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: Brian Kim
Name: Brian Kim
Location: I was born in Ft. Worth, TX. Home is Seoul, Korea, where I moved to as a young child and my parents still reside. I currently work at NewSpring Capital in Philadelphia, PA.
Years of VC experience: 12 years of experience, spanning growth equity and buyout investing.
Position description: I am a Principal at NewSpring Capital, where I focus on finding, executing, and supporting investments in growth-stage technology companies. We seek to invest $10-$30 million of capital in high growth companies already generating $10 million and above in revenue.
Q. Who are a few of the individuals in the industry that have been the most critical to your professional journey?
Andrew Dresner, my first manager out of college at First Manhattan Consulting Group. He was a terrific mentor. He was vested in my development from day one and always took the time to explain the “why” behind our work together. He also set a high bar for critical thinking and strategic problem solving, which set me up nicely, regardless of which career path I pursued.
Mike DiPiano, one of my partners here at NewSpring Growth Capital. As my career has progressed, the quality of the people I work with has weighted much more heavily into my decisions. It took just one meeting with Mike to decide I wanted to be a part of what we’re building here at NewSpring. He has an operational, financial, and entrepreneurial background that always results in a unique perspective, which has been great to learn from. His family is at the top of his priority list, he’s vested in his community, and despite his successes, is one of the humblest guys I know (except when he’s talking about his golf game).
Q. When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up?
My approach in high school and college was simple: do work that interests you, that you find challenging, and that involves teamwork and collaboration. Beyond that, I had no idea. Those things pointed me in the direction of studying engineering and then pursuing consulting, and they’ve been central to every career decision I’ve made. It has resulted in “falling forward” into a fulfilling career path investing in growth stage technology companies and working with entrepreneurs. I feel fortunate to do interesting, challenging work with people I respect and enjoy being around.
Q. Which jobs, internships, or classes gave you the experience you needed for your current job in venture capital?
I started out my career in strategy consulting. The project work was great training for what I do today: collaborate with management teams, focus on needle-movers in a business, and analyze and navigate market dynamics which shift constantly. With the benefit of hindsight, there was also tremendous benefit to simply starting out in a client-facing role. It set certain standards for work quality out of the gate and showed me how important effective communication is in driving efficiency and wielding influence.
Q. What career advice would you give to your younger self?
The first would be to focus on the quality and caliber of the people you will be working with. They will have a much greater impact on your development and career trajectory than brand, prestige, title, or pay. Do you respect who they are inside the office and outside? Are they vested in your development? You will spend just as much, if not more, of your waking moments with your colleagues than you will with friends and family, so remember to be present when you’re at home and surround yourself with good people when you’re not.
The second is more tactical, which is to shift roles and responsibilities every 2 – 3 years, especially early in your career. Every position comes with a learning curve and over time your growth rate up that curve will start to flatten. Stay cognizant of where that point is and what changes you can make to keep that curve steep.
Q. What’s on the top of your bucket list?
First trip to Disney World with my daughters, who will soon be 2 and 5 years old. I am both excited and terrified at the same time.
Q. What qualities do you appreciate in the people you’ve worked with?
The most important attribute has always been integrity. The best workplace cultures that I have been a part of have been filled with people that are high integrity. It should be a fairly simple thing to start each day with the goal of spending it with people that strive to treat others respectfully and live with integrity inside and outside the office.
Mentorship is the second quality. I’ve had great mentors in my career, especially early on, and their advice has been invaluable to my development and career choices. But more important than the actual advice, some of which I’ve taken and some of which I’ve chosen not to, mentorship spurs an important process of introspection, self-awareness, learning, and development.
Lastly, sense of humor. With parenting, they say the days are long, but the years are short, and I think the same can be said for work. Laughter certainly helps.