Felicis Ventures has, in its roughly 13 years of existence, established a fame in enterprise circles as a sensible early-stage funding agency that’s keen to make bets virtually anyplace on the planet. Based by ex-Googler Aydin Senkut, the San Francisco-based agency has additionally demonstrated a knack for attracting gifted traders into the fold, together with one other former Google govt, Wesley Chan; Sundeep Peechu, who held numerous product roles at Intel earlier than becoming a member of the agency in 2010; and Renata Quintini, an investor who Felicis finally misplaced to Lux Capital (which extra just lately misplaced her to her personal agency, Renegade Companions, which is reportedly elevating a $300 million debut fund).
We talked this morning with yet one more member of Felicis, Niki Pezeshki, who, following a number of promotions, has simply grew to become the youngest accomplice within the agency’s historical past. For aspiring VCs on the market, we puzzled how Pezeshki landed the position — and the way he’s managing to win offers. Following is a part of that dialog, edited flippantly for size.
TC: Everybody needs to work in VC. How did you land this gig?
NP: Out of undergrad [at the University of Southern California], I went to work for [private equity firm] Vista Fairness Companions.They rent, like, 4 individuals out of undergrad yearly at USC. I used to be in Austin [where the firm is based] for 3 years. It was wonderful. I didn’t know what I used to be stepping into on the time — Vista has blossomed into this unbelievable fund — but it surely grounded me within the fundamentals of enterprise and what is an efficient software program funding. I feel it made me extra numbers-focused than a number of different enterprise capitalists. I’ll get flamed for saying this, however I come to the world of enterprise with a way more numbers-driven and formulaic strategy to understanding enterprise that I feel helps me decide good investments.
TC: How did you wind up within the Bay Space?
NP: My household is from LA so I got here to California to work for Local weather Corp. for a 12 months; I labored in gross sales technique and operations. I wished a little bit of working expertise. However I really like investing a lot; I wished to return to it. So I obtained a job with [PE firm] Summit Companions, the place you’re doing hardcore outbound sourcing and studying how one can attain out to individuals and get conversations began and determining [who you should be learning more about] out of lots of of founders.
Whereas there, Felicis randomly reached out to me by a pal of a pal, who mentioned, ‘It’s best to meet Sundeep,’ they usually informed Sundeep, ‘Sundeep, it is best to meet Niki,’ and although I hadn’t considered enterprise, a number of what they had been doing actually resonated with me. In some ways, I’m doing what I used to be doing at Summit, however with a a lot wider aperture.
TC: You had been simply promoted to accomplice from principal, up from senior affiliate, the place you began in 2016. What does that imply on a sensible degree?
NP: A variety of the position received’t be a lot completely different than prior to now 12 months. I feel from an external-facing perspective, it provides me extra credibility with founders and traders. It’s yet one more factor that I can use to win nice offers.
TC: What’s one aggressive deal that you simply’ve received already?
NP: Modus in Seattle. It’s a [tech-driven] escrow startup that’s to the title and brokerage business what Compass is to actual property. I led the Sequence A deal for that firm and I’m on the board and I obtained lot of credibility internally for that. I feel they had been considering of selling me subsequent 12 months or the 12 months after, however they had been like, ‘Dang, Niki simply led a aggressive Sequence A spherical. Let’s give him ammunition.’ [Laughs.]
TC: How did the deal come collectively, and what do you suppose received them over?
NP: I feel three issues: bonding with the founders, conviction about their firm and velocity. I’d heard that they had been going to be on the town for 2 weeks, fundraising, and I knew their purpose was to go away the world with a time period sheet. A variety of corporations are pretty bureaucratic and it’s exhausting for them to spin up their crew and do due diligence that shortly, however Felicis has a small crew and I had conviction concerning the house already, so once they got here by, I informed them how excited I used to be to do one thing on their timeline.
We additionally bonded over [an up-and-coming] DJ. It’s additionally about creating that human reference to founders. I’ve a bunch of buddies who’re founders who say it usually feels very transactional, their relationship with traders. You need to assist these individuals.
TC: You don’t have tons of working expertise. You aren’t alone on this, however loads of VCs will argue that to founders that it’s essential. How do you counter this?
NP: Some founders do need extra operational experience, others don’t care that a lot except the VC as soon as ran a multibillion-dollar firm. Should you’re Martin Casado [of Andreessen Horowitz] and somebody actually loves Nicira, I’m most likely not going to win towards him.
However I’m comparatively younger in contrast with different companions, and I’m actually passionate, and I feel that comes throughout within the fundraising course of. I feel founders know that I’ll take a name any time, and assist them construct a tremendous mannequin for his or her enterprise, and actually assist them prep for his or her subsequent fundraising course of, and assist them with any VP recruits.
I’m nonetheless constructing my monitor document, so founders know that I care and that my incentives are aligned with theirs. If a founding crew is profitable, I’ll achieve success versus somebody who’s already sitting on 15 boards and can present up as soon as 1 / 4 and attempt to personal the room and who’s much less invested in whether or not or not the corporate does nicely as a result of [that investor] has already been profitable. I need each single portfolio firm to do extremely nicely. I need that to come back throughout. And I feel it does.