The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

VC in SC: A panel discussion at KPCC

Venture Capital in Southern California panel. From right, KPCC's Matthew DeBord, Rustic Canyon Partners' Nate Redmond, Idealab's Alex Maleki, and Ben Kuo from socalTECH.
Venture Capital in Southern California panel. From right, KPCC's Matthew DeBord, Rustic Canyon Partners' Nate Redmond, Idealab's Alex Maleki, and Ben Kuo from socalTECH.

Last night, I sat down with Nate Redmond of Rustic Canyon Partners, Ben Kuo of socalTech, and Alex Maleki of Idealab's newly formed New Ventures Group to talk VC in SoCal.

We enjoyed a lively and informative 90 minutes of discussion at the Crawford Family Forum with plenty of good questions from the full-house audience (Thank you, KPCC community!)

I'm going to post some outtakes from the event, but one of things that struck me, for whatever reason, was a recent grad who asked the panel about how to break into venture capital as a career. This got my attention because VC is a relatively new option in professional finance (dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s) and because, well...most young people seem to want to start companies, not fund them.

That said, in my experience VCs, at every level, are interesting people, glad to share their knowledge and committed to the idea of entrepreneurship, innovation, and a positive future. I wasn't surprised that Nate Redmond's advice was simple but insightly. 

He said if you aspire to be a VC, then start acting like one. Check out startups. Seek out VCs and talk to them. In other words, try on the role and learn by doing. It seems that people become VCs because they decide they want to, not because the get hired by a VC firm.

This reminded me of advice I and others have recently been giving to aspiring journalists. True, you can go to journalism school. You can look for internships. But you can also start a blog and act like a journalist. This strikes me as a very contemporary way to develop a career. Invest in yourself first. At the very least, you'll find out if it's what you're meant to do.

That said, Ben Kuo did point out that another great way to become a VC is to start a company, then sell it or go public, making a lot of money in the process. Presto! You're a VC.

More to come, and thanks again to the Crawford Family Forum team at KPCC — Jon Cohn, Elaine Cha, and Jenny Smith — for encouraging me to make the panel happen.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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