Dec. 7, 2020

Episode 5 - the Long Way Round with Meagan Loyst

Episode 5 - the Long Way Round with Meagan Loyst

Key Takeaways:

Is a massive, well-connected network absolutely critical to breaking into the Venture Capital Industry? No, says Meagan Loyst, a VC at Lerer Hippeau. You do need, however, a way to gain the practical experience VC firms look for when they hire new analysts and associates. Meagan gives us a play by play on how she went from undergrad into Venture Capital.

You can be a VC without being a VC:

The Venture Capital industry is unique in that folks on the outside can gain practical experience on their own. Whether this comes from formal efforts such as internships or collegiate Venture clubs or informal experiences like tracking sectors, developing thesis, and creating Venture-focused content on your own, there is opportunities to develop and practice the skills necessary to become a VC – far before you actually join a fund.

“There are a bunch of misconceptions that I had coming in. A lot of people are worried about getting into VC, that you need to have this insane network of people, of founders, and investors to even get started…and that’s fundamentally not true.” – Meagan Loyst


The Long Way Round with Meagan Loyst

👋 Hey! Thanks for checking out the GoingVC Podcast: Uncovering new paths into VC, diving deeper into alternative models, and addressing areas of weakness every second Monday with Austin and JJ MacLean (@jjmaclean) from the GoingVC team. 

We're really excited to be bringing to you today our conversation with Meagan Loyst (@meaganloyst). 

If you've got any questions, feedback, guest ideas, or just want to say hey, don't hesitate to shoot us a message at podcast@goingvc.com!

Episode Chapters

  1. Introduction
  2. Meagan’s Origin Story (1:20)
  3. Advice for Students—Just Get Started (10:35)
  4. The Life-Changing Magic of a Cold Email (16:49)
  5. Don't Stop Believin' (and Learning) (19:39)
  6. Finding Your Perfect Fit (27:17)
  7. Superpowers (31:52)
  8. Building an Inclusive Ecosystem (36:05)
  9. Closing Thoughts (and Favorite TV Show) (40:02)
Transcript

Episode #5 - the Long Way Round with Meagan

The transcript has been edited and condensed for readability.

Meagan’s Origin Story

Austin: [00:01:20] Great! We talked before we started recording about your background, which I'd love to begin with. You ordered the sample platter throughout school, doing internships in private equity, investment, baking, some hedge fund experience. I'm curious what your perspective was across all those and how you ultimately ended up in venture? 

Meagan: [00:01:38] Yeah, for sure! I think everyone has a different path to VC. I started at Lerer Hippeau about two months ago. Before that, I was doing growth equity investing on the technology team in General Atlantic. They’re a global growth equity firm with, I think, 35 billion in assets under management, very global, 14 offices. 

GA was actually where I started right out of school. I did two internships with GA before graduating, which was great. One on the East Coast, one on the West Coast. I worked in the New York office, but for the Palo Alto team, which was great. I got to work with West Coast companies, East Coast companies, and see that bi-coastal approach to the growth landscape, which was really great.

And yeah, you're totally right; I definitely took the menu-based approach with regards to my experiences. A big part of that is that I am a huge believer in learning by doing, and honestly, Girls Who Invest was a significant driver of that for me.

I did the program during my freshman year. For those who aren't familiar, you spend four weeks on a college campus; I was at Penn, basically learning hardcore investment concepts from 9-5 to every day. Then the last six weeks of the program are spent doing an internship in asset management. 

I was lucky enough to work at a hedge fund that summer focused on retail and consumer companies. I came out of figuring out what I liked, what I didn't like, and a large part of it was that I loved becoming an expert on a space. I did a lot of work in organic grocery and put together an investment pitch, and pitched it to the founder of the fund Richard Perry, the investor relations team. 

I got to do a lot of my own independent research. Every day after work, I would go to the local grocery stores in the city and put together different basket sizes to monitor trends that way. I felt, even though I was a freshman in college, I could be really impactful thinking about investments.

I liked that it was tangible, but what I didn't love was sitting behind a desk all day doing research reports. With every experience, I really took an introspective look into myself about what I enjoyed and what I didn't like to try and minimize what I didn’t like in my future opportunities. 

When my sophomore year rolled around, I wanted to be part of a larger program. At the hedge fund, I was the only intern. I think I was the only person under the age of 35 in the whole place.

