Meet Keaton Nankivil: Senior Associate at Bascom Ventures
November 3, 2020 | Ashley Brindamour
We are pleased to welcome Keaton Nankivil as Senior Associate for Bascom Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group’s fund for Wisconsin alumni and friends. As a proud Wisconsin Basketball alumnus, Keaton has spent his career focused on high-level teamwork. He played for and led teams in competitions across Europe, including stops in Germany, Spain, Latvia, and Italy. We recently had a chance to catch up with Keaton on his industry experience, as well as his love of basketball and entrepreneurship.
How did you make your way to Bascom Ventures? (personally, academically, professionally, etc.)
I am a proud Madisonian that grew up ten minutes from the UW campus. Growing up in Madison, it is hard to be anything but a Badger. The university has a huge influence on the city and much of the state. I was fortunate to be offered an athletic scholarship to play basketball and attend UW, which just heightened my allegiance to the school. Professionally, I started my career playing basketball in Europe. That experience gave me a much more global perspective and exposed me to a variety of thoughts that I cherish to this day. When I came home from Europe I joined the fellow program for Bascom Fund 1, which sparked a real interest in entrepreneurship. It motivated me to return to school for my MBA with focuses in finance and entrepreneurship. My time as an MBA also included a stop at a leading insurance corporate venture capital arm where I was able to learn a lot about how the industry works from the perspective of a lead investor.
What initially sparked your interest in working at Bascom?
First and foremost, my love of being a Badger. This network has meant a lot to me since childhood, and the opportunity to work in an ecosystem that is so deeply connected to UW spoke strongly to me. Second, was the model of AVG. Having started my career as an athlete it was difficult to gain domain expertise in the same way I see many of my peers have. However, the desire to create analogies from sports that apply to team dynamics and business strategy made me curious about startups and how they become successful. Bascom is a unique chance to pair my love for Wisconsin and desire to support the teams that are creating incredible companies in our ecosystem.
How did your college experience and the connections made there influence your career?
As an athlete, you are surrounded by the most passionate lovers of the university. That has led to many strong connections in Madison and beyond. There were times when I was playing in Europe when I would see an American ex-pat wearing a Bucky Badger shirt in the crowd in an Italian or German arena. The beauty of being a Badger is that there is always someone out there willing to help you become the best version of yourself. One of those connections for me was Greg Baker. He has served as a mentor of mine since I was a fellow. When I went back for my MBA, I was excited to find a robust network of faculty that work to support entrepreneurship at UW. People like Dan Olszewski, Jon Eckhardt, and Brad Chandler at the Wisconsin School of Business were major forces in helping me pursue a unique career in venture capital.
What trends in venture capital are you most excited about?
There is no shortage of interesting trends, but the most exciting to me is the push toward sustainability. This is largely influenced by my time living in Europe, where solar and wind fields are everywhere and where citizens take responsibility for things like recycling and reducing waste very seriously. It is a trend that I see growing in America and watching startups that are built to facilitate change or make it more accessible will be great to see develop in the coming years. The ability to efficiently and cheaply store solar energy or create textiles out of old milk are examples of exciting areas of innovation in this field. How business models are built around these trends to make them sustainable companies will be very interesting and informative in the next few years.
What are you most looking forward to since joining the team?
The best thing will be continuing to create relationships in the Badger network. UW has helped put so much talent into the workforce. Meeting Badgers that have experienced successful careers or built great businesses will be enriching. Connecting these resources with Badgers that are building the next generation of companies will be a fulfilling part of this role.
What resources do you recommend to people interested in venture capital or entrepreneurship?
A former boss gave everyone on our deal team the book 7 Powers by Hamilton Helmer. It provides a great framework for strategic business thinking and is typically the first checklist I go through when looking at a new company. Outside of that, I find great utility in diversifying what I am reading and consuming. As a generalist, it can be helpful to take in disparate resources and synthesize the information to think about new solutions. I have found useful information in things ranging from architecture and design to health and wellness to personal psychology. Nuggets from these kinds of resources find their way into the strangest places when they are knocking around my head for a long time.