Fresh out of college in 1998, as most of my friends moved to New York City to begin careers in finance or consulting, I took a road less traveled, moving to San Francisco to take a job with Robertson Stephens & Co, then a leading boutique investment bank specializing in technology. After a few months working on IPOs and secondaries, I gravitated towards a lesser known group hidden away on a separate floor who were helping private companies position and market themselves for venture capital investment. As the first analyst-level employee to join the Private Capital Group, I learned about this cottage industry called venture capital and enjoyed unfettered access to startup management teams. It was my first exposure to early stage technology investing and it fascinated me.
At the time, in the late 1990s, there were almost no personal blogs and Twitter was still eight years away from conception. Email was still a relatively new communication medium. Angel List and the concept of “crowd funding” were nowhere to be found. As a result, connecting with the right venture investors was far more difficult than it is today. This created an opportunity for investment banks and advisory firms to serve as a conduit between promising startups and venture capital funds. There were also twice as many investment banks in those days so this was an opportunity for Robbie Stephens to engage early with companies who they might want to work with later on an IPO, and this happened a few times with our clients between 1998 and 2001. (more…)