JJ: [00:03:56] Oh, wow! 

Meagan: [00:03:57] Yeah! It was a very different environment, and I wanted to have peers be a part of a larger intern class, which led me to J.P. Morgan in wealth management. At the hedge fund, I’d learned that I really wanted to be interacting more with people. The thought around that then was, ‘okay, wealth management is very people-focused.’ Which is true, but then I also learned that as a junior person at a wealth management fund, you're often doing a lot more of the behind-the-scenes work, less engaging with actual clients. I also missed doing deep-dive company analysis’. 

After that, I was at a growth equity firm in Boston during the school year. I'm a big believer in learning by doing, so I worked at this growth equity firm near Boston College, where I went to school for 10 to 15 hours a week. I also had two jobs on campus; I was always working, getting experience, and figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t. That then led me to General Atlantic for my junior summer and the fall of my senior year, and after graduation, I joined them full-time. 

Coming into VC and thinking about interviews and how I got here, I think I had a lot more clarity than the average person about what I wanted out of my career and what I was looking for because I had done so many different internships. I ended up doing, I think, eight. Since my junior year of school in different internships, I worked every summer, trying to figure out what I liked, what I didn’t like. It helped me develop a clear picture of what I wanted out of my career and what would be the best fit for me, and I think that shined through in my interviews. 

Austin: [00:05:23] Wow! That’s pretty amazing! How did you, at age 18, have so much clarity? It took me until my junior year in college to decide I wanted to go into finance, let alone what area. How did you come into college with that game plan? 

Meagan: [00:05:42] Did you ever watch Glee growing up? This is a little bit of a tangent; in the first episode, there's the sequence with Lea Michele’s character, Rachel Berry, where she's in every single yearbook photo. When I watched it with my sisters, they were like, ‘Oh my God, this is literally you’ because I was hyper-involved in everything.

I always wanted to have a really clear picture of what I wanted with my career, starting in middle school. I've always had a very methodical and tailored approach to my experiences. In high school, I was president of the business marketing honor society; I was president of DECA, I was the vice president of the science honors society, I was the soccer team captain, I was a freestyle skier. I also worked at a law firm during the year and did an internship at Citibank my junior summer. 

I went to a really big public high school in Long Island, and they happened to have a strong business program, and that's how I fell into it. I was involved in everything; I volunteered at a hospital. I tried to think about it so that I’d have the best sense of what experiences I wanted to get when I was applying for colleges. I learned very quickly that medicine was out of the question!

Austin: [00:06:45] Oh! You didn’t want to be a doctor too? Got it!

Meagan: [00:06:47] I thought about it! That's why I did so much volunteering in high school, I loved working with patients, but whenever things got gruesome, I was quickly out of the picture! And at the law firm, I really enjoyed reading through the cases, but I wasn't interacting much with people, and I really am a people person at the end of the day. This is why venture is such a great fit. I did a marketing internship as well; I’ve done it all. 

I'm a big believer in learning through experiences, and luckily it's paid off! Every one of my experiences has helped me in some shape or form, especially in VC. Anytime I'm talking to a legal tech company, I can call up the people I used to work with at the law firm and get their take on it. I can also think about it from the perspective of when I was reading through cases, what would have helped me. Every single experience has come back and helped me. I have probably more internship experience than the average young person, but it's because I was always super involved and consistently trying to figure out the best fit for me and how I can get there.

Austin: [00:07:48] How’d you begin to widdle all that down through and get to Venture Capital? Or are you still exploring? Is venture capital the long-term one? 

Meagan: [00:08:00] It’s the one! I've never been happier in my life professionally.   I love my job, I love my team, and VC is for sure the right fit. It's truly the combination of every single thing that I liked about all of my previous jobs and positions in one package.

Coming from a place like General Atlantic, there were a lot of things that I learned about myself and what I liked about my job. My job at GA was a very heavy sourcing role. I was sending a hundred emails a week to CEOs, traveling to conferences, going on trips to meet with companies, and spending a lot of time with CEOs and founders, which I enjoyed. However, the companies I was always the most excited about and excited to talk to my team that were 1-3 years out from GA being able to invest, which was frustrating. I’d be like, there are these exciting market opportunities that are blowing up, great founders, great experience, but there was never a platform for me to be able to act on any of it. 

