24 hours in a VC’s life

May 24

In: Technology and VC

John Brennan yesterday wrote a comment to my post “How to Get a VC Job,” asking if I could shed more details on how a VC spends his time.

So, I thought I’d write about the past 24 hours of my life.

A fun part of VC is that every day is different. You might be traveling or not. You might have a crisis at a portfolio company. Some really good news may have come in.

But, I think the past 24 hours are typical for a non-travel and non-crisis day:

Last night: Networking event. At Legal Harborside. Jeremy Halpern of Nutter, McClennen & Fish sponsored it. They booked the roof bar, with a great view of the harbor. It was great to meet Jeremy in person, as well as some other VCs and entrepreneurs. A huge display of sushi, sashimi, shrimp cocktail, cheese/crackers and cupcakes. The two magic words: open bar.

I ran into friends from Sigma Partners, Battery Ventures and other firms. I reconnected with a particular VC. I had helped him with some career advice. He quit his non-partner job to take a partner-role at a new VC firm. He had a 100-watt smile on his face, and I’m so happy for him.

An entrepreneur pulled me aside and confessed that he would like to raise his own VC fund. We agreed to meet privately off-line.

5 am, today: My typical routine. I woke up at 5 am, checked email and Twitter and read the WSJ on my iPad. I hit the gym. I showered at home and then dropped off one of my kids at school.

8 am: Breakfast meeting in the ‘burbs. I met up with a VC from Greylock. We just seeded a company with them. The entrepreneur has worked with them in the past and insisted that we team up with them, which we were happy to do.

This VC and I talked about technology trends and the various projects we’re working on. It was my first extended meeting with this person, and I really enjoyed meeting him. I found we had a great deal in common.

VCs tend to do meetings like this one in order to build camaraderie with each other. It is very hard to co-invest with someone you don’t know already, and so, our breed is pretty proactive about this type of get-together.

10 am: Visiting a new start-up in Back Bay Boston. An angel introduced me to an entrepreneur, who has started a cool new company. I drove into town and heard the pitch. Our firm believes we should as much as possible visit the start-up at their location vs. making the entrepreneur come to our office. We think we pick up a lot when we meet the entrepreneur at his/her own space.

I left the meeting really excited and made an intro to a potential executive hire for him, and I called my partner Eric Hjerpe with my thoughts. Eric and I are often out of the office, but we still tend to speak live once or twice a day. We bounce ideas off each other and just keep each other informed. In addition, we often email each other. We’re a tight group.

During the drive, I kept making calls. I called the angel who introduced me to this entrepreneur in order to say “thank you” and to tell him that I’m really excited and outlined the next steps in our Kepha diligence process. I called our Office Manager to get a partners’ meeting scheduled for this entrepreneur to pitch us.

12 pm: Lunch in Cambridge with a young entrepreneur. I spoke on a panel a few weeks ago and met this person afterwards. He was very thoughtful. I learned we both love Korean food, and so, we headed over to Koreana and ordered a ton of food. I paid the bill and made him take home the leftovers. I remember when I was a young guy and living on a tight budget. So many people bought me food. I don’t feel old, but now that I’m 40-something with a Corporate credit card, it’s time to share the love!

2 pm: Arrive at the office at last. I said hi to Eric. He updated me on one of our new investments. He gave me a great due diligence suggestion for the start-up I met earlier.

I hit the long list of emails. A number of entrepreneurs have written in, asking for meetings. I read their emails and figured out which meetings I’m going to take. Eric and I try to get back to each entrepreneur within 24 hours as to whether we want to move forward or not. I’m suddenly out of time because….

2.30 pm: My meeting with a new start-up has started. This is a founder I’ve met before. They’ve made good progress on their idea. We agreed that the next step is that they will pitch a founder I’ve known a long time who has tried the same type of venture in their space and learned a lot of painful lessons.

Eric and I try to be specific as possible when we meet with entrepreneurs. Are we taking the next step or not? If we are, what exactly is the next step? If not, why exactly are we declining to invest?

