of the youngest members on the team and the only woman, it’s a real honour. (Especially since Andrew Chen says writing is even better for networking than actual networking!

By way of a quick introduction, I’m not the typical profile of someone working in VC. I spent the last few years working for Plymouth’s first-ever unicorn, MightyMouth, on the finance team. We were bootstrapped until a fund called Tiger gave us $100m. The culture kind of disintegrated after the raise and one of the founders got a bad cocaine habit, but it showed me what VCs could do. I had impact at one company, but VCs have impact across dozens, if not hundreds of companies. 

It just so happened that some recruiter reached out to me about a fund that was looking for a female candidate. After six months of gruelling interviews, on-and-off radio silence, two case studies and presenting a deal I sourced to the investment committee, I had an offer. (It made me really happy that they actually invested in the company too, just before I joined.) 

I was a pile of nerves when I showed up at MC’s gorgeous offices in a brick Georgian house in Marylebone for my first day. I had my laptop and The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz — one of the 10 or so books that MC sent me before I started to get up to speed on the industry — just in case there was a quiz or something. 

It’s not every day that you get to work side by side with someone who founded one of the UK’s first unicorns, dog furniture startup The Beagles.”

My first meeting was with managing partner Rupert Nickerson in the firm’s incredible library slash podcast studio (there’s also a Peloton bike there that I’m told is free for anyone to use — how cool!). It was my first time meeting the man in person, and as you can imagine, I was totally starstruck. It’s not every day that you get to work side by side with someone who founded one of the UK’s first unicorns, dog furniture startup The Beagles, and then sold his second ecommerce company to Amazon. And he’s still had time to climb Everest twice and reply to everyone that tweets at him. 

Rupert started, surprisingly, by asking about my boyfriend. Did I think I was going to get married to my boyfriend when we started dating? 

I told him that I didn’t necessarily think so — that seemed like the answer he was looking for. 

“In other words, you had mild conviction about him. It could work out really well or it could not work out, but you did the brave thing in taking a chance on him. Because taking a chance is better than doing nothing. We believe the same thing about companies. We don’t have to be head over heels in love with a founding team to invest. No overblown DD or back and forth. If we think the company is kinda good, it’s probably good enough. That’s how we think about things here.” 

It was such a good explanation of the way the firm works; I can see why they say Rupert is amazing at storytelling. Unfortunately, he had to run off seven minutes into our chat to talk to a founder, but that gave me the chance to get set up at my desk and get a cruelty-free kombucha. 

The rest of the morning was coffee chats with the other partners, VPs and associates and a rundown of which live deals and which portfolio companies I’d be supporting. 

I think the most interesting chat I had was with Alex Cholmondeley who is responsible for finding outlier founders from top European business schools. He has a super impressive CV; he’s a former navy seal who worked at McKinsey for five years and founded a telemedicine startup in Mongolia. Definitely going to try and pick his brain again soon for tips on scaling. By then, I was on my fifth coffee and feeling buzzed; Alex didn’t have a coffee because he was fasting. 

I was really looking forward to meeting the French partner, Jean-Baptiste, but I was told he was out for lunch. I also didn’t get to meet the other managing partner, Jürgen, because he was at the Verbier office for a founder meeting. Things to look forward to! 

After the meetings, I had a quick quinoa salad lunch from the place next door. The afternoon was a six-hour board meeting for a portfolio company. After that, I wanted to show everyone what I was made of, so I stayed until 11 to help make slides on 10-minute grocery startups. When I left, the other associate, Fred, was using the Peloton. Didn’t want to disturb him, so I zipped up my MC-branded Patagonia jacket (they accidentally gave me a men’s medium but it’s so big and comfy!) and grabbed an Uber home. 

Anyway, sorry this got so long! I’m always looking to expand my network so please reach out if you’d like to connect. Sifted gave me an email ([email protected]) or you can find me on Twitter @Mild_Conviction

For now, I’ll sign off like our VP James suggested I do: let me know how I can be helpful, 

Rosie

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