The Millennial VC

Four weeks ago a couple of folks from VLab approached me with a simple request, could I make a few introductions or point them towards “successful millennial VC’s?” They wanted to find a panel of impressive individuals that they could feature on a panel. The goal of the panel was to talk about millennial investors in venture capital. It might surprise you that the question took me by surprise.

It took me by surprise not because I don’t know amazing and accomplished millennial VC’s (I do), but because the question revolved around the idea of success. For investors, success is simply defined as financial returns. The greater the returns, the greater the success. Simple enough, right? So why was Frederik struggling to answer the question?! This is simple math!

Well…Success in Venture, especially early stage venture which is where most millennials work, takes time — and I mean a lot of time, usually up to 10 years. The simple fact is that very few millennial VC’s (if any) have been investing in start-ups for the last 10 years. Very few millennials have even been working for 10 years!

Is there such a thing as a successful millennial VC? (If measured by fund returns)

So, needless to say, I had an amazing conversation about success and perhaps other metrics the organization should think about — i.e. diversity of opinions, different stages, and focus around mid-level roles. Apparently I didn’t freak-out the incredible team at VLab since they invited me to the event last night.

I walked in very, VERY curious. As both a millennial and investor, you might say I was more than a little interested in what would be said. The timing of the event was perfect, just a week (or so) after Forbes released their 30 under 30 list of VC’s and during a period where folks tend to be more reflective, so I walked in ready to take notes. Here’s what I learned from the panel.

From left to right: Mark Bunger (moderator), Shruti Gandhi (Managing Partner at Array Ventures), Lu Zhang (Founding and Managing Partner at NewGen Capital), Bucky Moore (Principal at Costanova Ventures), Josh Nussbaum (Principal at Compound Venture Capital) and William Ichioka (Private Investor)

Interesting Takeaways

The first interesting question that was asked was around whether or not a young investor’s perspective is inherently different? Talk about thought provoking!

Is a young investor’s perspective inherently different?

In the affirmative, folks talked about conscious capitalism (i.e. the idea that millennials care about the values an organization has), having a fresher outlook, increased willingness to take risks on exciting new technologies, the fact that millennials investors often have more time to spend with founders because they rarely sit on tons of boards, are able to work longer hours because they either don’t have a family or have a very young family, and the fact that since founders are getting younger — fewer barriers exist today to if you want to start a company — millennial investors are able to relate more with founders.

In the negative, everyone talked about how the lack of experience led to a less mature ability to pattern match. Millennials have seen fewer failures and fewer successes so the filter is still young.

“Hearables” are the next big wave!

From there the conversation drifted to what the next big thing is. Universally folks agreed that “hearables” are going to change the way we live. “Hearables” are devices that listen for our voice and use voice as a means of interaction. Examples include Google Home, Alexa, and Siri. This led to an interesting disagreement among the panel around data privacy. Some accept that they’ve traded privacy for utility and others were terrified about all of the data they have knowingly and unknowingly given to companies — and hackers.

I personally have to say I couldn’t agree more that voice will continue to be transformational — it’s why I invested in Simple Emotion.

“Data Is Oxygen”

Lastly, Lu Zhang said something that resonated not only with me, but with the entire panel and I think will resonate with every millennial VC out there. She said that “Data is Oxygen.” Our generation will be defined by how we use data, how we secure our data, and how innovative algorithms leverage our data. Never has a generation been so influenced and so focused on data. A sobering reality that Josh mentioned was the simple fact that just like AI can transform society for good, it can just as easily be combined with large stollen data sets for malicious purposes.

Over-all, hats off to the folks at VLab for putting on an extraordinary event. I look forward to attending many more in the future.

What’s VLab?

VLAB is the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum, a global non-profit organization dedicated to connecting Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs, industry experts, venture capitalists, private investors and technologists to enable them to effectively grow high-tech ventures amidst dynamic market risks and challenges.

Venture Capital
Storm Ventures