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: Winter Mead
Name: Winter Mead
Location: I grew up on a cattle and maple syrup farm in the Berkshires in New England. I live in San Francisco full-time.
Years of VC experience: My first job in San Francisco was unpaid working with a Stanford Business School graduate who was launching a social media company. My first paid job in San Francisco was at an angel and VC-backed digital media company before I joined the limited partner (LP) world in 2011. I’ve been investing institutionally in the venture capital world for about 8 years.
Position description: Until recently, I worked at Sapphire Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Palo Alto, as a Principal responsible for sourcing, doing diligence, investing in, and monitoring investments.
Q. Who are a few of the individuals in the industry that have been the most critical to your professional journey?
There have been many positive influencers who have been critical to my professional journey, but three individuals jump to mind. Kirk Dizon hired me into my first investment role, led by example and taught me that relentless networking and creative relationship building can lead to great partnerships in the venture community. At San Francisco-based Hall Capital Partners, where I worked as an investor for almost four years, Katie Hall, the founder of Hall, taught me how to focus very quickly on the important details of an investment opportunity. She had a knack for efficiently processing a wealth of opportunities and hyper-focusing the diligence process. Beezer Clarkson, who I worked with closely at Sapphire Ventures for over four years, taught me that you can have fun at this job while still working hard and doing well! Finding that balance has been key in helping me succeed and advance in my career.
Q. How did you get into the VC industry and what were some pivotal programs, events, and/or organizations that helped pave the way?
When I first moved to San Francisco, I worked for several technology start-ups that were either seeking VC funding or had raised venture capital. These early roles served as a first foray into to how this form of financing could supercharge a company’s growth. I found that at Hall Capital Partners, while I was part of the team that covered all strategies within private equity, I was biased towards venture capital because of my affinity for innovation and company building. Eventually, I decided to move into a role at Sapphire Ventures that focused 100% on venture capital. While there was no specific program or event that was decisive in leading to the switch, at the time I was networking with everyone I knew that was either working at a start-up or was investing into start-ups, and that was helpful for context and understanding into the full VC landscape. Also, once I knew what I wanted to do and move into venture capital full-time, networking with the relevant people to achieve that goal was incredibly useful for me.
Q. What career advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to take time and think. At the same time, make sure you’re respectful of everyone’s time. Dwell on what working smarter actually means. That is, how can you adjust on an hourly, daily, monthly, yearly basis to streamline your responsibilities and optimize your effectiveness as an investor. When you know you want something, go for it! Remember that rejection is an ingredient in the recipe of success.
Q. What’s on the top of your bucket list?
For some reason, my bucket list keeps getting longer even as I continue to check off items, rather than shorter! One big item I’d like to tackle is biking (or racing) across the United States with a motivated team that’s open for that type of challenge and bonding experience. I know GK is already in 😉
Q. Which books, articles, podcasts, and/or reports would you recommend for someone interested in learning more about the work that you do?
Two books that I’ve found helpful for LPs just getting started in venture capital are Pioneering Portfolio Management, by David Swensen, which provides an overview of the “endowment model” including its multi-asset class perspective and Venture Capital and the Finance of Innovation, by Andrew Metrick and Ayako Yasuda, which focuses on a more nuanced history and curriculum of VC. I’m also constantly reading new books that come out about the technology and venture capital ecosystem at large, mainly written by pioneers and leaders in the industry, but also those books focused on frontier technology, such as all the existing books published on crypto-economics, for example. Some examples of recent books I’ve read or re-read in the last few months that are relevant include Measure What Matters, Radical Candor, eBoys, How Google Works, Principles, Cryptoassets, Blockchain Revolution, and The Business Blockchain, among others.
Q. What impact do you hope to make on the venture capital industry?
As a capital allocator, I aim to align with great investment partners for the very long term. As a Limited Partner, the meta-level thought process for me goes something like, “if I’m keeping great investors in business who are investing in great entrepreneurs and companies, then I’m fulfilling the goal of venture capital, which is to drive innovation and economic growth to better the overall well-being of humanity.” As an investor in general, I hope that I can play at least a small role in building consequential companies and position myself to be the best resource for great founders and companies.