I was on the technology team at GA; I covered 10-to-12 different sub-sectors ranging from EdTech to digital media, enterprise software, and SMB software. It covered a bunch of different areas, but I didn’t get to see a ton in eCommerce, Healthcare, or FinTech. I wanted to broaden that skillset and see a little more outside of technology. And when I thought about my career progression at GA, upward mobility, there was a lot more focus on execution versus sourcing. I wanted to broaden my skill set around portfolio companies, diligence, and execution while still having a heavily focused people component and sourcing aspect. 

I wanted to be spending most of the day with founders learning about their companies and seeing where I could be helpful, whether it's with the product or customer introductions. That's what I wanted to be spending most of my time doing, as well as thinking about markets and people and founders, which is why early-stage made so much sense for me. 

And then, when it came to Lerer Hippeau, specifically, I had a dream checklist of all the things I wanted to see, and LH checked them all and more! It’s only been two months, but it’s hard to imagine that I've done anything before this; I feel so comfortable in my role. I love my team so much, and I'm learning so much. I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing. This is absolutely the long game for me, it's been a long time coming, but I love it. I don't think there could be a job more tailor-made for me. 

Just Get Started

Austin: [00:10:35] That’s awesome! I'm so happy that you're so happy there! I'm curious too, as you said before, not a lot of folks are going to have the internship experience you had or the traditional backgrounds like being a founder or operator. What advice would you have for someone who is in college today? What could they be doing right now?  

Meagan: [00:10:55] A big part of it is being very proactive! Getting started can be difficult, but there are so many ways that you can approach this. 

Maybe you're reading TechCrunch every day and compiling companies that are raising, keeping track of that, and building your own framework around investing as a student. For example, if you're looking at an education technology company, you have a pretty unique perspective as a student. You're experiencing these pain points firsthand and can offer a more differentiated perspective than someone who's a few years out of the industry is looking at it from an investment-lens. It’s really helpful to always think about what is the value add of your unique perspective? Maybe it's the Gen-Z perspective where you're looking at all the new tools people are using on campus and writing about it on Medium. How can you start developing an interest in a specific sector or a particular stage? 

Building relationships goes without saying too! Look for programs on campus, like Dorm Room Fund or Contrary Capital, try and meet with local VCs, get involved with your venture capital club on campus. There are so many different ways students can approach it. The most important thing is to do your research and get started. 

I got my job at LH through a cold email, and a lot of the other ones were pure hustle. Doing the research, figuring out what I wanted, and then going after it. For my BayBoston internship, they were looking for someone with at least two more years of experience, 

but I kind of just showed up at their door with a cover letter. They said I was too young, and I was like, ‘give me a trial run, try me out and let me know what you think, and if it goes well, we can work something out,’ and that’s exactly what happened. I did a few weeks and then came back for another semester, 10 to 15 hours a week, and it was because I was like, look, I can add value, and here’s how. Having a great attitude, being super prepared, and doing a lot of the research and work upfront goes a long way. 

JJ: [00:12:50] I love it! I’d love to dive deeper into how you crafted that story. Even just in that last example, you talked about how you were short on experience but won them over! Presumably, some applicants had that initial experience. I’d love to hear how you went about that. 

 Meagan: [00:13:19] Yeah, for sure! For me, it came down to having this crystal clear narrative around myself and my story; and learning by doing was the thread that came through all of it. Even though I may have been less experienced from a years’ standpoint, I had done eight internships. I had worked at firms like Citi and JP Morgan, at a hedge fund, in wealth management, and growth equity. I’d seen a lot and could pull different tidbits from those experiences.  

The biggest thing, especially when it comes to getting your foot in the door, is showing what you can do. At General Atlantic, I was the first person they hired in my summer intern class and the only woman. Which is something we can talk about another time. I didn’t come from a target school; I went to Boston College, which is a great school, but when you think about the places VC and growth equity recruits from right out of college, it’s usually Ivy League or Stanford. 

