Mercedes Bent

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Mercedes Bent fell in love with venture investing while getting a graduate degree at Stanford in 2017. While there she worked at the school’s Impact Fund, which backs socially conscience companies, and at an edtech venture firm called Owl Ventures.

Despite working for those funds, the elite world of Silicon Valley’s top venture firms was a mystery to her. She had spent the bulk of her early career as a product manager at the edtech startup General Assembly. 

She felt it was impossible to know which firms were actually hiring, given that they rarely posted formal job openings. She had to fight for access to the VCs who spoke on campus, rushing to them after events so she could introduce herself and ask for a coffee meeting.

While at school, Bent, now 32, reached out to hundreds of investors, using a spreadsheet to keep track of her progress. And like many of her other classmates, she spent her free time meeting VCs, sometimes at their offices just ten minutes away from campus on Sand Hill Road, or simply on a park bench at Stanford. 

“It’s kind of getting to know people and asking if they might have a position open in the coming years,” Bent told Insider.

After countless such meetings she got a lucky break in December of that year, when Lightspeed Venture Partners talent partner Brian Kasser added her as a connection on Linkedin.

Bent quickly reached out and the two met, kicking off an almost year-long process that eventually landed her as a partner at the firm.

Bent acknowledges that being at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business (GSB) gave her advantages for breaking into the venture world.

“Just being at the GSB alone, you get access to VCs in a way that not everyone across the whole world does,” she said. “So I’m very thankful and feel lucky for that.”

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But she also says she used a few crucial tricks to the application process that even the best business school students tend to neglect.

 Informal coffee chats

Bent’s initial meeting with Kasser kicked off three subsequent meetings with different partners at the firm over the next year, while Bent was still in school.

While they were advertised as informal, get-to-know-you chats, Bent developed a very specific approach for impressing the partners during those meetings.

Rather than speak in generalities about her careers goals, she told the partners the three specific areas she wanted to invest in: edtech, multicultural consumer products, and virtual reality.

Then she explained her specific investment theses for each, drawing from her own professional experience and experience as a Black woman. (Bent did a short stint at a virtual reality startup after leaving General Assembly and before business school.)

For example, she explained why she believed there was a huge potential for Black women’s’ hair products, referencing statistics showing that while Black women spend more on haircare than any other US demographic, there was no venture-backed haircare startup that served their specific needs.

From her work at General Assembly and Owl Ventures, she explained why she felt universities …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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