Why I Joined Origin Ventures: Angela Smith

  • July 14, 2021
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I am thrilled to join the Origin Ventures Team as the first hire in Utah, helping Brent Hill grow Origin’s presence in both Utah and the Western United States. 

My path to Origin Ventures was nontraditional. I spent the first 6 years of my career as a social studies teacher in Houston, TX and East San Jose, CA. Teaching low-income communities forced me to confront the many issues my students faced and the best way I could make an impact. My students were wonderful and intelligent human beings trapped in a cycle of poverty. Many of them did not have the resources or financial knowledge to pull themselves out, and our country’s public education system does not teach fiscal literacy. So I decided to create and teach my own financial curriculum.

But my own lack of financial literacy proved an obstacle. I grew up in a small conservative town in Southern Utah. The unspoken expectation for me was that I would get married and my husband would handle our finances. I never imagined I would be a 30 year old single female teaching first-generation immigrants and carving out my own financial life. There was no prince charming coming to save me, and no government policy would save my students – so I set to work. I started reading as many financial books, blogs, and Twitter accounts as I could. 

My side-project grew into a passion. I realized there needed to be more women in finance. But I knew I couldn’t get where I wanted to be just by reading books, so I made the difficult decision to leave my career as a teacher – and the communities I had set out to help – to pursue an MBA with an emphasis in Finance from Brigham Young University. I thought if I increased my financial literacy, I would gain the knowledge needed to make a larger positive impact on the world.

Amazon.com : Craftique BYU Cougars Decal : Sports & OutdoorsThe BYU MBA has an incredible venture capital program led by Gary Williams.  He and several second-year students believed I could be successful in venture capital and mentored me through my first year. I interned at Pelion Venture Partners in Salt Lake City, which was a life-changing experience. The entire Pelion Team taught me and made sure I had the experiences needed to become a successful investor.  

My investment knowledge expanded further during the second year of my MBA as I was Managing Director of Deals at Cougar Capital, BYU’s student-run venture fund. I also interned with the Sorenson Impact Foundation, where I led several impact-focused deals, and iDE Global, where I helped create and fund a Cambodian company that turns plastic waste into recycled roof tiles. I continued to work with Pelion Partners Chad Packard and Ben Lambert to create a new MBA class called Scaling New Ventures. This class welcomed entrepreneurs across the Utah ecosystem to teach students about founding, scaling, and exiting companies.

Origin Ventures

While the experiences I had in my MBA program showed me that venture capital could be the meaningful career I craved, I wondered if I could find a fund that matched my most important criteria. But once Gary Williams introduced me to Origin Ventures Managing Partner Brent Hill, I quickly realized Origin checked every box.

  1. Team: My number one requirement was to find the right team. I wanted to work with genuinely good people that support each other. Origin Ventures is a flat organization where everyone has each other’s backs. We all support every investment and jump in to help any team member as needed. Every team member truly cares about the entrepreneurs in whom we invest. There is very little “I” at Origin and a whole lot of “we.”
  2. Fund Fit: Origin’s thesis is to invest in ‘Digital Natives,’ the generations that have grown up in a digital world: namely Millennials and Gen-Z. Because of their digital literacy, these generations live, work, and play differently. As a Millennial and former teacher of Gen-Z, this thesis excited me. The companies Origin invests in are solving problems I face, and my experience would add value to the thesis.
  3. Growth: Another wonderful facet of Origin Ventures is that they encourage me to grow the fund in new and innovative ways. I am passionate about sourcing female- and minority-led businesses, as well as tracking and improving the environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) impact of our investments. I have the freedom and support to pursue these interests as I grow into my role.
  4. People First: Lastly, it was important to me to belong to an outward-focused organization. The phrase “let me know how I can help” has become cliche in the VC industry. But in my time with Origin I have been impressed at each team member’s mindset. When the Origin team decides not to invest in a company, the discussion is centered around who to connect the founder with in order to help them succeed. When we do make an investment, the entire team helps the founder. Origin is one of the few funds that publicly posts its values online. Upon reading these, I knew Origin was the place I wanted to build my career. 

While I am still honing my craft as a venture capitalist, the perspective I bring to the table – as both a woman and former teacher – are badly needed in a homogenous industry. I deeply feel the weight and responsibility of being an outside voice. I am lucky to have found Origin Ventures and to have the entire team supporting me as I embark on this chapter of my career.

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