Navigating the VC World
A Moment with Eric Woo
Question: What’s your association with Impact?
Eric: Over the past nine years that I’ve been in the venture world I’ve built a lot of strong connections within the community mostly with venture funds. With that reputation and network, I often spend a lot of time mentoring and advising venture funds. I’m one of the advisers here and helping them on a range of things from fundraising to messaging to broadly connecting to other folks.
Question: Do you help mentor and vet out companies that come in?
Eric: At the end of the day, the oil that makes the engine go is raising money. Coming from the side of investing in venture funds and having the venture funds then trickle that money down to startup companies I see the whole process of that funding mechanism. So whether it’s a venture fund or startup company I
have a unique ability and sensibility about how do I help them raise money.
Question: You’re really not just looking for money but for its strategic capital too?
Eric: Absolutely it’s the right fit right.
Question: So what is that strategic investor look like?
Eric: Well for early-stage companies it’s all about personality because if you think about startups they’re in those formative phases they need the right sounding board, they need the right people to help activate value in terms of just being that late-night call and not telling the founders this is how you should run your business. So that comes down to fit around personality about trust and respect.
Question: What stage of capital are you looking to fund?
Eric: What’s most interesting to me is early stage. In venture capital, today early stage is a different definition than it was twenty years ago. Before you had to have a product, you had to have customers and you had to have a go to market strategy. Today if you think about pre-seed, its to people and an idea all the way up to a series a round which is finding some early product market fit. So within that spectrum early stage is really teams coming together you know five ten fifteen people they’re growing and they’re finding customers.
Question: Are you a Bay Area native?
Eric: I am, I went to Berkeley and studied engineering so I can I can understand a little bit of the technical side. I enjoyed doing it but I never saw myself as someone rolling up their sleeves and coding. So I found my way into finance and found my way into investments as a way to be active and technical but being more on the finance side.
Question: How difficult was it to jump into venture capital as an engineer?
Eric: The traditional path into venture as an engineer is having a successful startup and exit. For I had friends and family in in the venture world who said, ‘hey we need some help. So can you help from everything from grabbing lunch and coffee?’ and that’s how I got started. Then I began helping them build out the operations and then you slowly worked my way up and at the end of day it’s all about building your own network and your network defines you as a venture investor.