Q: Tell us a bit about yourself and, growing up, what did you aspire to be?
A: Growing up, I wanted to be a stock picker. During elementary school, my sixth-grade class had a month-long stock picking competition. Before school every day, I would look in the back of my local paper at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) quotes to see how my stocks had done the day before (this was pre-internet). By sheer luck I ended up winning the competition, but after it was over, I still checked the paper and became fascinated by why stocks would go up and down. I also started to save whatever money I had to buy single shares of companies I liked. To this day, in my office, I have a certificate for three shares of Disney stock I bought when I was 13 or 14. From there, I fell in love with analyzing companies, and professionally I’ve never been interested in doing anything other than that.
Q: How did you get into venture capital investing, and what areas do you focus on?
A: I joined Franklin Templeton in the Futures Associates program. I was placed into Franklin Equity Group (FEG) and became an analyst covering a few industrial and technology sectors. I still thank Mike McCarthy (chief investment officer of FEG) to this day for giving me my dream job. In the 2014 timeframe, our group became more active investing in pre-initial public offering (IPO) rounds of private companies. We realized that the edge we had in sourcing and underwriting pre-IPO businesses extended into mid-stage growth start-ups as well, which is when James Cross and Bobby Stevenson launched Franklin Venture Partners (FVP) to take advantage of that edge. James and Bobby were my mentors at FEG and were always great at giving younger people a chance to take on more responsibility, and they did that again with me at FVP.
Today I focus a bit more on the software, enterprise tech and industrial tech areas, but our major advantage is that since we sit within the FEG, we get to leverage the diligence expertise of our entire sector specialist analyst team. In that sense, I see my role as getting access to the best opportunities in the market and making sure a deal passes a certain quality threshold before doing deeper diligence alongside the relevant analyst who tends to bring a much deeper knowledge set in a particular area.
Q: What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job?
A: By far, the most rewarding part of my job is getting to work with really smart people, both on our team and on entrepreneur side every day. I love talking to entrepreneurs who are so excited about what they are building, learning how they see the world and being able to share in some of that excitement. I also still love doing diligence and analyzing a business.
The most challenging part of the job right now is probably fundraising, especially in challenging environments like the current one. Our whole team has always had a gritty mentality, and I think that’s why we have managed to be pretty successful for a new platform so far. But we have had no shortage of skeptics along the way.
Q: Are there certain industry trends you are particularly excited about?
A: Yes, there are a number of themes we’re excited about: data in the enterprise—not only machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to leverage data, but also data security, data governance and data pipelines to move data around an organization. We think hardware-enabled software will be a major theme in the industrial space over the next decade. Analog-to-digital transitions have been one of the best investment themes over the last decade, and we think there are still a lot of opportunities there, especially with more browser-based collaboration tools. Themes like deglobalization, decarbonization and defense are all things we are looking at.
Q: What advice would you give to young people just starting out in their career and looking to get into venture capital investing?
A: I’d tell them to build their network of entrepreneurs, investors and people in the ecosystem. Venture capital investing is able to generate outsized returns because it’s an inefficient market with real information asymmetry. Information to make investment decisions isn’t publicly available and allocations to the best deals are highly competitive. So, access is the scarcest resource in this industry, and that is where somebody’s personal network is incredibly important. Bobby uses an example I really like, he says you could have been the smartest investor in the world and done all the right diligence during the smartphone revolution and concluded that Apple was going to be the winner. But if Apple was private and Steve Jobs didn’t let you invest in his round, then none of your work or brilliance would have mattered.
Q: What is the best part about working and living in Silicon Valley?
A: The quality of the people and natural beauty of the landscape.
Q: Tell us about Franklin Venture Partners’ “Scout Program.”
A: To my earlier point about networks, the scout program allows us to broaden our network by partnering with individuals we’ve identified as being very well connected in the start-up ecosystem. We benefit from early access to opportunities in their network as well as information they bring us to help with decision-making more broadly, and they participate in some of the economic upside of deals they bring to us. The program does have a diversity and inclusion angle, and we hope that by giving folks from diverse and minority backgrounds an opportunity to help source deals, we can help surface some investing talent—whether it be for our team or for them to take and jumpstart their venture career.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of work?
A: I still play basketball, tennis and golf pretty actively, I have a studio in San Francisco’s Mission District where I paint. I’ve fallen in love with philosophy over the last few years and like to read as much of that as possible.
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