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: Augie Wilkinson
Name: Augie Wilkinson
Location: I am originally from San Diego, CA. After 18 years of sunshine, surf and In and Out burgers, I wanted to try the “other coast” for a few years. I was fortunate to meet my wife my second year of college (Go Cats \\//); 15+ years later we are currently living in Westport, CT together with our three kids (5, 3, and 1 years old). I work for Bessemer Venture Partners, based in our Larchmont, NY office (just north of NYC).
Years of VC experience: I’ve worked at BVP for the past three years. Prior to that, I was in valuation consulting where I had a few PE/VC clients.
Position description: I am the director of portfolio monitoring and analysis with a variety of responsibilities, most notably the daily oversight of the valuation policies, procedures and practices related to the funds’ 200+ investments. In addition to the portfolio valuations, I also oversee the liquidity strategy of the funds’ public equities (i.e., post-IPO), develop portfolio analytics/ modeling (i.e., IRR, TVPI, MOIC, etc.) for internal and external reporting, and have roles in the firm’s regulatory compliance, financial reporting, and LP relationships. What I’m most proud of however, is the organization of the firm’s annual Guac Off, where sadly I did not win this year.
Q. Who are a few of the individuals in the industry that have been the most critical to your professional journey?
Moving from PE/VC consulting to the “fund side” can be an inimitable experience for most; things like culture, structure, and operations can be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Fortunately, in my experience, I’ve been able to rely on two people within my firm who have helped show me the guideposts for success: our CFO, Sandy Grippo and our GC, Scott Ring. Both are seasoned veterans in VC and have cultivated an operational culture in which they challenge each member of the team to be the best version of his/herself. Sandy’s attention to detail and ability to manage the gamut of complexities that VC funds face daily has helped expose me to areas which are challenging, exciting and ultimately very rewarding in my professional and personal life. Scott has a natural ability to quickly grasp the most technical of concepts, and combined with his propensity to educate, he has helped me become more intellectually curious – giving me the opportunity to be successful in so many different areas that I would not have been exposed to in my prior firm. Needless to say, if you want to be successful in your career, seek out those who have and solicit advice at any opportunity you can.
Q. What career advice would you give to your younger self?
There are a few things that served me well in my career, that I wish I had adopted in my earlier years – but here are two which I tell everyone that is first starting out: First, own your mistakes. No one likes admitting when they’ve made a mistake but ignoring it or assuming that your manager or team members won’t catch the mistake will always blow-up in your face. I learned early in my consulting days that to error was human, and the sooner you raised issues, the more time you have to address those issues and the more willing your team will be to work with you to resolve them. Second, voluntarily seek out discomfort. In other words, work on projects or in industries that you are unfamiliar/ uncomfortable working in and look to quickly expand the boundaries of what you find comfortable. The more repetition in getting comfortable, the more confidence you will build – leading to more opportunities to grow professionally, as well as personally.
Q. What’s on the top of your bucket list?
To visit all 60 National Parks in the US. I grew up camping/hiking/ exploring in Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Forest. If I had my way, every family vacation would be spent around a fire with no running water and too many marshmallows. I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been able to visit roughly 1/3 of the parks thus far, my favorite being Denali and Glacier Bay in Alaska. Next on the list is probably Acadia in Maine, since it is not too far of a drive from home; but I have been really wanting to go to the Badlands in South Dakota. There I could stumble on and help identify the next species of dinosaur (in case anyone reading this has the rights to Jurassic Park 6).
Q. Which books, articles, podcasts, and/or reports would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about the work that you do?
When I first started my career in financial valuation consulting, the firm gave us Damodaran on Valuation, which I still have close to 15 years later. Prof. Damodaran teaches corporate finance and valuation at NYU and publishes a lot of NYU course content online, which is great for anyone looking to learn more in financial valuation. Most recently, I just finished reading all 700 pages of the Working Draft of the AICPA Accounting and Valuation Guide – Valuation of Portfolio Company Investments of Venture Capital and Private Equity Funds and Other Investment Companies, which from experience I can say is great to help getting you to fall asleep at night. In seriousness, if you are involved in the valuation process at a VC or PE shop, you should get familiar with this guide because your auditors already are!
Q. What qualities do you appreciate in the people you’ve worked with?
I’ve been blessed to work with so many talented people at this stage in my career through my role in consulting and now with colleagues at BVP and peer in the VC industry. The people that I have enjoyed working with the most have so many strong qualities, but three that have always stood out to me are: integrity, decisiveness, and empowerment.
- Integrity is the cornerstone of trust and effective business relationships are built on trust. I have great respect when working for or with someone that will acknowledge your successes as equally as your mistakes, because I know that they hold themselves as accountable as I hold myself.
- Decisiveness is another attribute I really appreciate – the ability to take on decision making risk and act effectively when called on to do so. I believe every team member should have a voice, but often trying to reach a consensus can be more harmful than good. I always want to work with someone that will provide clarity on a strategic direction, even if that direction is an unpopular one.
- Lastly, my best career experiences are the ones where I was empowered by a manger or team member. Providing the autonomy and flexibility to play to a person’s strengths is key in any team environment and you will often find the best work comes when you have the freedom to go a bit off script.
Q. What impact do you hope to make on the venture capital industry?
Ever since my transition into the “fund side” I’ve been enthralled by the exposure that VCs have to so many different specializations. Whether it be tax, regulatory, or emerging technologies, such as block chain, VC funds are constantly faced with operational challenges in complex environments. As I continue my career in VC, I hope to have the opportunity to be a champion for VC funds in how to conquer the operational obscurities that will continue to arise. Specifically, in my role with BVP I will continue to focus on developing the appropriate valuation considerations and practices for VC investments, such as the AICPA PE/VC Guide; continue to educate the institutional markets on how VC funds operate in regards to how public equity liquidity (i.e., DIK’s should not be a disruptive event!); and, try and help my peers understand the headache that is digital tokens. Most importantly, I will continue to surround myself with experienced and intelligent people in the VC community – because I know there is still so much to learn and I look forward to continue to grow with the unrelenting success of my firm, the industry, and the folks at the NVCA.