By Arteen Arabshahi
Eller College to Venture Capital, how it happened for me.
5 months ago, I graduated from the U of A. 4 months ago, I started working full-time at Karlin Ventures, a seed and Series-A venture capital firm based in LA. I was asked to tell you how that happened, but first, a little clarity into what exactly this elusive “venture capital firm” is.
Simply put, a venture capital firm invests money in startup companies. We get a piece of the company in return and hope that they go on to great success and then share the wealth, quite literally. Usually, 1 in 10 companies a VC invests in will be relatively or highly successful. Since these investments are so risky, many VCs try their best to be “value-added”. This is meant to help mitigate some of the risks that early-stage, high-growth companies face, but some people still have their doubts.
As for me, I got into venture capital because I love startup companies. I could literally live and breathe this stuff, and I pretty much am. I always had the entrepreneurial itch, but my passion for startups was solidified after two experiences:
1) Spending a summer in New York at an investment bank. Sometimes, realizing what you are not passionate about is the best way to discover what you are passionate about. Banking was not for me. Finance culture was not for me.
2) Spending a summer in Chicago at Excelerate Labs (now Techstars Chicago). I cannot stress enough the importance of having a solid internship the summer before you graduate, and not one that the career center hands you, but one that you’re actually interested in. For me, that was startups.
“But, how do I find an internship if it’s not from the career center?”
This answer is different for everyone, but non-conventional approaches to landing internships are becoming more and more common these days. For me, it was some super diligent cold emailing. I mean, disgustingly diligent. I mean, like, an Excel spreadsheet with 125 rows of people diligent.
My Thanksgiving vacation was spent pressing “send” on a lot of cold emails. Remember, cold emailing is a numbers game and the odds are against you; but if you play the game enough, you’re bound to win at least once or twice. There’s no shortcut, but at the end of the day, those emails changed my life. Period. To really understand why, read this.
After Excelerate Labs, I spent senior year back and forth from LA, Chicago, and Tucson. I was helping a Chicago company expand to LA and each time I made the trip to California, I caught up with a friend I had met from Techstars. That friend is now my Managing Partner at Karlin Ventures, TX Zhuo. What’s important here is that I didn’t view it as “networking” or trying to find a job, but instead it was a genuine and organic relationship with someone who grew to trust me enough to offer me a job. While this is easier said than done, I’m a believer that sometimes the best things happen when you aren’t looking.
Now, I spent most of my days meeting with startup companies. About 50% of my time is meeting entrepreneurs, 25% is doing diligence on companies we are considering investing in, and 25% is working with companies we have already invested in. I don’t see venture capital as a job; I see it as a lifestyle. This lifestyle challenges me and teaches me new things every day. I never want to be the smartest person in the room and, for now, I never am.
Each day I’m reminded of how lucky I am, but each day I’m also reminded that you make your own luck. Compressing this story into a short post was the most difficult thing I had to do today, so please don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to chat more. As my twitter bio declares, I like to talk.
This was also posted on Arteen’s personal blog