Members of the Tribe: Alumni Ventures Group, RBL1, and Vamos Ventures

My Eight-Year Step to Venture Scout

Eight years. What was the world like eight years ago? That is a loaded question and would take hours to fully digest. For quick reference, the movie The Wolf of Wall Street was released in 2013. Popular (and re-emerged) dance moves of 2013 included the twerk, and many start-ups began their business journey, including Urban Compass (now Compass), Oscar Health, and Realty Mogul. Moreover, we were all able to be outside with others less than six feet apart. It was a simpler time…

Note: The Harlem Shake craze took off in 2013.

It was also eight years ago I started my journey into venture capital (VC). VC investors lend their resources (both money and time) to work with teams building products and services that have the ability to impact the world. Without an MBA or applicable work experience (typical characteristics of men and women in the investor role), my prospects of joining the VC world were slim.

I wrote in a previous post the ups and downs I faced in my VC journey, the hard questions I had to ask myself, and my new strategy for joining this community of passionate individuals. Here is a quick update of what has happened since.

Through sheer grit and resilient networking, I was granted the opportunity to join the Alumni Ventures Group (AVG) fellowship in 2018. This became a two-year relationship and I found myself reviewing deals for one of AVG’s core investment funds, Fission Ventures. With the help of committed mentors, I gained first-hand experience in diligence, valuation, and market research.

To keep the momentum post-AVG, I doubled down on my efforts and enrolled in the venture capital/angel investor course offered through RBL1 (pronounced Rebel One). RBL1 partners with and supports transformative early-stage startups building towards zero inequality through investments in education technology (EdTech), financial technology (FinTech), and the future of work.

While the RBL1 course offered similar content to what I had seen through my time with AVG, I looked at my participation as a way to continue building my network and challenge myself to review deals with more speed and accuracy. One of my favorite aspects of RBL1 was the “hot seat,” the opportunity to pitch a deal quickly in front of a live investment committee and address any questions posed by the committee members. It was great practice in anticipating questions, thinking on my feet, and “selling a vision.”

While AVG provided the initial toolset, I wanted to hone my craft. RBL1 offered that opportunity and permitted me to continue attending investment committee meetings even after I finished the course. I wanted to surround myself with people who had similar aspirations, and I was going to participate in as many venture-related events and meetings as I could.

No caption needed.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be selected along a handful of others to join Vamos Ventures (Vamos), an early-stage Los Angeles-based venture capital firm. For the remainder of 2021, I will be on the hunt for start-ups that fit the firm’s investment thesis (more on this below). While I am proud of my efforts and joining this team, there was a moment during the interview process I would consider my crowning achievement.

During one of the interviews with Vamos, I was asked to talk about an industry of interest. With the cadence rivaling a seasoned investor, I articulated my thoughts on financial technology, especially those companies focused on empowering individuals through their finances. I listed off multiple companies I’ve been interested in, what they did, and who the founders were. My speech pattern was natural and calm.

Back in 2018, I was in a similar situation, this time an interview for a venture analyst role. My interview was scheduled at 10 pm (yep, it was 10 pm). The investor was at the airport getting ready for a flight and we had our interview while she was waiting to board. She asked a similar question: provide an example of an industry or company of interest.

The moment I will never forget was when in the middle of my fumbled response, I asked her, “Can I start over?” I could tell she was taken aback, but she agreed. I attempted putting words together, but couldn't: I could only muster the name of the company. The moment was too big at that time, and I wasn’t ready.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. It was embarrassing, and I felt like giving up. I had already been at this for five years; if I couldn’t even muster together a response, what hope did I have?

Something inside me told me to keep going. It was a little over a month later I found the opportunity with AVG.

Looking retrospectively, I can see how each little success and setback was a step forward. Steve Jobs said it best: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” Mr. Jobs, you are 100% correct.

It has been eight years since I decided to commit to learning the VC business. The experience I shared above is proof that we are all capable of learning new skills.

If you fail enough times, you will find success.

Now that I am in my new role, I am happy to share what Vamos is looking for in our investments. Please see our criteria below (wiggle room exists):

  • Teams with at least one co-founder from an underrepresented group
  • Teams who have raised $100K and are generating $10k+/month
  • Teams raising pre-seed, seed, or Series A round
  • Companies based in the USA

Although industry agnostic, Vamos has an interest in the following areas:

  • Financial Services
  • Health and Wellness
  • Future of Work/Education
  • Consumer Packaged Goods (foodtech)

Vamos invests in teams composed of committed, passionate, thoughtful, and curious entrepreneurs. We are impressed with teams who know their market, customer, product and have been able to generate strategic insights from the time they’ve been in the market.

If you would like to schedule a call, let’s start the conversation. Please email me at mavila@serranoventures.com.

Also, I am going to start using Calendly to keep everything in order. I have a list of “debts” — people with whom I’ve been meaning to schedule initial phone calls. I haven’t forgotten (I have post-its everywhere), and will be reaching out to you soon.

Before I go, I do need to provide some quick shout-outs to people who have watched my journey for a while now. Taj Ahmad from Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, thank you for your wisdom and inclusion. Lisa Atia, thank you for taking my phone calls and showing me how to write a succinct email. Sergio Marrero, I have always appreciated your mentorship and tenacity in creating partnerships.

I’ve taken this next step thanks to all of you, and I’m just getting started.

Reference:

Venture Scout with @VamosVentures, engineer, entrepreneur, investor, marathon runner, and founding member of Mariachi Serrano. Former: @joinrbl1, @fissionvc

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