I got my foot in the door by hounding Girls Who Invest. GA was a partner at the time, and I was like, I want to do growth equity; GA seems like they have an incredible portfolio. Send them my cover letter, and I will do the work from there. They weren’t recruiting at the time, but I got them on the phone. I’d put together a four-page prep document for myself, my thoughts on companies I could pitch, all these different things, and then had my first call. They were like, ‘yeah, we aren’t hiring right now, but this is great, great to meet you.’ and then the next day they reached out again and said, ‘hey, do you think you could come in next week to meet with a few of our partners?’ and I thought to myself, I thought you weren’t hiring, this is interesting. 

Again, I was hyper prepared. First impressions matter in this industry. Shortly before I ended up having my first meeting with a partner, they had announced a deal in retail tech. Back when I was at JP Morgan, I’d won the sophomore stock pitch competition for my pitch on Inditex and retail technology more generally; and of course, I’d also spent time looking at organic grocery and other retail companies for my hedge fund experience. So when I had that meeting, I showed them a copy of my pitch deck; I demonstrated my interest instead of just talking about it. At the end of the meeting, they asked if they could keep the copy, that it had really interesting market research, and then it was a very quick process from there. 

With any of the jobs I’ve gotten, it’s really been about demonstrating my value from day one. It was the same with Lerer Hippeau. I got it through a cold email. I emailed Andrea, they weren’t hiring at the time, but I was like, ‘hey, here’s my resume, in case you want to chat.’ We grabbed a coffee, and then the day after, I introduced her to a founder raising a Series A. I was in touch with Andrea at least once-a-week during the recruiting process. Sending her articles, flagging pre-Seed raises that could be interesting, and connecting them with founders. My approach to every opportunity I’ve ever gotten has been demonstrating how I can add value versus just talking about it. I also know what I want, and as a young person, I don’t think that’s something that people hear very often. It’s really helped me. 

For the college students out there, I’d say, just get started. Figure out what your angle will be, what you’re interested in, and then pour all your efforts into building that out! 

Austin: [00:16:47] Yeah, that's awesome advice! 

The Life-Changing Magic of a Cold Email

JJ: [00:16:49] Love it! Before we move on, I’d love it if we could dive a little deeper into what goes into a good cold-email for you?  

Meagan: [00:17:02] Yeah! I would say my emails are longer than most. I would say, generally, I'm a really thoughtful person; I put a lot of thought into each email; it’s targeted not only for that specific firm but also for the individual. 

Take Andrea, for example. I’d read a bunch of articles she was featured in, so I started with that. I said, ‘Hey, I'm interested in consumers; I’ve also done a lot of work in enterprise software. I saw that you were featured in XYZ article, here are my thoughts on that.’ Then I went into the areas, the commonalities that I saw between my personal experience and the fund’s experience. I had spoken to a lot of the Lerer Hippeau portfolio company CEOs through my job at GA, and here are the things that I think we do similarly.

The last part was really how my personal values interlaid with the firm. As a woman in finance, a woman in VC, someone on the advisory board of Girls Who Invest, diversity is really important for me. It’s a deal-breaker if a firm doesn't have it front and center. I loved it when I looked at Lerer Hippeau’s website; there were so many women. When I looked at all the female founders I admired, Lerer Hippeau was often the common thread. I mentioned that I loved how they supported female founders, that they had a balanced investment team, which was essential to me. 

And then, this is probably the most important tidbit for everyonenever ask for things. Always give, and just see how you can be helpful. A lot of people in VC make fun of that term, but it’s so true. For me, I approached it as ‘hey, we’re spending time in a lot of similar areas. I see a lot of early-stage companies; how can I be helpful? Oh, and by the way, if you happen to be hiring in the next few weeks or months, let me know. I’d love to chat about that as well’. It’s never asking for things or a job; it’s genuinely just offering and seeing how you can be helpful, whether that’s articles, intros, whatever. 

Austin: [00:19:08] That’s awesome! And I think unique to the venture space. You’re not going to, for example, email-in a recommendation to take Burger King private! You had that incredible internship experience on your side, but now that you’re on the inside looking-out, is there anything that you’d do differently? Or things you’re doing now that you didn’t know you’d be doing as a VC? What sort of learning experiences have you continued to take on now that you’ve gotten into VC. 

Don't Stop Believin' (and Learning)

Meagan: [00:19:39] I don’t think I would have done anything differently!

Austin: [00:19:41] I suspected that was going to be your answer! 

Meagan: [00:19:43] There were a bunch of misconceptions that I had coming in, though. A lot of people trying to get into VC worry that you have to have this insane network of people and founders even to get started, and that’s just fundamentally not true. 

