Chasing Capital Ep 2 with Lightspeed’s Anoushka Vaswani

2. Lightspeed ’s Anoushka Vaswani: Operating Experience Can Become Stale, Value and Low Opportunity Cost of College, and How Venture Isn’t Contrarian

In this second episode of Chasing Capital, I chat with Lightspeed’s Anoushka Vaswani on a wide range of topics like why she chooses to focus on growth investing, the importance of network over operating experience, the burgeoning European startup ecosystem, and the value and low opportunity cost of completing your degree.

Anoushka Vaswani is a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners where she invests in growth-stage startups focused on enterprise software and infrastructure. Previously, she was the third product manager at Masterclass, early stage investor at Matrix, and supported tech companies at McKinsey and Goldman. Anoushka studied econ and psyc at Columbia University and got her MBA at Harvard. She also runs The Mail, a monthly newsletter focusing on venture and enterprise software.

Reflections

It was great having Anoushka on as the second guest of the Chasing Capital podcast. One particular point that I found quite interesting was the discussion around her undergrad psych and econ studies and the application of such behavioral econ principals to venture and startups. I was surprised that such thinking wasn’t explicitly applied, but still find it fascinating how the principles are intuitively applied by product and design teams when creating products. I do wonder, however, if a more explicit application of principles and insights from behavioral econ and the broader field of psychology (and perhaps philosophy) could save product and growth teams a bit of time and A/B tests. This could be especially valuable for some counterintuitive ways of acting or thinking gleaned from these studies. An interesting exploration could be trying to design mindset shifting actions or triggers into a product to not only help the user in the near term as they’re using the product itself but also help them in the long term. One could potentially design around the anticipation of this long-term change by offering different features with increasing utility as they move along this path.

Another comment that struck me was Anoushka’s perspective on the importance of college. While like Kevin (from last episode) she believes that people should stay in school, her reasoning mainly focuses on college’s direct benefits and the actual small opportunity cost that comes with it. Especially with advances in aging and gene therapy research, people will likely be living longer — assuming they actually listen — and therefore working longer. So in the grand scheme of things what is four years, especially when the worries and responsibilities of a college student are typically less than that of a working professional. Besides the clustered social community, as industries and work are “chasing every 4–5 years now” the skills and experience one gathers from ‘doing something practical’ for a couple of years — save the breakout hits of course — instead of going to college or finishing the degree are likely irrelevant or negligible. Plus there is the added bonus of learning how to go somewhat deep on a subject in a short period of time and honing your writing. Personally, I think that in the aggregate it is probably better to stay in school and the actual learnings from dropping out will likely not amount to anything. On the margin, however, I do think that there could be real value for the true autodidacts out there, those with a unique insight driven by uncommon experience to their peer-group, or for someone who isn’t financially able. While people tend to say that that they don’t focus on credentials and care more about actual experience than the person’s alma mater, the “signaling” of a degree is a great short-hand to have for recruiters typically short on time — unless of course you’ve done something extraordinary.

I’m excited for next week’s discussion with Mike Giampapa from Bessemer where we discuss crypto and Bessemer’s role in the space amongst other things.

CS @Columbia, President Blockchain@Columbia