A worldwide perspective of venture capital investors

Pubblicato il 28 Dic 2012

Cristiano Bellavitis is a PhD at the Cass Business School with research focus on venture capital. Besides his research activity he connects tech start-ups and venture capitalists in London and Italy. Previously he has worked for CVS Partners, a corporate finance boutique. Cristiano recently wrote a interesting article on the importance of networking for venture capital on the Innov'azione magazine (the article is here in Italian) and here he tells about his history of experiences working for risk capital investors around the world.

The VC industry is a very though one and as John Greathouse wrote in his article appeared on Forbes, to find a job as a VC has approximately the same chances as becoming a professional football player. This is mainly because it is a very small industry and the faster route to becoming a VC is through being a successful entrepreneur. I definitely cannot classify my short entrepreneurial career as one successful enough to attract attention from a VC.

However, as everyone who is passionate about technology, start-ups and entrepreneurship, my dream was to work for a VC in Silicon Valley; and there is where I wanted to go. Therefore, through my contacts and a countless amount of cold emails, I managed to get in contact with Fenox Venture Capital in Silicon Valley. To make it short, in January 2013 I will move there. I believe that this is an invaluable opportunity to work for a successful early stage VC where I can make a difference and finally touch with my hands how the Valley looks like. To start, I will move only for a few months, then I will see. Everyday is a new day, let’s hope it is always better than yesterday.

All started when I took my first steps as a globetrotter leaving Rome, my native city. Maybe the most important was when I accepted an unexpected Erasmus scholarship in Belgium. Besides the fact that this has been an extraordinary experience where I have met one of my best friends (and my ex girlfriend), I learnt English and I realized that outside the borders of my city, there was a world. A world, admittedly, I ignored the possibilities and opportunities it offered. In Belgium I have met tons of people from every corner of the globe, I started traveling and this literally opened my mind.

When I came back to Italy I then decided that my city and my life were too small for me. Not because I didn’t like Rome, I rather had a very successful event organization and two commercial activities; but, simply put, I wanted to live more, make new experiences and take different challenges. After trying, and not managing (for bureaucratic reasons) to go to UK for a master, I decided to attend an English taught master in business administration, a summer school in China, and a short period at the Harvard Business School and subsequently, I finally moved abroad. I applied to PhD programs everywhere, the farer and more exotic, the better: USA, Australia, United Kingdom France, Spain. In the end, among the various opportunities I was offered, I accepted an offer from Cass Business School (two years earlier I did not even managed to do a tour of the university) in London. The reason why I chose Cass, and for example not an offer from Miami, is because Cass is among the top schools in the world and the faculty accepted my research proposal on venture capital.

After almost three years that I live in London, I am sure I took the right decision, instead I wish I did it before. I still remember when I arranged a job interview asking a man indications to reach my university, the first day at school. I thought that this was incredible and it would have never happened in my Country. With this I don’t want to say that London, and the UK in general, are the solution to the problems of the European youth looking for a job, but I definitely believe that this is a city where, if you are smart and willing to work hard, you will have your chance. Then it is up to you to make the most out of it.

I think I got more chances than I probably deserved and definitely expected. After one year into my PhD I have been offered to teach finance in China (twice), then the Belgium university invited me to lecture entrepreneurial finance, just after 4 years from my Erasmus period there. But my satisfactions did not come just from my academic activity. In fact, I immediately understood that I did not want only to study VC, but rather I wanted to apply it, stay close to the entrepreneurs, the new technologies, the investments. Therefore I started advising some wonderful Italian and London based start-ups that were looking for VC funding such as Co-Contest (cocontest.com), JustBit (justbit.it) and iSEN. These opportunities not only enriched me personally and professionally, but also enlarged my network of contacts in the industry. Yet, once again, this was not enough for me, that’s why now I’ll move to Silicon Valley.

Cristiano is on twitter as @cbellavitis

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