In 2018, we began hosting educational breakfast roundtables for family offices focused on the benefits and challenges of tackling the venture asset class with discipline and strategy. This event series revealed a strong demand for more in-depth educational content, leading us to embark on a full-day symposium to decode the asset class and make it more accessible.
Often when ambition meets reality, the results can be disastrous. So, on the morning of our inaugural Venture Education Symposium, the stakes were high. With name cards of 24 family offices carefully arranged, materials prepped, coffee & tea piping hot, and pastries on deck, we prepared to see which would win out – ambition or reality. By day’s end, after much engaged discussion and discovery, ambition indeed carried the day.
Ian D’Souza, Adjunct Professor of Finance, NYU, kicked things off and laid a strong foundation for the day’s agenda, noting that venture is a “difficult asset class requiring skill, patience, and a bit of luck”. Skill and patience were the resounding themes of the morning session, which offered a deep-dive into due-diligence on venture funds and direct investments. Given the nature of private investments, and varying degrees of available information, doing the “homework” and leveraging experience and expertise were highlighted as critical to driving better investment decisions and outcomes in the venture asset class.
Strategy, structure, expertise, and deep due-diligence are key to this unique and challenging asset class
The afternoon session transitioned into a working lunch and an engaging panel, featuring a candid exchange with VC-backed entrepreneurs. Symposium attendees got a glimpse into the mind of an entrepreneur, their unique path, and what they deem important in building a business and fundraising. What was extraordinary – beyond the remarkable authenticity and candor on display – was the diversity of paths these entrepreneurs followed on their journeys and the common theme of the importance of people and teams coalescing around a shared vision.
Successful entrepreneurs recognize the value of teams coalescing around a shared vision
After lunch, the discussion shifted to the legal and tax complexities of the asset class - ranging from standard vs non-standard LP term negotiation to Section 1202 tax exclusion, which provides significant tax relief for entrepreneurs and angels. A NextGen panel offered insight into how next-gen family members are integrated into the existing family office, shedding light on emerging trends, learnings, and the connection between financial returns and measurable social impact.
Legal structure and appropriate tax planning to manage complexities inherent in venture require resident expertise or an adept service partner
With cocktails and canapes in sight, we capped off the day with a fun “Shark Tank” session. Founders delivered 3 minute mini-pitches, allowing the audience to put their newly acquired knowledge to the test and serve as judges.
Venture is the front end of the innovation curve that provides insight into public markets and touches every part of our lives. Investors endowed with the luxury of time have the latitude to include venture in their asset mix, and it should not be entered into lightly, but with eyes wide open. Strategy, structure, expertise, and deep due-diligence are key in decoding this unique asset class and collectively can position the investor to separate the wheat from the chaff.