Get To Know A BCV Associate: Dawit Heck

6 min read November 22, 2021
Spotlight

Dawit shares how the intersection of investment banking and growth equity served as a useful stepping stone to becoming a value-added venture capital investor

I took a slightly untraditional path to early-stage venture capital, as I didn’t realize right away that it was the field for me. When joining the professional workforce, it’s often difficult to know if your first job will be the right one for you down the road. I went to college at University of Pennsylvania and used my four years as a time of reflection to discern, when it came to a future career path, what would keep me motivated; who were the types of people I wanted to surround myself with; and in what industry would I be able to add the most value.

What I came to realize was that I had a passion for building relationships and working with disruptive leaders across categories and/or asset classes.

I majored in History and Spanish, and although neither taught me the fundamentals of financial literacy, I was fortunate enough to intern in investment banking over two summers, and then took a job at Lazard Freres after graduation. I worked in Lazard’s Restructuring Group, advising clients in special situations, restructurings, and distressed mergers and acquisitions across many industries.

Restructuring banking taught me deep technical capabilities; I learned the ins-and-outs of cap tables and the intricacies of deal structuring, and moreover gained a healthy dose of cynicism when evaluating any business and its potential viability at scale. What was most fascinating to me, though, was working with management teams post-restructuring on plans to revitalize their businesses.

Invest In People

The late 2010s marked a point in the economic cycle that led to multiple bankruptcies and distressed enterprises in two key industries: oil and gas, and retail. Advising companies like Toys “R” Us and Sears while at Lazard taught me about the importance of becoming detail-oriented and working efficiently, and, more importantly, that the massive changes taking place in the retail landscape was an area of disruption I wanted to work on for the foreseeable future.

I saw how technology was upending retail, and the only way forward was to automate and innovate. Direct-to-consumer offerings are removing the need for retailers in the supply chain entirely, and fast-fashion brands are leveraging the internet to grow brand recognition, drive massive volume, and operate at better margins.

I wanted to work with the innovative technology companies empowering ecommerce operators, and I realized venture capital was the best way to do that. However, I wasn’t quite sure how to get involved in the field, so I cold-emailed lots of people off of LinkedIn and through my network — I probably spoke to over 100 people — frankly just to learn. I would say that you should never feel afraid to reach out to people, as they are often very happy to chat and share their experiences, and learning through osmosis from others is the most valuable information out there.

I ended up taking my first venture job at Long Ridge Equity Partners, where I learned all about investing in value-driven B2B software companies through growth-stage financings. In the back of my mind, I realized it wasn’t just technology-based business models I was interested in, but more so the chance to interact with the highest quality founders.

When I heard through my friend Zeeza Cole that BCV was hiring for an associate position, in particular someone to focus on retail-related technologies on the East Coast, I jumped at the opportunity. Here was a venture firm that aligned with my vision for the future: deep operating experience with inherent domain expertise, a focus on early-stage partnerships with flexibility for growth-stage investing, and a wide network of resources and people available through the greater Bain Capital platform. This, coupled by the opportunity to work directly with BCV Partner Scott Friend (a leader in the commerce technology ecosystem) made my decision to join this team a no-brainer.

Learning To Build Relationships And Think Critically

Through BCV’s mentorship model, I can reach out to any of the partners for questions. In particular, Scott is infinitely approachable and, like other partners, is focused on my own development as a value-add investor; I am provided with hands-on opportunities to learn and contribute on each and every deal. And I’m not just learning how to do the nuts-and-bolts of deal sourcing and structuring, but also developing the necessary skill set to think critically and to organize my thoughts in a structured, concise, and very simple manner.

Equally weighted is the firm’s focus on enabling more junior team members to build proprietary relationships with founders, startup employees, and other VCs. I’ve been fortunate to meet many exceptional individuals, some of whom I reconnected with after those cold emails a few years back.

Building Domain Expertise

What I like best about my job at BCV is just what I thought I would: working with founders. I feel fortunate to be building domain expertise at such an early point in my venture career. I’m encouraged to reach out to CEOs, operators, direct-to-consumer brands and retailers to develop perspectives, ranging from backend commerce infrastructure enabling flexible website development and iteration, to front-end point solutions that enable DTC brands to increase personalized outreach to drive stronger customer engagement.

It’s incredible to see how wide and deep BCV’s network is in this space. I grew up speaking both Amharic and English, interacting with a wide diversity of people from many different backgrounds, and I value that now I get to interact with so many different types of people at work — founders, investors, operators, engineers, coders, product builders, and more. Being a small contributor to a founder’s success is the goal, and one I feel honored to be a part of.

If BCV sounds like the kind of place you’d like to work, I encourage you to apply! You can submit your resume through BCV’s application by Monday, November 29. All candidates will write a one-paragraph answer to either of these prompts:

  • Describe an experience you’ve had that illustrates why venture capital is exciting to you.
  • Share your perspective of a technology trend or opportunity that you believe Bain Capital Ventures should be spending time on.

If you progress in the interview process, BCV will ask you for a one-page investment memo outlining a team or company that you believe we should invest in.

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