Recently I decided on my next venture. The process leading up to this decision was not short and it’s fair to say that my next venture, in many ways, chose me.
After an unplugged week in Mexico, in the summer I kicked up my self-exploration into full gear…reflecting and spending a lot of time learning more about myself, my goals, my interests and passions, all in efforts to figure out how and where I wanted to spend my time.
I’m a very analytical person and tend to make decisions more so from my head than from my heart. I have been working on keeping a balance and some of my most recent decisions I have been pleased with the way I have been able to listen to my heart.
First, I decided to leave my job at RPM Ventures. I have several reasons for leaving, but the story goes…I joined RPM Ventures to learn how to be a better entrepreneur. I knew that working in VC would give me opportunities to see many companies, industries; meet many entrepreneurs; see what works/doesn’t work; and learn what it takes to be a VC backable entrepreneur building a VC backable company. Mission accomplished. Before VC I was on the entrepreneur side of the table and I knew I’d always go back and that VC was a great learning stint. It was only a matter of time before I left the “dark side” (which isn’t so dark) to tackle big problems to make a positive impact in the world.
After deciding to leave RPM Ventures, then came deciding what I wanted to do instead. What I learned: there are so many things I want to do. I threw a ton of ideas on the table – either ventures to start, companies to join and build, places to travel, sketches to write, people to meet, and beyond. I asked myself a lot of “thought questions”, spent more time journaling, reflecting, and taking inventory of my interests, passions, and skills.
I realized that I love healthy living. That may be an understatement. I am fairly obsessed with healthy living. Daily I wake up before dawn to go to the gym (either teaching a spin class, going to crossfit, hot yoga, a run, etc), I am uber deliberate about what I eat and how I treat my body, and I could read about health, nutrition, and clean eating recipes endlessly (and could also have such conversations for extended periods of time). And I am very mission-driven…I want to make a positive impact in the world. Combine the two and it seemed to make sense that I pursue a venture related to health-food-life-tech. Figuring that out led me to immerse myself…I started tracking companies and researching trends, and formed a list of over 200 companies in the health-food-life-tech arena (still broad, but more focused than everything). I spent time talking to founders, potential partners and stakeholders, investors, trying to learn more about opportunities and white space where I could solve some problems. I was very focused.
Then I received some of the best advice I received along this journey, from one of my mentors. When I told her about my search, she advised, Stop planning so much. Be opportunistic. You’re so focused and planning so deliberately that you may miss opportunities that come to you that aren’t within your lens.
She was right.
I took a step back. I asked myself some high level questions like “What do I really want with my next opportunity?”
The opportunities I had explored didn’t have that spark. I didn’t want to be “silo-ed” in a specific function in a company with hundreds of people already. I did want to… solve a really big problem and a real problem. I did want to find a mentor and work with amazing and talented people. I did want to have the opportunity to work in a variety of projects/domains.
When I took that step back, I realized that the opportunity I had been looking for had been in front of me the entire time. A company RPM Ventures invested in, Social Finance (SoFi), caught my eye the moment I learned about it in 2011. SoFi connects students and alumni through a dedicated lending pool. Alumni earn a double bottom line return, students receive a lower loan rate than their private or federal options, and both sides benefit from the connections formed. I had the opportunity to work with SoFi as part of RPM’s portfolio. In doing so, I got to know the team, the business, and the potential.
- SoFi is solving a HUGE problem: student debt. $1 Trillion. Enough said.
- I have a mentor. Many. And am blessed to work with amazing people.
- There is room to grow. With about 60 people and a growing business, there’s always something to do!!
I am glad I went through a “process”…learning about myself, exploring several opportunities, crossing things off my list and adding things on. Even though ultimately the opportunity I am pursuing was there before all the others, I believe the process I ran was helpful for me to discover what truly was right.
And there you have it…my next venture! I couldn’t be more excited!
mel, the Venture Gal