Felicis Ventures has, in its roughly 13 years of existence, established a fame in enterprise circles as a wise early-stage funding agency that’s prepared to make bets nearly wherever on the earth. Based by ex-Googler Aydin Senkut, the San Francisco-based agency has additionally demonstrated a knack for attracting gifted buyers into the fold, together with one other former Google government, Wesley Chan; Sundeep Peechu, who held numerous product roles at Intel earlier than becoming a member of the agency in 2010; and Renata Quintini, an investor who Felicis ultimately misplaced to Lux Capital (which extra just lately misplaced her to her personal agency, Renegade Companions, which is reportedly elevating a $300 million debut fund).
We talked this morning with yet one more member of Felicis, Niki Pezeshki, who, following a number of promotions, has simply turned the latest accomplice within the agency’s historical past. For aspiring VCs on the market, we questioned how Pezeshki landed the function — and the way he’s managing to win offers. Following is a part of that dialog, edited frivolously for size.
TC: Everybody needs to work in VC. How did you land this gig?
NP: Out of undergrad [at the University of Southern California], I went to work for [private equity firm] Vista Fairness Companions.They rent, like, 4 folks out of undergrad yearly at USC. I was in Austin [where the firm is based] for 3 years. It was superb. I didn’t know what I was moving into on the time — Vista has blossomed into this unbelievable fund — but it surely grounded me within the fundamentals of enterprise and what is an efficient software program funding. I suppose it made me extra numbers centered than plenty of different enterprise capitalists. I could get flamed for saying this, however I come to the world of enterprise with a way more numbers-driven and formulaic method to understanding enterprise that I suppose helps me choose good investments.
TC: How did you wind up within the Bay Space?
NP: My household is from L.A. so I got here to California to work for Local weather Corp. for a 12 months; I labored in gross sales technique and operations. I wished a little bit of working expertise. However I love investing a lot; I wished to return to it. So I obtained a job with [PE firm] Summit Companions the place you’re doing hardcore outbound sourcing and studying how you can attain out to folks and get conversations began and determining [who you need to be studying extra about[ out of lots of of founders.
Whereas there, Felicis randomly reached out to me by means of a buddy of a buddy, who mentioned, ‘You should meet Sundeep,’ and so they informed Sundeep, ‘Sundeep, you should meet Niki,” and though I hadn’t considered enterprise, plenty of what they have been doing actually resonated with me. In some ways, I’m doing what I was doing at Summit, however with a a lot wider aperture.
TC: You have been simply promoted to accomplice from principal, up from senior affiliate, the place you began in 2016. What does that imply on a sensible stage?
NP: A lot of the function received’t be a lot completely different than previously 12 months. I suppose from an external-facing perspective, it offers me extra credibility with founders and buyers. It’s another factor that I can use to win nice offers.
TC: What’s one aggressive deal that you just’ve received already?
NP: Modus in Seattle. It’s a [tech-driven] escrow startup that’s to the title and brokerage trade what Compass is to actual property. I led the Sequence A deal for that firm and I’m on the board and I obtained lot of credibility internally for that. I suppose they have been considering of selling me subsequent 12 months or the 12 months after, however they have been like, ‘Dang, Niki just let a competitive Series A round. Let’s give him ammunition.’ [Laughs.]
TC: How did the deal come collectively, and what do you suppose received over the founders?
NP: I suppose three issues: bonding with the founders, conviction about their firm, and pace. I’d heard that they have been going to be on the town for 2 weeks, fundraising, and I knew their objective was to depart the world with a time period sheet. A lot of corporations are pretty bureaucratic and it’s laborious for them to spin up their crew and do due diligence that shortly, however Felicis has a small crew and I had conviction concerning the house already, so after they got here by means of, I informed them how excited I was to do one thing on their timeline.
We additionally bonded over [an up-and-coming] DJ. It’s about creating that human reference to founders. I have a bunch of buddies who’re founders who say it typically feels very transactional, their relationship with buyers. You need to help these folks.
TC: You don’t have tons of operational expertise. You aren’t alone on this however loads of VCs will argue that to founders that it’s essential. How do you counter this?
NP: Some founders do need extra operational experience, others don’t care that a lot except the VC as soon as ran a multibillion firm. For those who’re Martin Casado [of Andreessen Horowitz] and somebody actually loves Ncira, I’m in all probability not going to win in opposition to him.
However I’m comparatively younger in contrast with different companions, and I’m actually passionate, and I suppose that comes throughout within the fundraising course of. I suppose founders know that I will take a name any time, and assist them construct a tremendous mannequin for his or her enterprise, and actually assist them prep for his or her subsequent fundraising course of, and assist them with any VP recruits.
I’m nonetheless constructing my observe file, so founders know that I care and that my incentives are aligned with theirs. If a founding crew is profitable, I’ll achieve success versus somebody who’s already sitting on 15 boards and can present up as soon as 1 / 4 and attempt to personal the room and who’s much less invested in whether or not or not the corporate does effectively as a result of [that investor] has already been profitable. I need each single portfolio firm to do extremely effectively. I need to that to return throughout. And I suppose it does.