Office Hours: I'm a general partner at The Helm, a NYC based early stage venture firm.Featured

ElphaStaff's profile thumbnail
Thanks so much for joining us @ananian!Elphas โ€“ please ask @ananian your questions before Friday, September 17th. @ananian may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿพโž•
yihuang's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan, Thank you for hosting office hours! Iโ€˜m curious regarding your career transition from banker to operator to investor. It's certainly very inspiring! I'm also thinking about a potential transition from operators (data scientist, PMs, etc.) to investment, and I see scaling companies as something I truly value. - What values you hold made you decide to transition? - What do you think is the right time to transition from operator to investment? For example, how many years of PM experience do you feel is I guess sufficient? What do you see as skillsets that are transferrable?
ananian's profile thumbnail
I think you're already on the right track by letting values lead you instead of company, title, salary, etc. I never wanted to be an Investment banker, but I had two offers coming out of undergrad: Teach for America and Investment Banking. My family was in a tough spot financially and I felt I had to take the lucrative offer. I spent the next six years hovering around accelerators and fangirling over entrepreneurship. The value I could provide was helping visionaries execute on ideas. I realized an innovative vision for the future is what propels me forward and motivates me to work nights and weekends.I could get into all the decisions that led me to my next roles, but ultimately I decided to work for people over companies. I followed people I knew I could learn from. I dont think you can plan the exact right number of years for skills. Stay at places that are helping you grow and youre still learning. When you start to plateau, be opportunistic. Everything is transferable to an early-stage startup if you have hustle. If you want to keep operating, see if you can scout for a fund in your industry or area of expertise / be a part-time venture partner that gets paid for dilligencing deals. You'll have to build those relationships by providing valuable introductions first. I think its hard to jump from investing to operating, but easy to go the other way.
kritig's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan, How did you network within the VC industry for the opportunity? What are some of the strategies that were helpful in making that career transition? I am looking to Pivot into VC industry. I would love to know the best way moving forward.
ananian's profile thumbnail
This is really tough and I havent discovered the right answer. A few things Ive seen that work: 1) become an expert in something and write about it (ie selling into utilities, womens healthcare, fintech APIs) 2) build a network of founders and connect them with each other and VCs 3) be really good at diligence / writing investment memos and offer to help emerging fund managers for free 4) be really good at whatever it is you do best and offer that for free part-time on nights and weekends.First, talk to a bunch of different analysts and associates at venture funds and decide if that really is what you want to do. Some get to talk to founders all day. Some sit behind a desk and build market maps. Some are reactive to whatever the partners want them to do. Do you want to be a generalist or an industry expert? Figure out what is the best fit for you and try to narrow down the scope. VCs are wildly different and I had no idea until I got in.
kritig's profile thumbnail
Thank you for the insight. It makes a lot of sense.
VeronikaL's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan: How does The Helm assess investments? With the Theranos' investors now in court there seems to be less enthusiasm for buzzy, fast-growth brands that capitalize on female leadership, even when deeply embedded within the traditional investment networks. This is not just curiosity for me as I lead a company in health tech (with product, commercial clients and profound social impact) but so far struggling to attract capital for scaling.
ananian's profile thumbnail
I learned how to diligence investments the old school way which means looking under every rock and analyzing every detail, not the new way which seems to just be follow-on to other investors in my network. I think thats how a lot of bad ideas get funded. Ive heard investors say they invested just because the founder went to Princeton with their best friend. Female founders unfortunately have to prove a little bit more to get capital. Ultimately, most of early-stage investing is investing in people and team dynamics, which is really just psychology. Send a deck over to founders@thehelm.co and I'll see if I can give you any feedback!
ShanaVieira's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan, I'd love to hear more about your founders at The Helm, particularly how you all feel about non-technical founders and if at early stage you require founders to have technical co-founders already apart of the team?
ananian's profile thumbnail
We dont have a hard rule on this. Ive seen a lot of visionary CEOs that are non-technical, but they have a co-founder or early hire on board who is technical. It depends on where the moat is - if the advantage the company has is a skill the technical person maintains that you cant learn or hire elsewhere, then that person is critical. We passed on a company this summer that we loved the team, but the only technical person was part-time and their role was absolutely key to their success. The #1 thing I look for in early-stage teams is drive to stick with this business even when the going gets tough or there is a global pandemic. If they are both not obsessed with the mission, its not going to work. Do they have complementary skills or are they both vying to be the face of the brand? 67% of startups fail because of co-founder dynamics. Check out some of our portfolio here: https://thehelm.co/invest/our-portfolio/
joclark's profile thumbnail
Hi @ananian thx for doing OH! Any advice for a hard/deep tech female founder building somethg important but that will take $$$ and time before it's as useful and not in the SV, Austin or NYC tech networks? I'm pre-seed, need to raise but am hvg to pivot to a subsection of my greater strategy to meet the criteria everyone has (prototype, validated, MRR & customers or waiting list). Tysm.
