Note from NVCA: As part of NVCA’s VentureForward initiative, this ‘Spotlight on Rising Stars in VC’ blog series showcases individuals in the venture industry from different backgrounds and across the workforce to share experiences, spotlight their journeys and successes, and educate the next generation of people considering a career in venture capital.
Spotlight on Rising Stars in VC: Jaclyn Freeman Hester
Name: Jaclyn Freeman Hester
Location: I grew up in Quaker Hill, Connecticut, a small coastal town in New London County. After a short stint in Manhattan after college, I moved to Boulder, Colorado, which I now consider home. I’ve been in Boulder for six of my eight years in Colorado. I currently work at Foundry Group in Boulder, Colorado.
Years of VC experience: ~2.5 years.
Position description: I am a Fund Investment Associate. I focus on our Partner Fund strategy in our Foundry Group Next fund and our newest fund, Foundry Group Next 2018. Foundry is a venture capital firm that has been investing directly in early stage tech startups across North America since 2007. In 2016, we also started investing in other, smaller, seed and Series A focused tech VC funds across North America. You can read more about our newest fund here, which combines our direct and fund investing strategies into one single fund.
In my role, I work on all aspects of the Partner Fund strategy, from sourcing, to diligence and deal execution, to portfolio management and support post-investment. In our next fund, I will continue to help across the board and work with all of our Partner Funds, but will be particularly focused on new and existing investments in emerging managers.
Q. Who are a few of the individuals in the industry that have been the most critical to your professional journey?
All of the partners at Foundry Group, particularly Lindel Eakman, Jason Mendelson, and Brad Feld. Jason is responsible for introducing me to the world of VC and entrepreneurship. He was a co-professor, along with another mentor of mine, Brad Bernthal, in a course on VC at CU Law in Boulder (where I earned my JD/MBA). Jason and Brad B. later brought me the opportunity to lead Startup Colorado as Executive Director, which is where I first met and had the pleasure of working with Brad Feld, who helped launch Startup Colorado. Brad introduced me to the concept of “give first.”
After law school, I practiced corporate law for a few years, first working with startups and later in an M&A practice. I wasn’t happy in the “big law” world and started thinking about a career transition. Enter Jason, in early 2016, who I ran into while volunteering at an event to help law students learn how to network. Jason kindly offered to help me in my search and ended up connecting me with Lindel Eakman, his former LP and then-newest partner at Foundry. Lindel took a chance on me and brought me into Foundry to support him on our Partner Fund strategy. Lindel has been an incredibly generous mentor to me and basically took me on as an apprentice to learn the VC business over the past two and a half years. I am also now fortunate to have another lead mentor in Jamey Sperans, another former LP of Foundry’s who joined as a partner earlier this year and focuses on the Partner Fund strategy as well as early-growth stage direct investments. I’m incredibly fortunate to be learning VC from some of the best in the business, both as LPs and GPs, and to also get to work with and learn from the 25+ GPs we’ve partnered with since I started in 2016.
A special shout out also to a fellow venture LP, Beezer Clarkson, who is a mentor to me (probably without knowing it) and has been super generous with her time and wisdom.
Q. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
As a child, I wanted to be a “vegetarian veterinarian.” No joke. I ended up being neither of these things, though I do try to limit my meat intake and I have a dog that I love very much. I went to college knowing I wanted to focus on business and came out wanting to be a lawyer. Really, I just wanted to be part of building “something interesting” and helping others. It feels like that’s where I’ve ended up, despite the winding road.
Q. What career advice would you give to your younger self?
- You are solely responsible for your own happiness.
- Say yes to opportunities and give first.
- Surround yourself with good people who will take an interest in you.
- Take risks when you can and embrace change; get comfortable with uncertainty – it will be okay.
- Learn how to learn (this is the best thing I got out of law school), and be a lifelong learner. It doesn’t really matter what classes you take or what you major in. Learn how to learn and become an interesting person.
- Meet interesting people outside of the career you think you’re going to have and outside of your bubble.
- Maybe not “career advice,” but travel more (see #5: become an interesting person).Which books, articles, podcasts, and/or reports would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about the work that you do?
Q. Which books, articles, podcasts, and/or reports would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about the work that you do?
- Venture Deals, by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson
- Dan Primack/Axios’ Pro Rata daily newsletter and podcast
- The Information (https://www.theinformation.com/)
- avc.com (Fred Wilson’s blog)
- feldthoughts.com (Brad Feld’s blog)
- Harry Stebbing’s 20 Minute VC podcast
- Origins Podcast (by Nick Chirls and Alex Lines at Notation Capital)
Q. What qualities do you appreciate in the people you’ve worked with?
- Being direct. I so appreciate when people are direct and I try to do the same. It’s not always easy to be on the receiving end of direct feedback, but it is far better than the alternative. Learning how to take direct feedback gracefully and how to give it kindly and tactfully is hugely important and is something I continue to work on every day.
- Strong communication. In life and in work, most of the time conflicts can be avoided with better communication. Being clear, transparent, and proactive with communication is key to successful working relationships.
- Sense of humor. This industry can be intense, but it’s important not to take yourself too seriously and have some fun. Plus, I like jokes.
- Willingness to teach. A lot of learning is just by osmosis – getting to sit in the room with great minds is an incredible opportunity. A bonus is when you get one-on-one time to dig in on difficult/new concepts, key takeaways from a given situation, and factors that led to a certain decision.
- Good humans. The partners and other team members at Foundry Group certainly fall in the “good human” category. It’s also the first aspect of our filter when we make new investments.
Q. What impact do you hope to make on the venture capital industry?
My goal is to help VCs and founders build innovative companies and be successful. I’m particularly interested in identifying and supporting the “next generation” of great investors, which, in my view, will be a diverse group of individuals that will partner with a diverse group of entrepreneurs to shape the future of technology and business. I hope to be helpful and inclusive both with capital and advice/mentorship to ensure that the future of tech is representative of our diverse population. Demographic and technological shifts toward access, equality, and inclusivity mean that founders, employees, and customers will come from a wide array of backgrounds on many levels, including race, gender, nationality, location, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, professional experiences, etc. Given this demographic shift, the face of VC is also changing and becoming more diverse. I look forward to continuing to learn from the best and use my knowledge and experience to help this next generation succeed.