20 VC 038 How Make Connections with VCs and Maximise Employability with Angela Tran Kingyens @ Version One Ventures



In episode 38 of the 20 minutes VC, host Harry Stebings interviews Angela Tran Kingyens, an associate at Version One Ventures. Angela shares her journey from academia to venture capital, emphasizing the serendipity of her career path and the importance of networking. She advises entrepreneurs on securing warm introductions to VCs and stresses the value of strategic investors who offer deep networks and responsive partnerships. Angela also discusses the potential and evolution of marketplaces, highlighting the shift towards B2B and on-demand services. She details the significance of the first 18-24 months post-investment for founder-VC relationships and offers insights into the deep-dive research process at Version One, which involves creating market maps to identify opportunities for disruption.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Angela Tran Kingyens

  • Angela Tran Kingyens is an associate at Version One Ventures.
  • She co-launched Insight Data Science, a YC-backed startup.
  • Insight Data Science helps academics transition to industry careers.

"Angela is associate at version one Ventures, where she manages the day to day activities of the fund."

This quote introduces Angela's current role at Version One Ventures, highlighting her responsibility for the fund's daily operations.

"Prior to version one, Angela coaunched Insight Data Science, a YC backed startup helping academics transition into careers in industry."

The quote provides background on Angela's experience before joining Version One Ventures, including her involvement with Insight Data Science and its mission to assist academics in entering the tech industry.

Angela's Transition to Tech and Venture Capital

  • Angela's transition from academia to tech and VC was serendipitous.
  • Exposure to tech and engineering from parents influenced her career direction.
  • Angela pursued higher education in engineering and financial engineering.
  • She moved to Silicon Valley, co-launched Insight Data Science, and placed PhDs in top tech companies.
  • Networking in the valley led to meeting Boris Wurtz and joining Version One Ventures.

"I think my transition from academia to working at a startup all the way to becoming a VC has actually been quite serendipitous."

This quote summarizes Angela's career path, emphasizing the unplanned nature of her journey from academia to venture capital.

"So I went to university in Toronto, did my bachelor's in engineering science, and then went on to do a master's in phd in financial engineering, but realized that I wanted to do something more with application and not just theory, and eventually somehow found my way to the valley."

Angela details her educational background and her desire to apply her knowledge practically, which led her to Silicon Valley.

"Got married, actually, and then partnered with a Y combinator grad, who together we launched a program called Insight, where we actually took the top phds in the country and trained them to be data scientists."

This quote explains how personal life events and professional partnerships contributed to the founding of Insight Data Science.

"And through lots of networking in the valley, where everyone's super generous with their time and constantly pay it forward, I was able to meet Boris Wurtz, my partner, who's the managing director and founding partner of version one Ventures, and he convinced me that VC would be a great fit for me."

Angela credits networking in Silicon Valley and the generosity of its community for her meeting with Boris Wurtz, which led to her career in venture capital.

Networking with VCs as an Entrepreneur

  • Warm introductions from mutual contacts are the best way to network with VCs.
  • Investors are overwhelmed with pitches, so a recommendation helps you stand out.

"The best way to interact with a VC or get that introduction from a VC is to get a warm intro from a mutual contact, whether that contact is another entrepreneur or an investor."

This quote emphasizes the importance of warm introductions in establishing connections with venture capitalists.

Networking with VCs as an Aspiring Investor

  • Networking as an aspiring investor is similar to that of an entrepreneur.
  • It is crucial to be clear about what you want from the relationship.
  • Progress is key in building a relationship with VCs.

"It's one of those things where you really have to be focused on what it is that you want to get out of a relationship, just like in any kind of relationship, and hope that someone vouches for you so that you can get that FaceTime."

Angela suggests that clarity of intent and getting someone to vouch for you are important when networking with VCs as an aspiring investor.

Alternative Ways to Network with VCs

  • Engage with VCs on Twitter and through their blogs.
  • Asynchronous communication can be effective beyond cold emails.

"Sure. I think a lot of the investors now are on Twitter, they're avid blog writers. So there's always ways in which you can communicate with vcs."

Angela points out that social media and blogging are viable platforms for engaging with venture capitalists.

Advice for Academics Transitioning to Tech Industry

  • Learn the industry's language, including technical and cultural jargon.
  • Pick up relevant programming languages used in the industry.
  • Insight Data Science trained PhDs to use industry-relevant tools like Python.

"The first thing that we try to get phds to think about in their transition from academia to industry is learning the language of that industry."

Angela advises academics to familiarize themselves with the specific language and tools of the tech industry to facilitate their transition.

Transitioning Skill Sets from Academia to Industry

  • Transitioning skills from academia to industry involves recognizing the need for change and practicing the necessary skills.
  • Academics with SQL query experience can adapt these skills for industry use.
  • The difficulty of transition is not in the skills themselves, but in the realization and action to make the transition.