I joined LH, maybe, being able to count the number of early-stage investors I knew on the one hand, and I’ve been able to build a great network over the last few months. And not just a network, but actual friendships, just by being friendly, open, and honestly using content. That’s been one of my biggest learnings, just how effective content can be. For deal-flow, for your brand, and for meeting people. I’d never really used Twitter before joining Lerer Hippeau; I’d never done any blogging. I had, I think, 50 followers on Twitter, all from a class in college where you got credit for tweeting. I’m not joking!

Before starting, I met with Natalie, who is an absolute content Queen, I love her, and she was like, ‘let’s work on your Twitter bio, let’s think this through for you.’ I truly had no experience with blogging or any of it. I’ve always loved being creative but never really had an outlet for it at GA, where everything was so internally facing. 

I had been keeping a list of ideas I was interested in, though. EdTech was one of the areas I covered at GA and something that’s been top of mind for many people this year, so I thought, ‘what are some of the trends I see? Maybe this will be interesting for other people.’ I put together a thread on Twitter, and it just blew up, which was great! I had a bunch of founders reach out to me; the head of Goldman Sach’s China EdTech practice asked for my thoughts on tutoring marketplaces. I thought to myself, this is great; I am three weeks on the job and already putting content out there, putting my thoughts into the world, bringing people to me, instead of the other way around. That’s when it clicked for me. 

Then I had this other thought, as a young person in VC, a young person on my team, when we're looking at Gen-Z focused companies, I can think about it from the customer perspective. I can send it to my younger sisters or my friends who were in college and get their thoughts on it, and I wondered, who else is out there? Where are these other young investors? I had a thought I put it into a tweet, and it became an article and led to about 70 conversations with other young investors.

It was the first article I’d ever written; over 3000 people read it; I was featured in TechCrunch.

As a new person on a team, especially a young person, you always want to be thinking about how I can add value from day one, and for me, content and putting my thoughts out in the world has been immensely helpful as well as for building that network that I didn't have before. 

For people looking to get into VC, don't be afraid to get started. If you don't have a network, you can definitely build one. It takes effort, it takes being creative, but it can be done. That’s been one of my biggest learnings so far, just how effective content can be for meeting people. 

Austin: [00:22:50] It sounds like you've flattened the curve to break into VC by just doing what venture capitalists do every day. You're sourcing ideas; you can, if you want to write checks and invest in companies. You're coming to a venture capital firm and saying, look, I've been doing this for several years, on my own, and that's the best way. 

Meagan: [00:23:22] Yeah! Part of it for me is I'm not the typical candidate for venture.   I love in my writing, highlighting under-appreciated perspectives. You don't often hear from the youngest faces, but they see a lot of different things from their own personal perspectives. You see so many VCs writing about education, for example, but what are students thinking? 

I've enjoyed taking that perspective because it's helpful, you get to meet people, but you're also allowing other people to get their voices and thoughts out into the world. For the Gen-Z thing, I featured a bunch of quotes from my friends, and I plan on doing the same thing for the EdTech article. If you're a student trying to get into VC and can be like, look, I was featured in this article on EdTech or I spoke to this person, I think all of that comes back. 

JJ: [00:24:16] You've been in the industry for a few months now. One of the things you mentioned at the beginning of the call was that you’d learned a ton, really enjoying the process. How has that been? Any advice for someone else who's new to the industry to hit the ground running? 

Meagan: [00:24:28] For me, the learning process has been a lot of unlearning a lot of that background from GA and growth equity. You just look for so many different things! At GA, we would do 20 expert calls for any given deal, we'd have giant data rooms making decisions, but at seed, I've learned to be more agile and more resourceful. 

You have to come to that place of conviction with a lot less hard data. It was tough for me at first, given how I’d learned to make decisions, but it's a different game at seed. I learned that other things are more important; maybe it's market-fit or the team and the founder market fit because, at the end of the day at seed, we're investing in people. 

We're investing in founders that we believe can change their respective spaces and make a real impact on the world. Is this a market we like? Is this the right team to go and build this solution? Why now? Why does this have to exist?  These are questions that I never used to have to ask myself. In growth equity, the market leader was often clear from where the data was pointing.  It’s just a different type of investment framework and mindset. I would say that's been the biggest learning process for me. How can I build a filter for evaluating seed-stage companies? 

