In a fast-paced world, is it enough to just be learning on the job? While working for a Fortune 500 Insurance Firm, can I turn a blind eye to a critical shift in Asset Management? Not a chance. Kepler is the kind of firm, in its industry focus and collective intellectual passion, where learning is a continuous process and is encouraged. And, at its best, the learning becomes synergistic, making us better consultants.

To that end, the venture capital space has always intrigued me and, to learn more about it, I recently attended a fireside chat with Scott Kupor, a Partner at a VC fund (a major player in Silicon Valley with ~$10 Billion in AUM). Leveraging his vast industry knowledge, Kupor recently authored a book, Secrets of Sand Hill Road: Venture Capital and How to Get It, which is essentially a primer for entrepreneurs going through the VC funding process. The following are concepts I took away from the event:


The markets where many tech startups play are large and competitive.  Because a startup’s team and that team’s skills are perhaps the most concrete components that an investor can judge, the focus becomes how the team, and not necessarily the product, is uniquely qualified to capture the market. Kupor is interested in what leadership characteristics teams bring to the table and when, through effective storytelling, they can articulate a raw vision as a business. That being said, even some of the best teams cannot overcome a bad market.


This colorful analogy is meant to highlight that while some new products are nice to have (i.e. vitamins), the most successful products are those that become essential (i.e. aspirins).  The thought process behind this is that consumer behavior is incredibly difficult to change.  A rule of thumb is that a product needs to be almost ten times better than the consumer’s status quo to be adopted. Thus, since must-have products are so rare, a question Kupor always asks entrepreneurs is what makes their product essential.


When asked about fintech companies looking to disrupt the alternative investment space, Kupor was unfazed.  His reasoning reframed the core offering of VC funds: if the only benefit VC funds continue to offer is capital, that is a losing strategy that fintechs could disrupt.  However, if VC value-add becomes equally about expertise, industry knowledge, and networks, all in addition to capital, that is where they’ll continue to have an edge over smaller, upstart competitors.

What Kupor offered in his words was a well-articulated sense of where his industry is headed and how it will get there.  It confirmed to me that Kepler is working at an exciting intersection of industries, which are changing right before our eyes. That’s why we keep on learning.