"So it was just a matter of shifting those skill sets. The transition isn't difficult. It's just a matter of knowing that you have to make it and then practicing."

The quote emphasizes the ease of skill transition from academia to industry, provided there is awareness and effort to practice and adapt.

Mindset Shift: From Rigorous to Iterative

  • Academics must shift from seeking perfection to embracing an iterative process in industry.
  • The lean method encourages quick movement, agility, and openness to feedback.
  • This approach contrasts with academic settings where presenting only perfected work is the norm.

"And then the second point is really shifting one's mindset in academia from rigorous to the industry way of thinking, which is much more iterative, I think when we're lean method."

The quote highlights the need for academics to adopt a more flexible and iterative mindset in industry settings, as opposed to the perfectionism often pursued in academia.

Delivering Actionable Insights

  • Industry values actionable insights over merely interesting facts.
  • Academics are encouraged to focus on applications of knowledge, not just theoretical findings.
  • Providing actionable insights is crucial for practical application in the workforce.

"So one of the things that we encouraged the PhDs to do was be open to feedback and move as quickly as possible and iterate that way."

The quote underlines the importance of being open to feedback and quick iteration in industry to deliver actionable insights.

Evaluating Incubators and Accelerators

  • The effectiveness of incubators or accelerators depends on the startup's stage and needs.
  • Two critical considerations are the accelerator's location and the quality of its network.
  • The location should align with the startup's customer base and industry sector.

"It just really depends on what stage you're at in your business and what you need."

This quote suggests that the decision to engage with incubators or accelerators should be based on the specific needs and development stage of the business.

Geographic Considerations for Startups

  • The location of a startup should reflect the industry sector and where the main customers are.
  • Different cities offer distinct advantages depending on the startup's focus, such as LA for entertainment or Boston for life sciences.

"But I think the network really also depends on where your main customers are and that's where you should be."

The quote advises startups to choose their location based on where their primary customer base is situated, to take advantage of the relevant network and ecosystem.

Specialization in Venture Capital Funds

  • Funds may specialize based on the size of the fund and the bandwidth of the partners.
  • Version One focuses on marketplaces and platforms due to the potential scale and network effects.
  • Larger funds with more partners can cover a broader range of sectors, but individual partners within those funds often specialize.

"We need to focus because we only have so much bandwidth and we get excited about marketplaces and platforms because of the inherent network effects that are associated with them."

The quote explains why Version One specializes in marketplaces and platforms, emphasizing the strategic decision based on the fund's size and the exciting potential of network effects.

Future of Marketplaces

  • There is potential for further connection between people through marketplaces.
  • The evolution of marketplaces includes a shift from consumer-focused to B2B platforms.
  • The trend towards on-demand services is also shaping the future of marketplaces.

"I think there's still a lot of ways in which we can connect people. So that's definitely what makes us excited."

The quote reflects optimism about the future of marketplaces and the ongoing opportunities to facilitate connections, particularly in the B2B sector and on-demand services.

Full Stack Marketplaces

  • Full stack marketplaces are a new trend where the intermediary takes on more responsibility and trust.
  • Companies in full stack marketplaces manage inventory risks but can ensure quality control.
  • Examples include peer-to-peer (P2P) car marketplaces where companies buy and hold cars before selling.
  • This approach is evolving based on the needs of the people and there is optimism about its future.

"We're also starting to see full stack marketplaces, where the intermediary takes, or you as a marketplace or intermediary, takes a lot more of the responsibility, the trust." "So there's still a lot to be excited about and things will evolve depending on what the needs of the people are. So I'm pretty bullish."

The quotes explain the concept of full stack marketplaces and Angela Tran Kingyens's positive outlook on their evolution and impact on the market.

VC-Founder Relationship

  • The initial 18 to 24 months post-investment are crucial, and Version One Ventures aims for close involvement.
  • Angela communicates with founders 2-3 times a month, in addition to constant email exchanges.
  • The level of participation is tailored to the founders' preferences.
  • Angela's personal contribution includes aiding in product or data projects, leveraging her background to assist in hiring and data analysis.

"So at version one, we know that the first 18 to 24 months after we invest are probably the most important time, so we try to be as involved as possible." "On a personal note, I like to help companies with their product or data project."

These quotes highlight the importance of the early stages of investment and the hands-on approach Angela takes in supporting portfolio companies, especially with product development and data science.

Choosing the Right VC

  • Founders should seek strategic investors with a deep Rolodex for networking and future fundraising.
  • Responsiveness and helpfulness without deep biases are crucial traits in a VC.
  • The relationship is likened to a marriage, lasting 5-10 years.
  • Founders should ask VCs how they can be helpful and strategic, and also seek feedback from current founders in the VC's portfolio.

"I encourage people to look for strategic investors." "It's very much like a marriage. So you're going to be working with this VC anywhere from five to ten years."

