Why I Joined Origin Ventures: Prashant Shukla

  • January 9, 2018
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“At the end of the day, it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished. It’s about what you’ve done with those accomplishments. It’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington

It’s not like me to write something like this. But it has become somewhat of a tradition at Origin Ventures, and it does give me an opportunity to appreciate my circumstance, reflect, and commit to a journey ahead.

Early-stage technology investing is an exciting and tricky business. We evaluate businesses that seem outlandish to most – things people assume would “never work”. Yet, some of them do work and blossom into successful enterprises, creating hundreds or thousands of jobs and adding to the ever-changing technology ecosystem. Learning to navigate this inherent trickiness is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me energetic and excited all day.

My love of technology was likely fostered by spending many formative years attending UC Berkeley and in Silicon Valley’s tech hub. During my time in San Francisco as a product manager at Metromile, I learned how hard it can be to build something from nothing, while feeling like failure is a certainty. There, I worked with special people: designers, engineers, actuaries, marketers, business leaders, and insurance executives. Together, we found a way to build a real business. I hope to bring this operating experience to my relationships with entrepreneurs, and hope to be a true partner to people looking to scale businesses into what can feel like the abyss. Origin is committed to providing active capital to our portfolio companies, not just writing checks. We bring our operating experience to the table, and I want to build on this legacy and foundation.

Origin invests across a broad array of software and technology businesses throughout the U.S., focusing on businesses with advantages in scaling, defensibility, and network effects. While I initially came from Silicon Valley – where tech is ubiquitous – I know technology can thrive anywhere; its inherent magic is that it is global, connective, and seamless. I’m excited to join Chicago’s budding ecosystem for startups, with a strong track record of returns.

I have a great appreciation and respect for actually “doing the thing”. From my days in management consulting at Bain, I learned the difference between advising and execution. I chose a career in venture capital because, in contrast with something like consulting, incentives between VCs and startups are closely aligned, and companies tend to do well when founders and VCs collaborate and listen to each other. It also helps that money goes in the same direction as advice. An MBA from Booth has helped me strengthen my finance skills, expand my friendships and network, and develop a keen eye for business opportunities.

Saying no is part of the job in venture capital. Most VCs will see a hundred (or more) deals for every investment they make. As a former product manager, I’m used to saying no. The key is to do it with empathy, explanation, and sincerity – I offer to help startups in ways that do not always involve investing capital. To CEOs/Founders reading this: if I ever leave an interaction without offering to help, please call me out and remind me.

Origin is a partnership made up of caring, intelligent people with strong ethical principles. They conduct work with the highest level of integrity. From the first few moments interacting with my colleagues – from watching their interactions with hopeful founders, existing portfolio entrepreneurs, co-investors, and colleagues – I noticed a distinct way of doing business that I had not seen before. The Origin approach to VC is based on meaningful core values and an understanding that working with entrepreneurs is an honor and a privilege. Anyone who has crossed paths with the partners at Origin will agree that these values differentiate Origin from other VC firms. I am thankful and feel blessed to have an opportunity to work alongside and learn from people with character traits I hope to espouse throughout my life.

If you’d like to work with Origin and me, do not hesitate to reach out to me at prashant@originventures.com or @PShukla8 on Twitter. I am also available to play poker, debate politics, discuss hip-hop, drink scotch, and/or watch NBA basketball.

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