JJ: [00:25:49] Nice, nice! As a follow-up, I don’t expect you to have an answer to this, but I am curious; venture is an industry that almost everyone I’ve talked to has said that career development is challenging. Feedback cycles are long; it’s tough to know if you’re doing it right. How do you plan to navigate all that? 

Meagan: [00:26:10] For me, I feel so, so lucky to work with the team that I do at Lerer Hippeau! I genuinely love my job so much, and I love any and all time that I get to spend working with my teammates and learning from them and working with them.

My plan is always to be open to learning and constant feedback. At the end of the day, I want to do a good job for my team and be a great partner to our founders. For the next few months and years, I’ll be doing a lot of listening and growing. I work very closely with Andrea and Caitlin on my team, and it's so incredible. I have such great role models to learn from. If it were up to me, I'd be at Lerer Hippeau forever, and I hope that's the case. I just love my team so much, and I'm always open to feedback, seeing how I can be helpful. It's being a good listener, being a good teammate, and just doing everything in your power to try and be better every day. 

Finding Your Perfect Fit

Austin: [00:27:17] If you were giving advice to someone who's selecting from some different funds that they're trying to target and reach out to, how would you rank what's most important to you? Is it the fund’s philosophy, the founding team, their track records, or how do you break those down?

Meagan: [00:27:33] It’s such an individualized decision! I think it's hard to take my experience and apply that to sort of a generalized framework. It’s going to be different for every person. People learn in different ways; people are looking for different sectors. 

Some appreciate a sink or swim approach, some like more of an apprenticeship model. It depends on the individual. Like I mentioned, I put together a checklist; ask yourself what the things that you care about for yourself are? What do you want to learn? I wanted to work on a balanced investment team that cares about diversity, that invests in female founders. I also didn’t want to do just technology; I wanted to do consumer and eCommerce and FinTech. Be more of a generalist role with a significant sourcing component. I wanted to work at a fund that has a great reputation with founders. And I had that from already talking to many of their portfolio companies while at GA. 

Those were some of the important things to me, but it's going to be different for everyone. New York was another big one for me. I’m from Long Island, luckily I don’t have an accent, but I wanted to stay in New York ideally. A lot of the feedback I had gotten was that if I wanted to do VC, I’d have to move out to the West Coast eventually, but I know that’s fundamentally untrue since starting. I’ve met so many great investors at different funds in different cities. Lerer Hippeau is one of the most active, early-stage investors in New York, and I love that I can be a part of that story, investing in the next great generation of founders coming out of my home. 

Austin: [00:29:29] Yeah! As a quick follow-up on that, has the work from home in totality accelerated that whole you don’t need to be in Silicon Valley thing? If you noticed that perspective at all, has it changed? 

Meagan: [00:29:43] Yeah, I think that’s true. The first thing is, I think, remote work is new for a lot of people. For me, though, I was on-boarded remotely, I did virtual recruiting. I still haven't met more than half the people on my team; it’s all I know. 

For investors whose deal flow or sourcing has been driven by in-person events, community it’s going to be more challenging, but I don't have that bias. I'm trying to figure it out in a virtual environment, and then when things get back to in person, I'll probably have to rethink it all again. I think being in a virtual environment removes any type of barriers on location. Everyone's open to doing Zoom calls no matter where you are.

Austin: [00:30:26] That's great! Adds to the diversity of the views that you bring to the team. Changing gears a little, what's most interesting to you these days? What are you working on or thinking about? 

Meagan: [00:30:42] Oooh! From a sector perspective, I'm spending time with Gen-Z focused companies on both the consumer and knowledge worker side. What does the next generation of B2B software look like? 

I'm thinking about EdTech; I’m thinking about enterprise software. I love unsexy sectors, call centers, or customer experience software, for example. Lerer Hippeau invests in pretty much every sector under the sun, except for biotech or medical devices, so I’m exploring different themes, figuring out what areas I gravitate towards. 

I'm working on an EdTech article right now that will come out within the next few weeks. I’ve been doing a series of interviews with mission-driven founders that’s been a lot of fun. I’m figuring it all out as I go, trying to learn as much as possible from my team and trying to help founders. 