Angela advises founders to look for VCs who can provide strategic advantages and likens the long-term partnership to a marriage, emphasizing the importance of compatibility and mutual support.

Market Analysis and Vertical Themes

  • Version One Ventures conducts monthly deep dives into vertical themes or business models.
  • The process includes creating a market map to identify disruption opportunities.
  • Recent focus has been on marketplaces, making it challenging to dive into specific industries.
  • Angela shared an example of analyzing the logistics of moving people, categorizing companies from on-demand private rides to public transportation.
  • She identified a gap between on-demand and public transport, considering carpooling and shared rides as potential opportunities.
  • Before Uber Pool and Lyftline existed, Angela speculated on the possibility of a company offering just shared rides but realized it would require the scale of Uber to achieve liquidity.

"Yes. Share the story yeah, no, it's not funny, but I think when I first started doing these deep dives, it was a lot easier because I would just go down a particular vertical." "And so I thought, okay, well, we have two ends of the spectrum. Is there anything in the middle?"

Angela describes the process of market analysis at Version One Ventures and the complexities of exploring business models like marketplaces. She discusses her past analysis of the transportation sector and the foresight she had regarding shared rides, illustrating her analytical approach and understanding of market opportunities.

Carpooling Technology and Market Gaps

  • Carpooling is not as prominent due to inconvenience and lack of freedom for individuals.
  • Technology is not the primary reason for the lack of popularity in carpooling.
  • After research, it was concluded that there is probably no opportunity in the carpooling space.

"I asked myself, could we use technology to improve carpooling? Or better yet, is the reason why carpooling isn't as prominent right now. The fact that is it because technology is not helping. And the more research I dug into it, I realized that that wasn't actually the case."

The quote explains that the initial hypothesis was that technology could improve carpooling, but research indicated that the real issue was the inconvenience associated with carpooling, not the lack of technological solutions.

Investment Thesis and Market Analysis

  • Having a well-founded thesis is crucial for investment decisions.
  • It's important to identify market gaps and decide on the potential success of a venture.
  • Conviction in investment decisions is preferred over opportunistic following of market trends.

"Understanding that there's nothing and building a thesis. So understanding that there are holes in the market and coming up with a thesis on whether or not you think something is going to work is really important."

This quote emphasizes the importance of recognizing market gaps and developing a thesis to guide investment decisions.

Essential Resources for Market Investigation

  • Utilizing platforms like Mattermark, AngelList, and Crunchbase for market research.
  • Subscribing to industry blogs and newsletters is beneficial for staying informed.

"I start out with Mattermark and Angelus and Crunchbase. And of course, I subscribe to a bunch of blogs."

The quote lists essential resources used by investors for conducting market research and staying updated with industry trends.

  • Mattermark's daily newsletter is highly recommended.
  • Dan Primack's Term Sheet is valuable for finance news.
  • Union Square Ventures, Fred Wilson, and Albert Winger are noted for their insightful blogs.

"So mattermark has a great daily newsletter I think everyone should sign up for. If you're an aspiring vc, Dan Primax term sheet is incredible."

This quote highlights the recommended newsletters and blogs that provide valuable insights for aspiring venture capitalists and those interested in the finance sector.

Venture Capital Success Metrics

  • Long-term success in venture capital is measured by return on investments.
  • Short-term success for seed investors is indicated by companies securing follow-on funding from top-tier VCs.
  • Maintaining prorata in investments up to Series B is common, after which larger investors often take precedence.

"Long term, it's all numbers. So your return on investments will tell you how well you do."

The quote clarifies that the ultimate measure of success for a venture capitalist is the financial return on their investments.

Investment Preferences and Industry Avoidance

  • Preference for investing in category-leading founders targeting markets that are not oversaturated.
  • Least likely to invest in ad tech due to difficulty in differentiation.
  • E-commerce and hardware are less favored due to lower capital efficiency compared to software companies.

"It comes down to we love founders who are category leaders that are going after markets that are not too overcrowded with existing companies that are all doing the same thing."

This quote explains the preference for investing in innovative companies with strong leadership that are entering markets with less competition.

Recent Investment Decision: Headout

  • Headout is a mobile concierge for travel, compared to "hotel tonight for activities."
  • Investment was driven by the mobile on-demand use case, fragmented market, and exceptional founders.

"The most recent investment that we made public is a company called Headout, which is essentially hotel tonight for activities, experiences, or travel tours."

The quote describes the most recent public investment and highlights Headout's business model, which contributed to the decision to invest.

Personal Favorites: Nonfiction Book

  • Angela Tran Kingyens' favorite nonfiction book is "Good to Great" by Jim Collins.

"My favorite book, I would say good to great by Jim Collins."

The quote reveals Angela Tran Kingyens' favorite nonfiction book, which could be indicative of her approach to business and investment strategies.

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