Rebecca Kaden is a General Partner at Union Street Ventures. At brunchwork, she shared the importance of finding great mentors.
Q: What is the value of having a mentor?
A: Great mentors help you discover qualities about yourself you never noticed or opportunities you never considered. I had never thought about becoming a VC until Bill Campbell (the go-to CEO coach for legends like Steve Jobs and and Eric Schmidt) told me I should make the transition. The best mentor is someone whose advice you trust and can follow.
How can people make the most out of mentorship?
It’s important to ensure both parties can operate with as much honesty and transparency as possible. Neither person should have to worry about what they can or should say. The relationship won’t be productive if either person pretends to have all the answers. It’s about realizing that you can help each other in every conversation. This will further the relationship because everyone will be able to be their authentic and vulnerable selves.
How can founders develop trusting relationships with investors?
It’s critical to engage in authentic dialogue. In the early stages of speaking to a founder, I want to hear about what they’re building and what their purpose is, but the quicker we can move away from the rehearsed pitch, the better. That’s when I’ll start to feel comfortable with investing.
At Union Square Ventures, how do you decide what to invest in?
I focus on consumer internet, consumer health, and traditional consumer financial services companies.
USV is a thesis-driven firm which means that we have a thesis about where we believe the biggest pocket of opportunity will be and we invest accordingly. Amazing companies can come to us, but we won’t invest if their mission is not in line with our thesis.
Why is diversity in venture capital important?
If all the viewpoints around the table are the same, you lose the benefit of having a team. The best investors can understand markets, people, and opportunities different from their own, but this doesn’t replace the need to get a variety of perspectives in the room.
We have to continually put pressure on the industry to change. Firms need to hire diverse individuals even when they don’t think they need to. Only when VC teams are more diverse will the diversity of funded companies improve.
This interview was conducted by Simran Arora and condensed by Katherine Emley.