Tales Of A Young Venture Capitalist Too Young To Drink
This is not the first time I’ve written about a kid who’s rocking the tech startup world, but can’t buy beer legally. This time it’s the tale of Alex Banayan, an associate at Alsop Louie Partners in San Francisco, and another Silicon Valley wizkid who’s making the tech headlines.
“Being a VC at 19 was never part of the plan”
Alex is a self-proclaimed nerd. In high school he didn’t want to talk sports, he wanted to talk tech. (Steve Job’s MacWorld keynote, anyone? Anyone?)
But, that wasn’t the plan for Alex. Instead, Alex was a pre-med major in College, hitting the bio books, but still dreaming of entrepreneurs and their key to success. He wanted to know everything there was about the topic, so he started feverishly reading and researching, but couldn’t quite find his ideal book.
And, just like any 18-year-old who has trouble finding a book, he decided to write it himself. So, that’s what Alex did. He found a gap in the market and decided to fill it.
He approached his book like a startup: working on it everyday, obsessing over it, gathering advisors, and getting it off the ground. On his quest to finding successful entrepreneurs to interview for his book, he came across Ernestine Fu, a venture capitalist from Alsop Louie Partners. Alex did a little stalking and found her email address and reached out.
They had lunch a few days later and lightning struck. In just two weeks, Alex went from pre-med student/book-publishing hopeful to associate VC at Ernestine’s company.
So, how did Alex charm big-time VC’s and what advice does he have for our own startups?
Be Humble NOT Modest
Alex believes there is a huge difference in the two. Humbleness, he says, is an eternal sense of gratitude while modesty is a façade of meekness.
In his initial lunch with Ernestine, Alex showed his enthusiasm and passion for the tech world, and wasn’t afraid to show a sincere sense of humility.
This vibrancy, along with showing interest in what Ernestine had to say, led to Alex’s huge life-changing career opportunity.
College Startups are Crap
Alex gets asked a lot about what he thinks of recent college startups. He tends to be pretty brash about the subject. “I think most of them are trash.”
Why? Well, says Alex, he has a problem with presenting his firm with a dorm room delivery service idea in exchange for a $1 Million investment. There’s no growth potential, or technology behind it.
Instead, he says, the startups that excite him are the ones playing in frontiers such as big data, cloud computing, mobile security, etc., and ones that are not just adding noise to crowded spaces.
Alex, who never expected his love for tech would land him an associate VC position at age 19 (who would ever expect that, anyway?), now finds himself attending venture capital mixers, sitting in on demo days, and working directly with startups.
For Alex it’s the most exhilarating and humbling experience of his life.