I was invited to an investor meeting...
I was excited to learn what this was all about! Thank you for the invitation, Marlon! GSV Capital is a public investment firm that focuses on rapidly growing, late stage, venture capital backed private companies. Investor Day was held at GSV Capital's startup accelerator, GSV Labs. Having no clear concept of what to expect, I assumed there would be about 25-50 people there. Not even close. There were literally hundreds of people. Apparently, these are very important meetings. ;-)
It was my first experience hearing a CEO speak to investors about the successes (and hang-ups) of their investments. It. Was. Fascinating. It was like a mini-pitch event except the GSV CEO was the founder and the investors are, well, the investors. Michael Moe took command of the stage as he reviewed the companies that had amazing growth, such a Lyft and Palantir, as well as those that still had opportunities for growth . This was my first big takeaway: framing is key.
I was particularly drawn to investment presentations of 2 portfolio companies, Chegg and Coursera. For me, they represent a key area I hope traditional VC's will start investing in more. They are blossoming examples of how high social and economic impact areas like education, and more specifically, continuing education, can serve as A1 commercial investments. While I've personally used both companies in the past, now I was getting to view them not from the perspective of a student, but an investor.
As Rick Levin, the CEO of Coursera, took the stage and spoke about the current state of the firm, I better understood how their three competitive advantages truly help them to be the leader in providing educational content to working adults. This is reflected in the following ways:
1. Massive Scale: Because they've created economies of scale, they are able to offer very affordable credentials.
2. Flexibility: They've explored multiple ways in which the product can be used/accessed
3. Value: Coursera provides credentials that are more readily being recognized in the job market.
In June, Coursera raised $64M in a Series D round bring their total equity raises up to $210M. I did a little more research on this company and found that one of their early investors was New Enterprise Associates. As I've gone down this VC rabbit hole, I'm finding that NEA has invested in quite a few companies that I'm really compelled by. I'm giving myself the task to connect with someone at NEA to explore their investing process and figure out where my synergies with them are based!
My Key Learnings from GSV Investor Day:
1. In VC, you're accountable to a lot of people.--be prepared for extreme highs of praise and extreme lows of critique. Basically, never rest on your laurels. Just keep swimming.
2. Talk about your successes and failures using the same tone of voice. That way, the down times don't sound that bad.
3. GSV Labs is super cool. The concept, set-up and support they have in their accelerator are unprecedented. I'll share more from my interview with GSV Labs CEO, Marlon Evans, in the coming weeks!
4. Coursera is poised to do amazing things. MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) are literally changing the world and the workforce as we know it! The turnover in the work force and the consistent path toward automation is going to require retraining and relearning in a lot of folks. Coursera is helping meet that need.