Superpowers

JJ: [00:31:52] Love it, love it! Bit of a fun question now, what would you say your venture superpower is? If you had a skill or ability that pulls levers within venture, what would it be? 

Meagan: [00:32:06] What a fun question! I listened to a few of your earlier podcasts before, and I loved hearing everyone's perspective. It's so different for each person. I think mine is straightforward; it’s honestly, being really thoughtful. Really caring about the other person that you're talking to.

At GA, for example, I spoke with hundreds of growth-stage companies. Evaluated them, worked with them. It’s helped me be helpful thinking through things like the competitive landscape, or go to market partnerships, all that kind of stuff, so I’ve had a lot of founders come to me and say, ‘hey, I’ve heard you’re really good with competitive landscape analysis.’ I love hearing that feedback from founders like that, but again, it’s just about being thoughtful. 

I had a meeting a few months ago with a pretty famous investor who told me that the best VCs, especially young VCs, walk into meetings with a way to add value right off the bat, and it resonated with me. I try to think about that and try to embody that for every call or meeting. In what ways can I be super helpful to this founder, whether talking about the landscape or introducing them to someone in my network that I think could be interesting from a partnership perspective? I think about that all the time. I don't want to be another call or another investor they're meeting. I want to be someone that people want to work with because I can be impactful.

It holds for investors, too, right? A lot of people in VC approach networking in a very transactional nature. What fund do you work at? What's your focus? What deals are you looking at? It can get old, really quick. People want to work with their friends, and I feel the same way. I really try to be a good friend. I ask myself, how can I be helpful to this person personally, professionally? I love connecting people. 

I talked to about 70 young investors with my Gen-Z article, and after a lot of those calls, they were like, ‘who else are you meeting? I want to meet all the people!’ A bunch of them asked me to put together a Slack group, so I did! I know the people who participated in it, but they don't know each other. I put together this Zoom call this past week where 30 young people in VC, all under 25, came together for a big call. We broke off into breakout rooms; I put a lot of thought into the breakout rooms, thinking about the most helpful conversations for each person. I love helping people. I love organizing events. 

I can't wait till I'm back in the city and can do more of this in person. It's hard to meet people virtually, and so any way that I can facilitate that for my friends is great. I love doing it. It's a lot of fun! You make so many new friends in VC, and I want to be a good friend. I think a lot of that comes through with, again, my superpower of being thoughtful. My favorite thing in the world, apart from my job, which is also my favorite thing in the world, is gift-giving. I love giving thoughtful gifts. The holidays and birthdays are my favorite times of the year because I can make people smile and give them gifts that I think they'll love, which sounds super corny, but that's I love it. 

Austin: [00:35:40] ‘Tis the season! 

Meagan: [00:35:42] ‘Tis the season, exactly!

Austin: [00:35:44] If my audio sounds muffled, it's because I've crawled under my desk because I’m rethinking my entire career. The intersection of your energy plus your genuine empathy and seeking out what you want to do and help people will make you a success, and it's exactly what this industry needs. Thanks for sharing all that! 

Meagan: [00:36:04] Yeah. No, of course! 

Building an Inclusive Ecosystem

JJ: [00:36:05] I'd love to hear, a little more, you mentioned at the beginning of the call that one of the things that most attracted you to LH was that they had a diverse set of portfolio company founders. I’d love to hear a little more about that, maybe, about Girls Who Invest, if you've got any thoughts on how the industry could do more for diverse and underrepresented founders. I know that’s a very large and amorphous question… 

Meagan: [00:36:26] No, this is one of my favorite questions! It’s something that I love talking about. The Girls Who Invest program was started about five years ago, I’ve talked a little already about what they do, and I am proof that it can work. When you introduce investing as a potential career path early-on, you have more time to figure it out, more time to get experience. They’ve used me in their marketing materials for that reason. I didn’t do banking to get here, many people told me that I had to do it, but I was like, look, I know I want to be an investor, I have to figure out what’s going to be my perfect fit and my niche and it was VC. Girls Who Invest was a large part of that. 

It goes beyond the program too, there's a whole alumni community now, 500 plus young women starting their careers. After having gone through the program and benefiting from it, I wanted to get involved and do more, so before I graduated, I met with our founder, Seema Hingorani, and asked what I could do, how I could be helpful. 

