8 Weeks in Venture Capital
By Oliver Rogers, Analyst in the DSW Angels Team
My first few weeks in Venture Capital have taught me that it’s a non-stop learning environment. Dow Schofield Watts Angels receives about 50 applications for funding a month, so at any one time, there are many different businesses in the pipeline. This, combined with the wide range of industries applying, means that my mind has been swimming with a combination of ideas that have been proposed, from Cyber Security to energy drinks. One thing I like about this variety is that you think differently about each business under consideration, hence a more dynamic outlook to other businesses. Every time a company’s complex ecosystem is considered and understood, you have greater ability to interpret and provide input to other growing businesses.
The expertise of the applicants’ founders in their field means that you must be on your game before meeting with them. You need to understand the technology and the existing marketplace in order to be able to communicate effectively with the founder and discern a prospective product’s potential. It has impressed me to see how switched on most founders are. They are typically exceptionally bright with enthusiastic determination and a clear vision of the commercialisation of their product. This, at first, can make probing their thoughts intimidating – you need to be prepared enough to engage confidently.
My colleagues have collectively been advising and investing in tech businesses for well over a decade and have a remarkable uptake on understanding all aspects of a business. It is necessary as a result to do significant research before a meeting so as to not be sat there with both technical and commercial discussions completely passing you by. I have to admit, there have been moments where discussions have gone over my head – but this has driven me to prepare better. In my first couple of weeks, almost every pitch that I watched or deck that I read made me think that we were onto a winner – I’ve learned it’s important to temper any excitement about an idea with an enquiring and critical mind. I gradually realised my over-optimism after observing David Smith and Keith Benson instantly identifying issues with a business, such as the management composition or a specific condition of the company’s financials.
Going to a pitching event by myself in London on my second day was an interesting and very new experience, and I have been to many since. I really enjoy thinking about new ideas and meeting people (and am also partial to the corporate buffets). After the pitches, when given the opportunity to walk around and speak to founders, I enjoyed engaging with them to find out more about their company. They’re eager to answer questions due to their passion on the topic and pride of their idea.
I have met colleagues from across the company when we played at HSBC’s Corporate Finance 5-a-side football tournament. I also look forward to meeting colleagues across the wider group through getting involved with the Corporate Social Responsibility committee. Staff at DSW have been very welcoming, getting me involved in tech M&A advisory meetings to better understand the DSW Group’s wider Corporate Finance activities. A big impression made on me by the industry is how warm people are within DSW, applicants for funding and clients. Possibly the green tranquillity of Daresbury Park has a mood-lightening effect.
Oliver joined Dow Schofield Watts in early 2019 following graduation from The University Of Bristol in Mathematics & Physics.