ananian's profile thumbnail
Hardware is tough. I think crowdfunding is great for hardware because you need so much capital up front that an angel round isnt going to cut it. Can you prove demand for what youre building with a waitlist or customer validation study before raising? I think proximity to other founders is critical to success - that doesnt need to be physically, but you should be a part of founder communities so you can bounce ideas off each other / share in the wins and losses.
joclark's profile thumbnail
Thx-itโ€™s tough being a non-tech woman Founder too, haha. I am not hardware but hard or deep tech meaning ๏ฟผ๏ฟผ something that has more utility when itโ€™s fully built. But def can b done!๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ
josephinecahill's profile thumbnail
Hey Megan! In my experience VCs are as much about advice and connecting companies with the right people as they are financial support. What do you look for in the people, agencies, and consultants who you connect a company with?For context, I run ops for a design agency focused on women's health. We're always looking for these networking opportunities, but it feels like such an opaque space to connect into!
ananian's profile thumbnail
The honest answer is we need to know the people or have seen their work for one of our companies / close connections before. We cant connect our founders without having a legitimate relationship first. That being said, we love the women's health space so would love to see your work! founders@thehelm.co
josephinecahill's profile thumbnail
Love it - thanks for the guidance!
Nastya's profile thumbnail
Megan, I'd love to connect.We early-stage sport tech company with a big vision of how to change the world of fitness. CEO, CTO and COO are female.
ananian's profile thumbnail
Love it! Please send a deck to founders@thehelm.co
robotgrrl's profile thumbnail
What's an example of a startup you have backed where the market for the product is applicable 1-2 years in the future, but not applicable right now?
ananian's profile thumbnail
This is tough. In theory, all of our investments are for demand we anticipate in the future, but there should be validation points that exist now. For example, we just invested in Venus Aerospace - she's building a hypersonic plane that can get you from LA to Tokyo in 1 hour. That probably wont exist for 5-10 years.
amandayarger's profile thumbnail
Hello Megan, What industries are you most intrigued by as we look to the new year?
ananian's profile thumbnail
1. Care economy (childcare, aging, death) 2. Sustainability (meat alternatives, agtech, energy tech) 3. fintech (esg, access) 4. women's health (holistic, family, hormones, diagnostics)
amandayarger's profile thumbnail
Thank you. I am seeing more and more IoT plays in the care economy work we do. Are you interested in software plays, or physical product development?
kfrancisco's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan! Would love to hear how you moved into venture capital. Any advice on concrete steps one can take if they were interested in moving into VC and what background one might need?
ananian's profile thumbnail
My first piece of advice would be to join an angel syndicate like The Helm's membership to see the deals/ diligence and make sure it excites you.Copying in the response from a similar question above -- A few things Ive seen that work: 1) become an expert in something and write about it (ie selling into utilities, womens healthcare, fintech APIs) 2) build a network of founders and connect them with each other and VCs 3) be really good at diligence / writing investment memos and offer to help emerging fund managers for free 4) be really good at whatever it is you do best and offer that for free part-time on nights and weekends.First, talk to a bunch of different analysts and associates at venture funds and decide if that really is what you want to do. Some get to talk to founders all day. Some sit behind a desk and build market maps. Some are reactive to whatever the partners want them to do. Do you want to be a generalist or an industry expert? Figure out what is the best fit for you and try to narrow down the scope. VCs are wildly different and I had no idea until I got in.
sarapprobst's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan! Curious to hear more about why you decided to pursue an MBA & what are your top takeaways & skills from that accomplishment.
ananian's profile thumbnail
I am a woman from a family of immigrants who went to a state school trying to make a name for myself in finance in NYC. I knew I needed a network with a name brand. I got much more than that from my experience - 45% of my class was international and their perspective was invaluable. I became a better person and a better manager. Here's something I wrote for those considering going: https://medium.com/@mnananian/what-i-wish-i-had-asked-when-applying-to-business-school-fbb6c04ab7d1
marih's profile thumbnail
Hi Megan! Could you share some of your personal favourite newsletters? It would be especially helpful if they're related to tech/VC/entrepreneurship. Thanks!
ananian's profile thumbnail
The Broadsheet (women specific), Femtech Insider (women's health), climatetechvc@substack, thingtesting (consumer goods), whyisthisinteresting@substackVC specific: All Raise, Accelerated@substack, The Sourcery (Molly O Shea), shameless plug for The Helm https://thehelm.co/newsletters/I used to try to read CB Insights, Techcrunch, Pitchbook but its a lot of late stage investing and just got to be too much.
marih's profile thumbnail
thank you for sharing @ananian!