YOU STARTED YOUR VENTURE CAREER AT KLEINER, PERKINS, CAUFIELD AND BYERS. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO MOVE TO A SMALLER FIRM?
I was at Kleiner for six years, as a controller. It was a great experience there, but after getting my MBA I decided I wanted to do something where I could add more value. I went on to Global Catalyst Partners, which was a smaller, international venture firm, on completely different scale than Kleiner Perkins. As opposed to being a multi-billion dollar firm, Global Catalyst had $300 million in assets. So there were fewer transactions, but a lot more complexities in some of them. GCP was a really interesting place to gain experience as a CFO. And then, I wasn't looking to move positions, but I got a call from a recruiter to see if I'd be interested in the CFO role at ScaleVP, as they were looking to build their finance team.
WHAT DID YOU FIND COMPELLING ABOUT SCALE?
The interesting thing is, while Scale is a newer firm, the team is quite experienced with a consistent track record of returns. Scale spun out of Bank of America in 2006, but the managers here have been working together for an average of 10 years. So what I liked about it was you had senior, experienced partners, but they were looking to make changes, and looking for someone to come in and introduce best financial practices for venture capital.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHANGES THE SCALE TEAM WAS LOOKING TO MAKE WHEN THEY BROUGHT YOU ON BOARD?
The firm was transitioning from working within a corporate entity, Bank of America, where they were just one small group, going through the hierarchy to get deals approved, to going out on their own and really making Scale their firm. What I brought to the table was basic knowledge from my years in the venture industry. When I came in, their accounting was done on a corporate basis, since they previously had only one LP. I implemented GAAP partnership accounting and cleaned up the books. I also helped to implement best practices for interacting with our new limited partners, because that was different for them as well. When you have 12 diverse limited partners rather than one, the challenge is trying to provide them with all of the various information they need. We have added web based reporting, putting information on our website for them, and are looking at different software packages that would help build our practices for them. Previously, Bank of America handled payroll, benefits and all the things that a management company would do. We now have a management company that pays the payroll directly and manages all human resources for the firm.
WHAT ARE YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES IN YOUR CURRENT ROLE?
The number one priority for me is our limited partners, and our relations with them and providing what they want. Another part of my job is monitoring our portfolio companies and new investment deals. The third piece of my responsibilities would be administrative, working on internal reporting and tax accounting, and trying to implement policies and procedures that would be better practices for the firm. Finally a big part of my job is teambuilding, making sure that everything is cohesive here and people are really happy and working hard. That's what makes the firm succeed, when you have a really strong group where everybody feels like they own the firm, not just the partners.
HOW IS YOUR ROLE AT A SMALL FIRM LIKE SCALE DIFFERENT THAN A LARGER FIRM LIKE KLEINER PERKINS?
From my experience, at some larger firms, the finance role is truly accounting.
Whereas in others, which I experienced at Global Catalyst and here at Scale, you can really help build the firm by adding value to the investors and the portfolio companies through your finance role, by bringing best practices to all of them. A firm like Kleiner Perkins doesn't really need to focus on investor relations, because they are Kleiner Perkins, they don't need to impress their investors because their historic returns do it for them. However, in emerging venture firms, we all need to build investor relationships, and impress our portfolio companies and add value to them. You can't just write checks or take checks. For us, and for most firms, that's the biggest challenge, and also the biggest reward because you feel like you really did something in the finance function, you're not just doing debits and credits.