I actually started our alumni council; we put on events, we bring people together, we bring in speakers, but specifically geared towards our alumni who are a little older now. Things like what compensation should you be looking for? How do you think about career transitions? How do you think about finding a sponsor or mentor? I was the co-president of it last year and loved it. I’m on the advisory board now and getting to think about the actual strategy of the organization, in addition to still doing a ton of mentorship. I love it. 

For example, in VC or growth equity, the hiring process are often not very transparent. You don’t even know who is hiring out of college. I keep a list that I send to anyone who asks, and two friends/mentees of mine that I worked with ended up getting jobs out of school because of it. Sometimes all it takes is being a friend and sharing opportunities when you hear about them. I love doing that. 

I went down a bit of a tangent here, but I could talk about it forever. It shows that these career paths exist, not only for finance majors but also for STEM majors and other people who are not traditional candidates because there’s no one right way to become an investor. There are so many different skill sets valued in different ways, and I think awareness of that is a big part of it. I think a lot of firms can do a better job of being accessible and talking through what those career paths are. How do you get from point A to point B? I think it’s essential. 

And then, from a founder’s perspective, being accessible is essential. At Lerer Hippeau, we have a newsletter, and at the bottom of it, it says, ‘Are you an underrepresented founder? If so, click here, reach out, and we’ll schedule a meeting.’ I do a ton of meetings like that every week. I did an LGBTQ plus office hours a few weeks back with Anthemis; we have a Black VC fellowship that our platform team is organizing. Being out there, being accessible, and making sure that diversity is a necessity is an approach and mindset that every VC, every asset management firm should take, and it's crucial to me.

Closing Thoughts (and Favorite TV Show)

JJ: [00:40:02] That’s awesome! Final two questions here: 1.) do you have any closing thoughts that we missed? And 2.) I saw your comment on the Google Doc over the weekend; favorite TV show? 

Meagan: [00:40:12] I would say the most significant thing is don't be afraid to get started! Anyone can build a career in VC; it’s what you put into it at the end of the day—going after what you want, being thoughtful, building relationships, and a network. I think those are all essential things, and I encourage everyone to go after what they want. 

And then-favorite TV show, I have lots of thoughts on this, and I hope you both watched it. Have you seen the Queen’s Gambit?  

Austin: [00:40:37] Yes! I knew you were going to say that! I just had a feeling, because it's the best TV show I've seen in a while, it was so good.

Meagan: [00:40:50] It was so good! I'm a big fan of vintage clothing and gorgeous classic outfits, so I had multiple friends text me. They were like, ‘you have to watch the Queen's Gambit, if not for the actual content for the outfits throughout the show, because you'll love them.’ and I was like, okay, these are powerful endorsements. I'm going to give it a go. I absolutely fell in love! 

I don't want to spoil anything because it’s so good, and I don't want to ruin it, but I genuinely felt inspired to go on a vintage shopping spree after watching it to recreate the outfits. My bank account is very sad right now as a result, but oh my gosh, what a good show! 

It's so good! It's an emotional roller coaster. I genuinely didn't know how it would end or if it was going to be positive, negative, but it’s so, so good. The actress [Anya Taylor-Joy], I can't remember her name, was phenomenal, and the outfits again are perfect. 

Austin: [00:41:47] So check it out for the outfits, if you haven't already! 

JJ: [00:41:50] I'm excited now because I added this to my queue on Netflix, but I haven't watched it yet.

Meagan: [00:41:55] Yeah! It's a must! I'm assigning homework to my friends now. I'm like, ‘hey, so we haven't talked in a while, but, as a next step, watch the Queen's Gambit, and then we'll talk about it.’ It's so good, to all the listeners out there, you got to watch the Queen's Gambit. It is so worthwhile. It's so good.

Meagan Loyst

Analyst at Lerer Hippeau

Meagan Loyst is an Analyst at Lerer Hippeau. She joined from General Atlantic, a global growth equity firm based in New York, where she was an Analyst and previously worked on the investment team at Boston-based BayBoston, J.P. Morgan Asset Management in the Financial Sponsors Group, and consumer-focused hedge fund Perry Capital. Meagan is a graduate of Boston College, where she majored in Finance and Information Systems with a minor in International Studies for Management. Meagan is a frequent visitor to Into the Gloss and loves all-things Glossier.