Archive for May 10th, 2008

I Was A Teenage VC

They say there is a broken heart for every carried interest still on Bay Street. I can’t say for certain that this is the case; after all, I never knew the pain of investing in YOUtopia or Where’s Frankie. However, as a member of the VC Class of 2000, I did experience first hand some of our industry’s growing pains. Here’s my story:

It was the spring of 2000: NASDAQ was falling apart but, mercifully, the boy band N’SYNC was still together. I received a call from a local headhunter. BCE Capital was looking for new team members; was I interested? I was particularly fond of VCs at that moment, since the group behind my last company had managed to find someone who would pay $470 million for it. So I agreed.

Everything I know to be true about the value of Canadian venture capital I learned in those next two years. That’s not to say that venture capital is a perfect industry. If we’re being honest, some of you can’t park for beans. Given the number of scrapes you’ve collectively placed on the pristine walls of California’s many parking garages, it’s a wonder they still allow Canadians to attend CTIA at all. And others need to seriously rethink your pant choices. Like the fabless semiconductor industry, the moment for acid wash jeans has long passed.

But the patience and mentorship of those who welcomed us in the Class of 2000 ranks has had long-lasting effects. Many of us who moved on have remained active in the start-up community in other forms. I think this is in large part because we were taught how when to embrace and support entrepreneurial risk. The hardest thing to learn in venture capital is how and when to say “yes.” After all, you can’t have a lousy ROI if you don’t actually invest. The watershed moment for me as a venture capitalist came when I stopped looking for a low-risk deal and found one that was acceptably risky for all the right reasons. If I could just take back my hairstyle, those years would be among the best I’ve spent in business.