Thursday, November 25, 2010

Apprenticeship, BVP and Thanksgiving

A couple weeks ago, Ben Siscovick over at IA Ventures wrote a really wonderful post on the importance of being mentored as a young VC. As Ben wrote,

“In fact, it’s a complete wonder to me that young venture investors find a place in the eco-system at all …And yet, not only are there young VCs, but many in this new breed are excelling in the industry. In some ways I think of a firm ‘betting’ on a young VC as analogous to investing in a first-time entrepreneur - you know there will be mistakes along the way, but you hope that the big successes will outweigh the inevitable mistakes and that overtime the individual will grow into a seasoned, mature and experienced pro. ” 
On this Thanksgiving day, I wanted to pick up Ben’s thread with a long overdue post.

When I joined Bessemer as an Analyst back in May 2006, I was very young, new to both the investment world and the technology world, and quite a bit shy. If the job had required any internal politicking to get ahead, I would have floundered. Instead, the job was incredibly merit oriented, and the measure of merit extremely objective. I worked hard, listened a ton, and somehow, someway, I excelled.

Midway through my second year, as I started thinking about applying to business school, Jeremy Levine asked me if I would be interested in becoming his Associate. For those of you who don’t know Jeremy, that’s a little like being asked to dance by the winner of the national dancing contest. I still remember how elated I was on my train ride home from Larchmont that day.

It’s been almost three years since that day, and I realize more and more how much I’ve learned working with Jeremy and the rest of the Bessemer team. Bessemer is one of the few firms that have successfully transitioned from one generation of great investors to the next, several times over (dating back to 1911). With this tradition, comes an ingrained commitment to nurturing and recognizing the talents of its younger investors. I’m incredibly lucky for that. Venture investing really is a craft that one learns best through apprenticeship and mentorship. The feedback cycles are too long otherwise.  But getting apprenticed doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. There is first a question of the quality of the apprentice and whether he or she will be able to absorb all the lessons (and bring his or her own perspective), and then there is the question of the quality of the lessons that apprentice learns.

Although I can’t speak to the former, on the latter, I believe Bessemer’s incredible track record and longevity speaks for itself. For a youngin’ like me, it’s a pretty phenomenal place to be.  I have no idea where the road ahead lies, but I feel lucky and grateful for the road I've traveled thus far. So thank you BVP, and happy Thanksgiving to everyone!