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: Mia Hegazy
Name: Mia Hegazy
Location: I grew up in Pittsburgh (go Steelers!) and I have lived in NYC for the past seven years. I work for Catalyst Investors in NYC, though my portfolio companies are in Chicago, Denver, Salt Lake City and San Francisco.
Years of VC experience: Five years
Position description: Catalyst invests in growth stage companies in the technology sector, and we write checks ranging from $10-50 million. As Vice President, I am responsible for evaluating prospective investment opportunities, structuring and executing new investments, and managing portfolio companies.
Q. Which jobs, internships, or classes gave you the experience you needed for your current job in venture capital?
I went to Brown University and double majored in economics and urban studies. I took only one accounting class before starting my job in investment banking after graduation but fortunately I joined a boutique firm that led its own training process, which involved a modeling and finance “boot camp” for my first six weeks. The learning curve was steep, but I left my two years in banking with the toolkit of hard skills that prepared me for the analytical work I do at Catalyst.
I credit my very outgoing parents and participation in team sports for helping me develop the soft skills necessary for a VC job: the ability to articulate Catalyst’s edge when reaching out to CEOs at prospective portfolio companies, a “giver” mentality in building and fostering a network of peer investors, and a desire to collaborate with internal deal teams, co-investors, and management teams / boards. I am constantly honing these skills.
Pattern recognition is a commonly referenced concept in venture – and I try to learn from my more experienced colleagues and mentors who can share their experiences. I am not shy about asking for help and ideas!
Q. What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Be confident! It took some time, and a lot of repetitions, to adjust to my role in venture because there is so much autonomy. I learned to be self-sufficient in problem solving, while seeking out guidance when I really need it. Being exceedingly prepared for every meeting and conversation has armed me with the confidence I need to maintain conviction, whether it is engaging with a new prospect, getting a deal through investment committee, or effecting change in the board room. I like to come to the table with a proposed solution. Developing my own view on the “right answer” has helped me to develop a more flexible approach to problem solving and empowered me to take ownership of researching possible solutions.
Q. What’s on the top of your bucket list?
I want to run all six Abbott World Major marathons. I ran Boston and Chicago in 2017 and Berlin this fall. The other three are London, New York and Tokyo; I’m hoping to qualify for NYC – the qualifying time for NYC is 22 minutes faster than for Boston!
Q. Which books, articles, podcasts, and/or reports would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about the work that you do?
I always recommend Originals by Adam Grant. One of my favorite takeaways is the concept of “pitching upside down,” or identifying potential weaknesses of an idea. While it may seem counter-intuitive, accentuating the potential flaws in an idea is effective in communicating with potential skeptics because it disarms your audience, makes you look smarter, makes you seem more trustworthy, and leaves audiences with a more favorable assessment of the idea. Read more on the concept here.
For anyone seeking to better understand the entrepreneur mindset and approach to solving problems across the company formation lifecycle, Shoe Dog by Phil Knight is an excellent, honest must-read.
For anyone preparing for their first job in venture, I recommend Venture Deals by Brad Feld. We give a copy to every new associate, and it was an invaluable resource during my first months on the job at Catalyst.
Finally, Reid Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale is frequently referenced among my portfolio company management teams. My favorite takeaway is the S1 E1 discussion with Brian Chesky, co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, in which Brian discussed the idea of what a “ten star experience” for an Airbnb guest might be (he calls it “The Beatles check in”). Chesky recommends identifying the “ten star experience,” then working backwards to figure out how to scale that perfect experience.
Q. What qualities do you appreciate in the people you’ve worked with?
I enjoy working with people who are inherently curious and can think outside the box, engage in open debate (and listen!), and are passionate about what they do. I always seek to learn and get outside of my comfort zone, and I enjoy working with people who are willing to share their thoughts and insights.
Q. What impact do you hope to make on the venture capital industry?
I want to help increase investment in the “less ventured” regions (outside of the coasts) – places like my hometown, Pittsburgh have tremendous talent, rich infrastructures of education and culture, corporate partners and sense of purpose. There are an increasing number of venture investment opportunities, and I am excited for those companies to scale to the growth stage. I wrote more about that here: Bringing Growth Equity Back Home (and Across the US).
I also strive to support women and under-represented minorities’ involvement at the decision-making level of venture firms. The stats are improving, but we still have a long way to go to make sure that there is a diversity of thought at the investment committee level (today, 9% of decision-makers are women). As investors, we need to make sure that we are investing behind the insights and expertise of a diverse population to get exposure to various industries, and we seek to support talented entrepreneurs within these underrepresented groups who could build multi-billion dollar businesses. BCG projects that women will control 75% of discretionary spending around the world by 2028, and the Kauffman Foundation found that venture-backed, women-led tech firms generate 12% higher revenue than male-owned tech firms. There is a real business case for improving representation at the investment committee, and subsequently in portfolio investments: a recent study by Boston Consulting Group and MassChallenge found that women-run companies return 78 cents per dollar to investors, compared to 31 cents for their male counterparts.
It is an exciting time to be a woman in VC, and I welcome the opportunity to connect with other women in venture to share ideas and collectively lift each other up in the industry.