5 Questions with Brook Stroud: Congress Avenue’s Senior Associate
April 8, 2021 | Ashley Brindamour
We are pleased to welcome Brook Stroud as Senior Associate for Congress Avenue Ventures, Alumni Ventures’ fund for University of Texas at Austin alumni and friends of the community. Brook brings founder experience to this role and a passion for entrepreneurship, learning, and community. We recently caught up with Brook to learn how he came to join the Congress Avenue Team.
Will you share your background, prior to joining Congress Ave Ventures?
The road to working in venture capital was a winding one that, like many, began with first scratching the entrepreneurial itch. After undergrad, I co-founded an e-commerce startup called La Matera, which I ran for several years before it was acquired in 2015. Reminiscent of Horace Greeley’s quote, “go West, young man,” I decided to set my wheels to California to join a fast-growing FinTech startup called Funding Circle. After roughly two years and some more startup experience, I moved to Austin, TX to pursue an MBA at the University of Texas. While at UT, I launched a beverage company called Somerset and had a blast pursuing course work in another strong interest — finance and investing. After graduating in 2019, I realized that what I loved most about entrepreneurship and the financial markets was the accelerated learning and getting to be intellectually curious across a broad array of topics. Somerset was acquired later that year by Slice, and I was able to back door my way into venture capital as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Brand Foundry Ventures, an early-stage venture firm. While there I was able to quickly shift to working with their investment team, confirming my passion for the industry, and learning a lot from some great mentors Wesley and Andrew.
How did your time at UTexas impact you, personally and professionally?
My wife’s 94-year-old grandmother once told me, “put your money between your ears. That way no one can take it from you.” That sums it up pretty well. As an undergrad, I never stepped foot in our business school. But after undergrad, I was thrown into the deep end of business as a new startup founder. I developed a deep interest in business strategy and finance and spent a lot of personal time learning from the writing and words of great investors and business leaders about thinking long-term and investing in myself. I’m a student at heart and I was deeply impressed by the quality of the professors and the students at the University of Texas at Austin. It’s also a really fun city to live in. Going to graduate school is a big financial commitment, but for me, it unlocked a broader understanding of business, new ways of thinking, and an inspiring community of friends and classmates. Attending the University of Texas was an investment that I’m sure will compound in value over time.
What sparked your interest in working at Congress Ave?
Venture capital offered a unique way to optimize my career around being a life-long learner, opportunity identification, and getting to work every day with founders building the future. It is a unique opportunity to be a part of the Congress Ave team working in VC, while simultaneously getting to deepen my ties to a talented and diverse alumni network of fellow Longhorns (Hook ‘em!). Rob Adams was a bit of a legend within the UT entrepreneurship scene when I was at school. I remember reading his book in one of my classes, and now working together at Congress Ave, it’s been an awesome experience getting to continue to learn from his wealth of experience.
What trends in venture capital are you most excited about?
That’s tough. There’s a lot of interesting trends to be excited about and new ones rapidly unfolding.
- “The Unbundling of FinTech” from a full-stack of vertically integrated online services similar to those offered by legacy banks and service providers to new FinTech companies with highly specialized services connected through APIs, which startups can use as plug and play building blocks to create their unique businesses. Instead of a new startup needing to build everything from scratch, they now can easily connect to high-quality third party service providers for various critical parts of their business. This allows founders to build and scale faster, save on upfront costs, and focus on their competitive advantage. The rise of third party APIs across more and more categories has been exciting to see.
- “The Creator Economy” is another area of interest. Here we’re seeing a wave of new platforms, marketplaces, and software tools democratizing various forms of entrepreneurship and empowering individuals to find and connect with their audience and make a living on their creative passions.
- Other areas of interest are software productivity tools, e-commerce infrastructure, decentralized finance (DeFi) in the crypto space, two-sided marketplaces, and any software companies “selling pickaxes” or infrastructure that reduce friction for founders launching companies in hot new categories.
What resources do you recommend to people interested in venture capital or entrepreneurship (books, podcasts, etc.)?
There’s a never-ending and ever-growing supply of resources available to learn about venture capital. My advice is to start where you are and let your own interests fuel your search for more information. Below is a list of some of my favorite podcasts, newsletters, and a few helpful books:
- Patrick Oshaugnessy’s Invest Like the Best
- The Twenty Minute VC with Harry Stebbings
- The Consumer VC
- Masters in Business with Barry Ritholtz
- Village Global’s Venture Stories
- VC: An American History by Tom Nichols
- eBoys by Randall Stross
- Venture Deals by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson