Ece Erdagoz is an investor at Bain Capital Ventures, based in the Bay Area. Prior to Bain Capital Ventures, she was a portfolio manager at BlackRock. You can follow her on Twitter: @ece_erdagoz.
What drew you to venture capital and working with startups? Prior to VC, you worked for BlackRock. What key things did you take away from these experiences that have been helpful as an investor so far?
I was always excited about the financial markets. That’s why I started my career at BlackRock as a portfolio manager, focusing on portfolios in restructuring and transition. I had a wonderful time guiding large institutional clients in restructuring billions of dollars’ worth of assets, and it was extremely exciting to be in tune with the markets and to experience the fast-paced nature of a trading floor-like setting.
That said, eventually, I decided that I like companies a lot more than I like their stocks. I had also spent a summer at Google, and I wanted to combine my passion in investing with my passion in technology – and that’s what brought me to venture capital at Bain Capital Ventures. I love being able to help emerging growth companies transform legacy industries! And on a personal basis, this job offers tremendous growth opportunities unlike any other. The role has allowed me develop pattern recognition and a highly strategic perspective. Not to mention, I’m drawn to dynamic environments, so I love being able to shift my focus from one category to another depending on what intellectually stimulates me at a given time.
The interpersonal skills I developed at BlackRock while interacting with very senior fund managers certainly translated to feeling comfortable talking to CEOs as a part of my job at Bain Capital Ventures. Being able to build relationships with people from various different backgrounds is certainly a key asset.
What was the process of breaking into VC?
I got in by sending a cold email! I emailed my current colleague maybe three times to grab coffee, and eventually it turned into an interview. Unless you get really lucky, breaking into venture requires a ton of hustle. And honestly, it’s a great test for whether one would actually do well on the job, because you need to bring the same hustle to sourcing deals where needed. Of course, getting a warm introduction to a VC is always the better option, if you have any common contacts. But this industry rewards self-starters who can take initiative!
Why Bain Capital Ventures?
Bain Capital Ventures is a special place. First, it’s a stage-agnostic fund that has backed a number of iconic companies like Jet.com, LinkedIn, DocuSign, Kiva Systems and Rent the Runway – many of which we backed very early on. We can invest anywhere from a couple hundred thousand dollars to $100 million. I had the opportunity to work on seed investments, as well as much larger growth equity deals on the high end of our check size range.
Another very significant point is that Bain Capital Ventures is a place where partners treat associates as real thought partners, which allows great opportunities for learning and personal growth – you can’t put a price tag on that!
You supported BCV's investment in Lime scooter. The field is fairly crowded with Bird, Scoot, Skip and more. What made Lime the better investment at the Series D?
My core belief here is that micro-mobility isn’t a fad – it’s a whole new form of transportation that is here to stay. By continuing to focus on rider safety and collaborate closely with regulators, we believe Lime can lead the way in transforming urban and suburban mobility. We had the chance to meet many players and felt that Lime has the best solution and team in the market. Team really matters because this is an extremely operationally complex business model and it requires marrying consumer experience to hardware design with best-in-class supply chain management. As for valuation, there is still a big upside - Lime’s valuation reflects the scale of the potential opportunity ahead.
Investing in pets is heating up. We've got Wag, Ollie, OneHealth and more. Vetsource helps two sides of the market - consumers with buying pet medication and finding vets, and vets with marketing and rendering to a pharmacy. What got you excited about Vetsource?
Vetsource has a truly unique business model. It is a solution that benefits all stakeholders: the pet parents get access to Amazon-like convenient and efficient home delivery, vet clinics get the chance to increase revenue and better service their pet parents, and distributors and manufacturers expand the reach of their products and services. It’s a massive win-win! Overall, it overlays all this on top an amazing technology platform. I continue to be in awe of what the team has achieved.
What has surprised you the most about VC?
I underestimated how much memory matters on this job! Being able to develop pattern recognition relies on a strong memory that can tie together names, business models, trends. I sometimes joke that one must double down on Omega-3 in preparation for becoming a VC.
Bain Capital Ventures has invested in Acorns, BetterCloud, LinkedIn, Justworks, Lolli, Ribbon, Taleo and more. What sectors / spaces are getting you the most excited?
We pride ourselves on being able to offer deep domain expertise to our portfolio companies, and on that note, our partners all have decades of experience in their respective fields. At this stage, I’m more of a generalist, and I have had the opportunity to explore various segments. I spend most of my time in B2B software and data, but also spend a good amount of my time in select consumer opportunities such as Lime. Within B2B, some of the segments that I honed in on are healthcare IT, HR tech, supply chain, edtech and fintech.
What do you think about NY vs. Bay Area in venture?
I actually had the opportunity to start my VC journey in New York and eventually transfer to San Francisco. I must say – I think I’m one of the few people who enjoys both coasts. As for the venture ecosystem, there is of course a bigger pool in Silicon Valley, and we are in the heart where the majority of innovation has flourished in the last couple decades. That said, the NY ecosystem is also extremely vibrant, especially in certain segments such as financial technology.
What advice would you give to a young woman who is interested in venture?
For anyone interested in venture, I think two most important qualities are being a self-starter and being genuinely intellectually curious about technologies that can transform industries and society. But as women and minority investors, it is undeniable that there is a whole distinct set of challenges that we face. My key advice is to not be discouraged in the face of being underestimated and to keep charging ahead – the future is female.
What's next for you?
I’m going off to business school at Stanford! I have been in investing for the last five years, and I can’t wait to take the next two years to invest in myself, develop my leadership skills, and to become a better version of me.