Investment Principal and Director of Deal Flow at Backstage Capital.
What I Do:
I work mostly on sourcing and investing in companies for our fund while also supporting portfolio companies post-investment.
I have been able to make investments in the current Backstage portfolio of 100 companies, and most recently led the investment selection process for Backstage Accelerator where we selected 24 companies to participate in our 12-week development program in four cities: LA, Philadelphia, Detroit, and London. Our Accelerator kicked off in March of this year and programming will wrap in June. The majority of my focus now over these months is supporting the Accelerator founders, especially as they prepare for additional fundraising in the future.
Week of 4/15–4/19
7:00 am — WAKE UP! I live in San Francisco and work from home most days. Backstage is a geographically distributed firm with people working across the country, and now London, too. We live on Slack and rely on it heavily to communicate with everyone on our team as well as our founders in our portfolio and the Accelerator.
The first thing I do, almost as soon as I get up, is make a cup of coffee and get right into Slack to check on any messages. On Slack, I get a reminder to send my weekly Standup check-in to the Investment team. Our Standup Bot is a great tool built by Faye Hayes, an engineer on our Backstage team, to help us all stay up to date with everyone on the team. It prompts me with:
“What do you plan to accomplish this week?” so I jot down my plans for the week and share in the channel.
My agenda for the week:
-Tuesday: Visit Techstars in Denver, CO to be part of the Investment Screening Committee for their upcoming Western Union Accelerator powered by TechStars.
-Wednesday and Thursday: Head to Detroit to visit with the Detroit team and Accelerator founders
-Friday: share fundraising support programming and events plan to implement for the Accelerator founders
10:00 am — meeting with Christie Pitts; Wayne Sutton, Melinda Epler and Bryan Landers
This group meets on a regular basis to check in about all things strategic for Backstage as well as what’s going on currently with Accelerator.
12:30 — Lunch and Emails
I get a few requests from Arlan to take a look at some founders who reached out who are fundraising and seeking investment. I set a reminder to dig into this on Friday when I have more time to take a closer look.
5:30 pm — Leave for Flight to Denver
Grabbed food for dinner once I got into SFO airport.
7:30 — Take off from SFO
It’s a 2-hour flight so on the flight I reviewed the companies that I would be meeting during the TechStars interviews… and then fell asleep.
Midnight in Denver — Land
I landed, and headed straight to the hotel and called my husband to let him know I made it in alright, then to bed at 1:30 am!
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Tuesday 4/16 — Denver
9:15 am — I arrive at the Western Union office in time for a few breakfast snacks and meet the Western Union and Techstars teams before sitting down for the interviews with founders. Ethan Austin, the Managing Director of the Western Union Accelerator Powered by Techstars who invited me to participate, greets me and introduces me to the group. There are about 15 of us around a round table. We all do brief introductions and get settled with our evaluation sheets and company info in front of us. Founders interview via video conference and the committee is asking questions and then discusses each company. This was a great group of fintech companies. Side note: one of my first roles allowing me exposure to venture investing and supporting founders was as an Associate in the Techstars Boston program in 2014, so I was happy Ethan reached out to include me in their process — Thanks for having me!
The session ends early that afternoon, and I head to the airport to wait for my flight to Detroit that evening. At the airport, I have plenty of time before my flight so I settle in at a restaurant for lunch (and a glass of wine) and work.
One of the biggest projects I am working on since we have been focused on the accelerator is to design ways to provide our founders support in raising additional capital and connecting with investors. I have a presentation to the team this Friday about any new ideas on this front so take the time to brainstorm and write out my plans before the flight.
6:00 pm board Flight to Detroit
On the flight there is no WiFi, so I take the time to relax and catch up on entertainment that I pre-downloaded.
What I’m watching: Netflix: Trigger Warning with Killer Mike (thanks Christie for putting me on!)
What I’m reading (or listening to via audiobook): “The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose.”