4 pm: A scheduled call with an investor in VC funds. These investors are called “Limited Partners.” This particular individual has just left his old job and landed at a new one, which is at a “fund of funds.” This is a fund that raises money to then invest in VC funds. He wanted to re-connect and say hi. VCs often get these calls as prospective investors want to track progress.

We talked about the VC industry in general, various VC firms, and he shared with me how life is for the funds of funds. In a phrase: it sucks. Many of them are out of money and are themselves fundraising and having a hard time of it.

This investor also asked me about a VC who is out trying to raise an inaugural fund for a new VC firm. I told him: this guy is a rock star. We get calls like this a great deal: “what do you think of So-and-So VC?”

I then called this VC and shared with him what was discussed. Unfortunately, this Limited Partner was honest to say that he was unlikely to invest, as their team was investing together for the first time. The good news is that he has been invited to pitch the Investment Committee of a different Limited Partner, who is an investor in Kepha. I offered to call that Limited Partner.

4.30 pm: A scheduled call with an entrepreneur. I’ve not heard from this guy in a while. He is really smart and honest. His start-up sold to Oracle some time ago and he wanted to re-connect. VCs often get calls like this. It means this person is starting to look around. This guy and I agreed to meet up in person, and he can be a good potential addition to one of our companies.

5 pm: I email and read and read. I read my Twitter feed to hear the latest dirt and see if any of our companies had Tweeted anything new. I have email conversations with all of the CEOs whose Boards I’m on. Nothing major, just the usual stuff.

I then read a 200-page user manual for one of our start-up’s products. I’ve decided to read the product/engineer specification documents (called a “PRD”) for some of our companies and/or their user manuals. The reading can be dry, but it’s pretty cool to see what they’re building. I at least pick up some cool new acronyms.

I received email inquiries from two people, who can be potential hires for one of our companies. Both are people I know very well and I think they may be a good fit.

6.15 pm: I catch up with our CFO. We chatted about some tax issues for the firm. I then go to the car and started returning phone calls during the drive home. Roads are jammed with Memorial Day traffic.

7 pm: Arrive home. I said hi to the kids and my wife and ate dinner. I chatted with the kids to see how they are doing.

I did have a dinner meeting scheduled with a friend who controls a $650 million annual I.T. budget, but he had to reschedule. So, it was spaghetti and red sauce for me at home.

8.45 pm: You’re reading it! I’m writing this post. I’ll then clean up the kitchen, read the sports pages of the paper, and chill out. I haven’t read the New Yorker yet this week and will probably read that, too.

Unfortunately, I have returned all of my calls except for one: yet another VC friend of mine wants to raise a new fund (seems like the Theme of the Day?). I’m just tapped out and I wanted to write this blog post. We have been getting many phone calls like this. Many, many VCs are thinking of leaving their current firms to do something new. I’ve not seen this much VC turnover ever in my career. Since so many VCs helped me out for our inaugural fundraising, I’m always happy to “pay it forward.”

So, there you have it. So, to summarize, a VC wears many hats in a day:

  • Executive recruiter
  • Manager of investor relations
  • Partner
  • Scout for new investments
  • Networker
  • VC fundraising consultant
  • Connector for his companies
  • Reading emails on smart phones when stopped at a red light

So, I’m done with this post. I’m sure I’ll check email just before I go to bed.

I love my job. We are so blessed that our investors support us and that so many great entrepreneurs have asked us to back them.

Tomorrow, it all begins anew.

3 Comments on this Post

  1. John Brennan

    Thanks a lot for writing about this, Jo. It sounds like the VC life is equal parts exciting and exhausting. What’s most shocking to me and something I see via VC tweets/posts and hear a lot from those in the startup scene is that VCs are more accessible than most think–you guys seem to read *all* of your emails. Very cool.

    • Uncle of the Blog

      It’s a lot of work

  2. Chris

    Great insight in this post, thanks Jo.

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