Alyssa Gill is based in Washington, DC and the Community Manager with NextGen Venture Partners. NextGen is investing $750,000-2M in seed stage technology companies with the participation of 1,000+ Venture Partners who are top operators, founders and technologists across the country.
What drew you to working with startups and venture capital?
I’ve always worked in the sectors I believe have the greatest agency to make change. As a DC area native, I believed this was the public sector/government while I was in high school. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I went on to study political science in college, in pursuit of a law career. But through the social entrepreneurship program at Penn State, I took a transformative trip to Sierra Leone and saw firsthand how business and private dollars could be leveraged to help communities. I’ve been committed to working with startups because of their potential to create wealth, jobs, and economic opportunity ever since.
My answer to the VC component of this question is actually different. I’ve been fortunate to have a diverse set of work experiences across the startup landscape from the lens of a founder, organizer, and accelerator lead. I loved the bird’s eye view of connecting the dots. There’s so much insight to be gained advising accelerator companies and identifying patterns across their collective learnings. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was - and VC surfaced as the clear next step.
I’ve learned that I like joining teams as they’re evaluating and refining what they do versus just starting up. I want to leverage existing infrastructure and resources to help shape what the next level looks like.
I believe NextGen is at this stage in its lifecycle.
We’re tweaking our investment approach, and in parallel, my job is to enhance the experience of our growing Venture Partner network. Joining as the Community Manager, I’m already set up for success and uniquely positioned to level up the core of what separates us from the rest in venture. I can’t stress enough how proud and humbled I was to get this opportunity, especially as an industry newcomer.
How do you envision the future of NextGen’s community?
I love the opportunity to answer this question; it’s a great reflective exercise for me. I’d love to see smaller communities emerge within the broader network. No Venture Partner is going to build relationships with 1,000 others, but they should have the opportunity to connect with one another over coffee, or 10 others they’re evaluating a company with, or 50 others who work in the same industry, and at least meet a good chunk of 100 other VPs in their city.
I want Venture Partners to know that they have a stake in making significant contributions and taking ownership of their individual and collective experience. The community should feel genuinely collaborative, with Venture Partners sourcing, evaluating, investing in and supporting companies side by side, not in a silo. On the other hand, Venture Partners should feel a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves, and invested in each other as well.
You're managing the experience of NextGen's community of 1K + Venture Partners. That's incredibly impressive! What are some specifics about your role?
Given the heavily virtual nature of our Venture Partner community, I spend the vast majority of my time communicating with Venture Partners over email and on the phone. I onboard everyone who joins our network to welcome them and better understand their motivations for becoming a Venture Partner. Down the road, I reach out to check in on how their experience is going. My goal is to make sure we can be a resource/add more value to them and incorporate their feedback. I also handle our mass communications to the Venture Partners including our weekly newsletters and emails detailing investment opportunities.
Venture Partners are our #1 value-add to our portfolio companies, so I also work with them to share their domain expertise and connect our companies to potential customers and hires both within, and beyond, our network.
Lastly, a good chunk of my time is spent working with Venture Partners in our due diligence of every single company we seriously evaluate. This experience should be a professional development opportunity, interesting, and relevant to them. It’s also critical to helping us make better investing decisions.
You've worked with startups and companies in Providence, Detroit and now DC. What has your experience been with entrepreneurship outside of NY and SF, and how can VC support these cities better?
I love that entrepreneurship outside of NY and SF is the extent of my experience with entrepreneurship. My impression from the short time I spent in both Providence (2 years) and Detroit (1 year) was that everyone’s in it together. In these respective startup ecosystems, I met investors, founders, accelerators, and others who collaborated small scale and on the big things. It really felt like everyone counted in a collective effort that was bigger than any one person or company. I felt like I counted too.
I think VCs who might be based in NY or SF can start by learning about other ecosystems - their funding landscapes, talent pools, current and historic industries, their histories in general. While maintaining this lens of an outsider who’s learning, I think VCs from larger markets can do what they do best - identify and put capital behind great founders, ideally alongside local funds. This context is important because founders may be operating in a very different set of circumstances than the ones these VCs are familiar with.
What is your relationship with NextGen's Venture Partners?
This is such a great question, and one I’m still figuring out the right answer to. Other than being professional and as authentic as possible, I think my relationship with each individual Venture Partner is unique - they have distinct goals for engaging with NextGen and the portfolio. At the highest level, I want them to trust me as a resource and sounding board. I want them to view me as someone they are building the Venture Partner network and experience alongside, not with the permission of.
What's been a major challenge so far in your role?
A big challenge for me in my role has been the challenge of “when?”. When do Venture Partners want to boost their engagement with NextGen, and when should I circle back in a few months? In my workflow, when is it time to shift priorities versus get whatever I’m already working on over the finish line?
I don’t think anyone expects me to be a mindreader, but the answer to “when?” feels like a bit of a moving target, making the chances of getting it exactly right feel slim at times.
What advice would you give to a young black woman who is interested in venture?
First and foremost, good for you sis. Our current (read: temporary) percentages in the industry are dismal, making your pursuit of a seat at the table not only brave but pivotal, please stay the course.
Secondly, your differences are an asset, even a superpower - own them without apology. Assimilation, whatever that looks like for you, may seem tempting, but venture is as relationship-driven as it gets. I sincerely believe authenticity will win you the reputation and contacts you’ll need every time.
This said, I can’t stress enough the importance of building your own authentic, long-term relationships. A warm email introduction to a venture capitalist you may want to work with is good. Creating the opportunity for you to meet them yourself, demonstrate your ability to follow up and maintain a relationship with them because of who you are, not who you know, is great. Tactically speaking, my advice is to start showing up at the places where you can build these relationships in the first place - accelerator demo days and really any relevant events in your startup ecosystem.
Rapid Fire 🔥
How do you destress?
Going for a run to music always clears my head.
Techish - a great show at the intersection of tech and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) with co-hosts addressing challenges at this intersection through their own work.
A productivity tool you love?
Calendly for scheduling with others.