With a healthy dose of curiosity and openness, four healthcare VCs shared a deeper level of what life as a VC is really like. I moderated this interesting panel — including Dr. Juan Cueva (Applied Ventures), Liz Rockett (Kaiser Permanente Ventures), Tom Egan (Optum Ventures), and Yizhen Dong (11.2 Capital) — in front of an audience of 30 Berkeley students. Some attendees asked burning questions about their dream job, while others enjoyed a crash course on the world of venture capital. I myself left with lessons that built upon what I learned in my past role in healthcare VC at OCA Ventures. It was my pleasure to moderate such an interesting and talented panel, and I wanted to share this six-section summary with those who may be interested. Enjoy!

1. What they liked about their jobs…

They learn about cool things. Inherently VCs invest in disruptive technologies with significant growth potential. Much of their week is spent learning and staying curious about cutting-edge technologies that are applied to various critical healthcare problems.

They meet smart, down to earth founders. VCs regularly meet highly-accomplished and highly-competent founders. These founders are not only very bright, but they are also down to earth. They do not have a chip on their shoulder and take the time to explain deeply technical concepts in a non-threatening way.

2. What they were unpleasantly surprised with about their jobs…

They can feel like a lone wolf. VCs eat what they kill, and they face both external and internal competition. VCs compete with folks externally, those outside their firm, and internally, for their fund’s limited time and resources. While colleagues, LPs, and advisors are willing to help, it is typically after their personal to-do lists are complete. An exception, however, is the relationship between a junior VC and a senior VC.

They spend a lot of time negotiating. Being a VC is all about deal making — before, during, and after an investment is made. So naturally, VCs must negotiate to get the most favorable outcomes. This, however, can be taxing and potentially even distracting from other important parts of the job.

They deal with failure often. Various reports exist on the mortality rate of startups, and for that matter, VC firms themselves. However, VCs believe very strongly in the upside potential of their portfolio companies; their dedication is sometimes even compared to that of a parent-child relationship! When the weather is stormy and the startup they invested in is not doing well — which can often be the case — coping is a challenge.

3. What they do to manage very ambitious ideas…

They build in dissenting views. The benefit of being a lone wolf is that there is a higher burden of proof to make decisions. This forces VCs to not make bets on phony science, teams, and business models. Beyond leveraging formal and informal expert opinions, one VC calls on a “red team” to provide an unbiased opposing view.

They keep an open mind. Like a (in)famous person said, “Healthcare is complicated.” So, while some ideas may be overly-ambitious, others may just work with effective execution. VCs oftentimes miss big opportunities by being too skeptical, so keeping an open mind can allow them to see signal in what appears to be noise.

They rely on storytelling to bring others along. Stories, more than data, can build emotional connection; therefore, VCs use stories to get buy in for ideas that on the surface seem audacious. A good story can be the difference between a moonshot’s success and failure.

4. How they do well and good…

They use their independence to invest in what they are passionate about.Another benefit of being a lone wolf is that VCs can focus their personal investment theses on what matters to them. Social impact can be an important part of the business, and VCs are free to invest in companies whose mission they are passionate about, so long as it makes sense financially.

5. What they do to be informed…

They read. VCs read a lot. Simple. Whether it is popular news, niche news, opinion pieces, or research — much of their time is spent reading.

They listen to others and build a band of supporters. VCs build both formal and informal expert networks that they can call on to find and vet deals and to help their portfolio companies. They attend many events and spend time with founders. Active listening and pattern recognition are critical skills.

6. How corporate venture capitalists (CVCs) operate…

They all are different. All CVCs look different — from LP structure to connectedness with their parent company. Some have evergreen funds that replenish each year, while others need to fundraise internally on a recurring basis, and others appeal for funding off the balance sheet for each deal. Some get investment from outside the business, while others have only one LP — the parent company. Some are only operationally and commercially connected by name, while others are specifically set up for portfolio companies to sell into the parent company.


About the Author

This article was written by Harry Goldberg, of Beyond HealthTech and BioTech startups and VC. Harry spends his time as a Berkeley MBA/MPH and a WEF Global Shaper.

Recently Published

Key Takeaway: Conspiracy theories are prevalent and can involve various factors. People believe false conspiracy theories for various reasons, such as the existence of real conspiracies. However, unfounded conspiracy theories often lack evidence and substitute elements that should be red flags for skeptics. To vet a claim, one should seek out evidence, test the allegation, […]
Key Takeaway: Recent research has focused on replicating the chemical reactions that constitute life as we know it in conditions plausible for early Earth around 4 billion years ago. However, the rise of experimental work has led to many contradictory theories. Some scientists believe that life emerged in deep-sea hydrothermal vents, where the conditions provided […]

Top Picks

Key Takeaway: NASA’s Curiosity and Perseverance rover missions are investigating the planet’s evidence for life, known as its “biosignatures,” in unprecedented detail. The rovers are acting as extraterrestrial detectives, hunting for clues that life may have existed eons ago, including evidence of long-gone liquid surface water, life-sustaining minerals, and organic molecules. The Mars of today […]
Key Takeaway: Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Anxious Generation, calls for action to limit teenagers’ smartphone access and address the mental health crisis caused by the widespread use of smartphones. Haidt cites the “great rewiring” period from 2010 to 2015 as a time when adolescents’ neural systems were primed for anxiety and depression by daily smartphone […]
Key Takeaway: Concerns about AI’s potential roguehood and potential harm to privacy and dignity are a significant concern. AI’s algorithms, programmed by humans, are also biased and discriminatory. However, a psychologist’s research suggests that AI is a threat to making people less disciplined and skilled in making thoughtful decisions. Making thoughtful decisions involves understanding the […]
Key Takeaway: A study published in the Journal of Personality suggests that long-term single people can be secure and thriving, possibly due to their attachment style. The research found that 78% of singles were insecure, with 22% being secure. Secure singles are comfortable with intimacy and closeness in relationships, while anxious singles worry about rejection […]

Trending

I highly recommend reading the McKinsey Global Institute’s new report, “Reskilling China: Transforming The World’s Largest Workforce Into Lifelong Learners”, which focuses on the country’s biggest employment challenge, re-training its workforce and the adoption of practices such as lifelong learning to address the growing digital transformation of its productive fabric. How to transform the country […]

Join our Newsletter

Get our monthly recap with the latest news, articles and resources.

Login

Welcome to Empirics

We are glad you have decided to join our mission of gathering the collective knowledge of Asia!
Join Empirics