#4 Future VC Roundup
This is a roundup of the Future VC Masterclasses, including 3 key takeaways from my 3 favourite classes, an interview with Seb Butt (Founder of Future VC) and my asks of the Future VC cohort.
What is Future VC?
Future VC is an initiative to improve diversity within the venture capital industry and is part of the wider Diversity VC group. Diversity is hugely lacking in VC, with 70% of venture capital firm employees being white; minorities and females are yet to be fully integrated into the venture and venture-backed technology world.
This is detrimental to the industry, as diversity (and therefore diversity of thought) increases performance, workplace happiness and profitability.
Future VC aims to change this, offering:
Industry talks and training
A two-month paid internship
Coaching for recruitment processes and presenting
Unrivalled networking opportunities within VC
Supportive peer group
Unfortunately, like with everything else, COVID put a spanner in the works, so the Future VC team switched the offering to online masterclasses, networking, and mentoring for the 300+ remote participants.
This, in many ways, worked out well for us as it meant geographical barriers were broken down and many of the participants (including myself) who probably wouldn’t have made it into the final 40 interns, were still able to benefit.
For me, I would go as far as saying this has been one of the top 3 opportunities in my lifetime, as it has already opened doors that I perceived (maybe wrongly so) were out of reach.
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A chat with Seb Butt
To end the programme, I thought it would be a great idea to have a chat with Seb to reflect, gather his thoughts on geographical diversity within VC and to ask him to deliver pitch/summary of his skills.
This is a bit of an inside joke to the Future VC cohort, but during an Accel Masterclass on networking, 2 participants were randomly chosen to present their elevator pitch to the 300+ audience (they smashed it btw), but I thought this time it’s Seb’s time to be put on the spot…
A massive thanks to Seb for doing this, he was great to chat to, and I knew I was a bit cheeky asking him to do this but I’ve learnt that I’ll never regret being brave.
Below are some of the questions I asked; I didn’t go into too much depth as Seb has already answered many of my questions (such as tips for someone looking to get into VC) in a previous interview.
Feel free to check out that interview/podcast episode from 50 In Tech titled “Why the VC World Needs to Be Less Homogeneous & How to fix it” using this link!
His main tip for entrepreneurs going into/starting a startup:
Don’t put yourself into a bucket (i.e. don’t just pigeonhole yourself into finance, operations or marketing etc.): Assume that you will have to get involved in everything and be prepared to diversify your skillset across those areas. This applies massively to working in a startup if you want to one day start your own.
Thoughts on geographical diversity
“Often people think about the London bubble… and Future VC was looking to develop across the UK more pre-COVID.” - It’s great to see that Future and Diversity VC have identified and are looking to combat geographical diversity issues within the UK.
Seb had the same mindset as me that if you are a great founder or high-potential venture capitalist, then you will find your way, but there needs to be done to encourage diversity in location.
Seb spoke about a conversation with Northstar, during which one of the most significant issues identified is to do with hiring the best talent outside of London. It is hard to beat the offering that London startups and VC firms can offer and there is constant pressure to be London-centric to get the people needed to grow your business. This could be combated through initiatives and partners between 3 of the biggest firms in the north (Northstar, Mercia and ADV).
Encouraging LP access across the UK is also a great point raised by Seb, and after speaking to startup founders from the Google for Startup Showcase, they certainly mirrored this view. Because LPs are fewer and further apart outside of London, they are by nature, harder to access.
In my opinion, COVID will catalyse change here, removing the geographical barriers and making LPs (who usually wouldn’t invest if they can’t meet the team) more accessible.
3 Takeaways From My 3 Favourite Masterclasses
Session 1: History of VC & VC 101: Michael Tefula (Downing Ventures) & Henrik Wetter Sanchez (Playfair Capital)
The first recorded venture capitalist was a woman: Isabella I of Castile was the first VC; she funded Christoper Columbus in his attempts to find new trade routes. This is where the term “carry” comes from (what the ships were carrying on their trade routes) and the crew would get to keep a % of this.
