- Gelt VC | Early-stage venture fund
- Twitter – @turnernovak | 9200 followers
- LinkedIn Profile | Snapchat Analysis | Venture Stories
- Is a perfect example of how you can become whoever you want to be… you just have to put the work in!
I can immediately say that I’m thoroughly impressed with Turner Novak. He may not be a founder, but he’s definitely got the work ethic to be one. The reason I say this is because his story of getting into venture capital is a path of perseverance, hard work, and understanding the value of networking… and leveraging social.
Born in Canada and moving to the USA, he found himself in a position of watching his mother struggle as a business owner in the custom wedding dress profession. From there he studied accounting and finance in school and also took an interest in the stocks, the financial market, and investing.
Being the millennial that he is, he was drawn to being hyperconnected on the internet and began his self-education in the venture capital world. He had several internships with investment firms, corporate finance jobs, and a private equity firm, but and prepared himself for a big financial job-future maybe in NYC. His first job out of college was to work with a bank, and that is where he learned the fundamentals of investing:
“The fundamentals of investing is understanding either today or some point in the future, what is the cash flow going to be or some leading indicator of what cash flow will be. Cash flow is really how you valuate a business.”Turner Novak | VC Hunting S2E11
Meeting his wife during his senior year in college helped shape the trajectory of Turner’s life and he decided to stay in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After his bank job, he switched over to an endowment fund for 3.5 years where he got to experience many different facets of investing from many different perspectives. This is also where he got to really appreciate the many different viewpoints of investors and experienced many different types of investing in various markets.
“I always knew I wanted to be an investor, and I was always kind of intrigued by VC, at the intersection of investing and tech.”Turner Novak | VC Hunting S2E11
This is where his story is the most fascinating because it’s exactly the type of advice that I give to people trying to figure out their next side-hustle, project, or startup. He started by merely putting his thoughts online and then began to blog about his ideas. A lot of his thoughts were contrarian to the popular opinions out there, a great way to get eyeballs! Apparently he’s the ‘Snapchat bull’ in that his opinions around Snapchat were far more positive than the regular consensus at the time. Apparently, all of his diligence paid off as Snapchat is alive and well today, relatively. 😉
“[Speaking about what I know] is one of the ways to build a brand around [myself], trying to have insights around what other people weren’t talking about and that’s where I have value as being an investor: Being somebody who pays attention to a lot of things and giving input into things people aren’t thinking about yet.”Turner Novak | VC Hunting S2E11
I really loved Turner describing his journey into venture capital as an interest that led to research, that led to writing and speaking out about his ideas. He essentially became who he wanted to be (a VC) before even becoming one! This is the actor’s trick, to become what you aren’t just yet, and act in that way so you can become it. This really is a huge key to anyone who wants to break the mold, become someone new. You have to put in the effort to actually become that new person!
“One of the things I did was to convince VCs that I should be a VC. So I started writing online, meeting people, book a flight out to San Francisco and meet with 6-8 people per day. One of the things I did was create a Fantasy VC fake track record system, or a one-page investment model. These were the companies I would pick if I were a VC. This helped me prove to VCs that I’d actually be really good at the job.”Turner Novak | VC Hunting S2E11
This is literally the greatest way to get attention from the market and people you want to work with. He got a lot of interviews, but most of them didn’t work out. Finally, he got connected with Keith and Damian of Gelt.vc which allowed him to do all the VC work he wanted, helping Gelt.vc start their second fund, while also living in Ann Arbor Michigan with his wife and daughter. This right here is the true story of hustle to become what you want! Take notes all of you grinders and hustlers out there!
When it comes to choosing great founders to invest in, Turner isn’t just a data-only guy. He looks at what the founders are doing and how metrics emerge from their decisions:
“To be a good investor, you have to figure out the qualitative things that founders are doing, whether it’s building a unique competitive advantage that has never existed before or flipping incentives in the industry… these are all things that don’t show up in the data. Where you want to look is at all of the product decisions the company is making and how those decisions eventually lead to cash flow.”Turner Novak | VC Hunting S2E11
I particularly enjoyed Turner’s ideas on how venture capital funds are changing. I have my own opinions on this obviously, however, I believe Turner and I ended up in the same place: venture capital is changing, and it really is up to the incumbents to up their game, or for new people to enter the market and begin modeling how venture capital companies should act.
For our final #VCHunted twitter post from the past, I pulled what I believe to be a solid tweet from Turner back in 2012. What are you going to wish you did today looking back 5 years?
I think we can all spend time considering this great question from time to time. Having a great career and making great money is cool and all… but our family, our spouse and our kids, they really should come first.
I hope you thoroughly enjoyed my interview with Turner Novak, and I look forward to his great success as a VC in the future!
Enjoy my retrospective:
Turner Novak Social Media
I don’t have time for your nonsense!