Wednesday in Detroit
8:00 am — WAKE UP! My hotel is in Downtown Detroit, close to the Backstage Accelerator office location — so I am able to leave at 9:50 am for a 10 am expert workshop they are having.
10:15 am — By the time I actually get in the office, the workshop has already started. Today’s workshop is being led by Patti Glaza, MD of Invest Detroit. The founders are asking great questions as Patti shares insights from her experience. She provides critical insights like how founders can think about building relationships with investors. She explains that you are likely to not get an investment after the first meeting with an investor, and for most founders it can take 5 or more meetings with a fund before they make an investment — so think about that as you plan for time in relationship building with a fund as part of the process.
Afternoon work session with the team in Detroit — Monica Wheat, Tops Kataria, and Chacho Valadez
We checked in on how things were going in the Detroit program — what’s going well, what can we improve and brainstormed on ways we can continue to support the founders on the fundraising side.
5:00 pm meeting with Christie Pitts; Wayne Sutton, Melinda Epler and Bryan Landers
Zoom call with the team where I could share what I’ve gathered so far on spending time in Accelerator in Detroit. This week, Melinda visited our Philly program, and Wayne went to LA, so we all chatted about our experience and catch up on any action items from our call earlier this week.
6:00 pm — Head to Black Tech Detroit event
Monica invited me to come along with her to a Black Tech in Detroit event held at an office close by downtown. We get there and the room is already filled with a lot of tech professionals and founders in the Detroit community all mingling and chatting with one another. The group presented about the Black Tech Detroit organization so that the audience could learn more and consider ways to get involved in building the Detroit tech ecosystem.
I think the travel for the week is catching up with me, so I head out from the event a bit early and say goodbye to Monica at about 7:30 to head back to the hotel so I can get some rest.
8 pm. I am back at the hotel and settle in. I end up having a call with family — I catch up with my brother for a call, and then a call with my husband before heading to bed early.
Thursday in Detroit
8:30 am. WAKE UP! I end up working from my hotel room until I have to check out at 11 a.m. I take my luggage with me to the Backstage Detroit Accelerator office and head into work with the team for the day.
I meet with most of the Detroit accelerator founders to check in with them to see how they are doing and offer ways that we can support them building towards their goals. I am constantly impressed by the progress that our founders are making each day. Getting to know them through the selection process and seeing them progress in a short time period has been amazing.
4:00p — I have a meeting via Zoom call to prepare for a panel that I am speaking on next week: Women @Dockercon 2019. The panelists are gathered together for a call this afternoon to discuss talking points on the topic of our panel: “Building an Inclusive Future” with a focus on VC investing. I was happy to have the chance to speak with Susan Kimberlin, an angel investor who is also on the panel and was Arlan’s first investor.
7:30 p.m. — Flight home to SFO
I use this time to relax and didn’t plan for any work on this flight home. I continue to listen to Oprah’s book and then fell asleep for the rest of my travels. I landed at SFO Airport 11:30 pm and got home around midnight and went straight to bed — it was late, so I had to sneak in quietly to try not to disturb my husband who was already asleep.
Friday back in San Francisco working from home
8 a.m. On Fridays at Backstage we have a video call with our whole team (“the Crew”) every week at this time. We are able to share major updates across the organization and I led a portion of the call where I presented some of the fundraising support initiatives and events that we will be implementing in the Accelerator cities. Each city team has been helpful in thinking about what each ecosystem needs in terms of investor support. So, I appreciated the comments and feedback on this first a discussion and will be continuing to develop this over the coming weeks.
The meeting ends at 10 am.
At 12 pm — I have a meeting with Chacho Valadez, an Investment Associate on our team for updates on what he’s working on and to collaborate. Then, the rest of my afternoon is spent checking emails and catching up on any work that I had throughout the week. I usually try to keep my Friday afternoon fairly open so that I can go back through notes or analysis on companies that I am evaluating, and catch up on emails or work for the week.
I end the day a bit early around 4:30 pm. — it is really nice out! — and leave my apartment to run errands and walk for a bit, and think about what I’m going to do over the weekend.