VC follows The Power Law Curve: Most of the returns come from a couple of the portfolio companies and most VC firms don’t even return to their LPs (they don’t even make the money back to repay their investors).
The future of VC lies in purposeful and conscious investment: VC has to bring the whole of society with it to achieve the greater good and sustainability.
Session 3: Picking Teams & Spotting Outliers: Lars Kvaalen (Antler) & Harry Briggs (Omers Ventures)
There are five team dimensions that are often focussed on by venture capitalists assessing founder teams:
Individual strengths of the team members: They need to have a balance between coachable and self-assured (I like to call this “firm but flexible”
Complimentary skillset: The group’s skillset should form as close to a full circle as possible
Team balance: Chemistry is immeasurable and difficult to describe, but when it’s there, it’s there and you will feel it
Ability to execute fast: Complete deliverables while being humble and continually learning (move fast and break things)
Hunger/ability to build a large company to return the fund: Resilience and consistency is the game.
The eight biggest returning founders of the past 60 years are all extremely unique and similar in 9 qualities (they were also all men, which is pretty disappointing, but a lot has changed over the past 60-years so this will belatedly improve!)
The 9 qualities are:
“Misfits” with something to prove
Authentic/happy to be different
“Broad and deep”
Talent spotters/talent magnets
What I took from the above point… don’t try and change yourself to fit in; conforming to what you think other people want will make you similar to everyone else, and everyone else isn’t out there changing the world!
At least one person on the founding team needs to be able to attract capital and excite the other founders! This is something I am trying to work on and hope to develop through 2ND CITY VC and The Alacrity Foundation!
Session 13: Building a Personal Brand and Interview Preparation: Vinay Chaudhri (Backed VC) & Frederica Birley (Kia Consultants)
Marketing is all about stories and context: When Rolls Royce tried to sell at car shows they were dismissed as being too expensive, but when they switched to boat shows, their sales skyrocketed as their cost was cheap compared to a yacht… To me, there is a lot more to this than just the switch and shows how important context and the story is.
The core of a personal brand (in VC and everything else) is Relevancy + Recency: You need to make sure the content you put out is relevant to your audience, frequent enough to keep you in mind and up to date!
Lists on Twitter: A great way to sort and store different ecosystems in Twitter is to create lists of the 10 most influential people in that space. I have created one for tech startups (general), VC, rugby and CrossFit; meaning I can easily keep up with the most relevant content I’m interested in, but in a filtered way.
I’m sure all of the Future VC participants have found this years programme as useful as I have and I would like to thank Seb Butt, Julia Rabin, Check Warner and the rest of the Future VC team for their never-ending hard work behind the scenes.
To finish off, I would like to give 3 points to the rest of the Future VC cohort that I hope you all take with you into whatever you decide to do after this is over (even if it isn’t VC):
Don’t waste this networking opportunity: Make those connections, reach out and be curious! If you don’t, I can 100% guarantee you will look back and regret not taking the time to grow your network.
As I said above, you will never regret being brave.
Develop your perspective: In my opinion, the masterclasses were a waste of time if you don’t use the information or develop your perspective.
Revisit the content, write about it, talk to someone about what you learnt to spread the word… whatever you do, develop your perspective as it is one of your most unique and valuable qualities.
Diversity doesn’t stop here: Remember the problems that have been highlighted to us and take your insight forward to change the world for the better.
If you would like to hear/listen more about my thoughts and any of the above topics, please subscribe using the link below and/or follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube! I will be posting content from venture capitalists from Midven, Scottish Equity Partners and Edge Ventures over the next few weeks.
And finally a massive thank you to Future VC and Seb Butt for giving me this opportunity.
Thank you for reading, please send me feedback and questions to any of the above social media platforms or email firstname.lastname@example.org