Paige Finn Doherty’s VC genesis story comes from some unexpected places: a college pitch contest, Twitter, and HBO’s “Silicon Valley.”
The all-too-realistic satire of “Silicon Valley” was her first view into VC culture, particularly to women in VC. The pitch contest at her alma mater, San Diego State University, ignited the spark of her passion for venture. Her student team pitched a company to investors and was grilled by a panel of VCs. It was right up her alley.
When COVID hit and the job market became unstable, 23-year-old Paige took to Twitter. She shared things that excited her from the venture capital world. Though she didn’t have an existing network in Silicon Valley, her Twitter feed drew the interest of the right people.
“Either you've grown up in an environment where you have a ton of connections, and you can build trust that way, or you can build a brand online,” says Paige. “I enjoyed sharing my thoughts on venture. I found a lot of people that I liked to nerd out with on random term sheets, LPAs, and different technical aspects of venture. So I found a community online.”
Together with friend and business partner, Josh Schlisserman, she founded Behind Genius Ventures in 2021. She also authored a “children’s book for adults” called “Seed to Harvest” about the VC process and hosts a podcast about venture capital under the same name.
And she’s accomplished all of these things before she’s old enough to legally rent a car.
On an episode of the How I Raised It podcast, Paige shares how she turned her Twitter following into funders, the challenges of raising her first fund, and some tips she’d picked up for the next wave of VCs coming into the market.
From following to funding
To form Behind Genius Ventures, Paige converted her traction from Twitter and her book into momentum. Without an extensive network in Silicon Valley, Paige looked to her Twitter following and contacted the VCs on her follower list. She had previously worked on a syndicate deal, as had her partner Josh. They dug into those connections to make their first fundraising calls. Both efforts were pivotal in raising their first fund.
Today, Behind Genius Ventures is a fully deployed early-stage venture firm focused on funding the future of work and the future of play. Paige calls their work “community and content forward,” serving the creator economy as well as startups that make developer tools, fintech services, holistic health products, and infrastructure for connected fitness and gaming. To date, BGV has invested in 30 companies, all with checks of $100,000 to $200,000 for pre-seed and seed round funding.
Thanks to Paige’s tenacious network building, founders that sign with BGV get more than just an investment.
“Because we don't lead, we’ll often come in on the same terms as the lead investor [in a startup],” she says “We don't need a lead investor to build conviction. We often commit and introduce you to the community of lead investors we work with. So you don't just get us when we invest in you. You get the whole community of folks who back us.”
The nuts and bolts of the first fund
BGV formed its first fund of $1.6 million with 120 investors. So what did it take for Paige to close it?
A combination of copious phone calls, vetting businesses and investors, and maintaining her full-time job all the while.
Between founders and investors, she estimates that BGV took 12,000 phone calls last year. That’s no small feat considering that for the first 10 months of the fund, Paige still had a full-time job. Now, Josh and Paige have hired two other employees to help manage the workload, and Paige is working for the fund full-time.
When it comes to selecting startups for investment, BGV is quite selective. Only .5 to 1% of those that contact the fund make it to the final portfolio. The companies Paige and Josh choose stand out because they demonstrate high execution velocity, or how quickly they can move from idea to mobilization.
“My favorite emails say, ‘this is a problem that I thought needed solving. Here's how I experienced it’ — in two sentences,” Paige explains. She likes founders who tell her they did 300 customer interviews to find the best solution or that they have a list of people waiting to use their products. She urges startup teams to clarify the problem they aim to solve, why they are uniquely positioned to solve it, and the steps they’ve taken to validate the scope of the problem — and to validate that people are willing to pay.
The next class of fund managers
As one of the first of the Gen Z cohort to make a splash in the VC scene, Paige has some words of wisdom for first-time fund managers.
First, say no to LPs that aren’t a good fit — with no regrets. For example, if an LP only works in emerging markets, she was comfortable stopping the conversation and parting ways early because her fund focuses on the U.S. and Canada.
Just be sure to do it in a way that doesn’t burn bridges.
“Instead of waiting for them to say ‘no,’ you can say, ‘We don't fit that, so it's probably not the best use of our time to connect now,’” she explains.
Most importantly, Paige encourages new fund managers to be comfortable not only asking questions but asking them up front. Here are some of her most important Q’s:
- Is your most recent fund closed? If not, when will it close?
- Do you have any diversity requirements for your fund?
- Do you only work with lead investors?
- What geography would you like to work in?
- What are your thoughts on our portfolio construction?
- How do you build relationships with fund managers?
- What is your due diligence process?
With those questions as guiding stars for conversation — and plenty of hustle — the next generation of investors will be well-equipped to step into the VC world.
Nathan is also the CEO of Fundingstack.com which is a new platform for VCs and investment bankers to both raise capital and assist clients and portfolio companies.
Users of these platforms have raised over $9.7 billion since 2016.
This article is based on an episode of Foundersuite’s How I Raised It podcast, a behind-the-scenes look at how startup founders raise money.