Meet Larry Jen, Managing Partner at Westwood Ventures
Larry Jen is one of the most recent additions to AVG’s investment teams, serving as Managing Partner of the recently launched fund for UCLA alumni, Westwood Ventures. Larry sat down with us to talk about what sparked his interest in VC and how he got started in the industry.
What’s your connection to UCLA?
I graduated from The Anderson School at UCLA with a MBA in 1999.
Tell us about your investment background. What roles did you hold prior to joining Westwood Ventures?
I “geeked” out on investment stuff alongside a well worn copy of Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street” (on VHS!) while growing up in Central California. Like other young wanna-be Peter Lynchs, I opened a brokerage account through my parents, and started investing in companies that I deemed cool and likely to grow with great gusto. Fast forward to senior year of college and an offer to work at a legendary Bulge Bracket Firm and my career interest in investing in companies was launched.
After three years on the sell side, with two of them at a San Francisco-based “tech” investment bank helping VC-backed start-ups go public, I went back to The Anderson School at UCLA for my MBA before embarking on a journey to the buy side. It started with a venture-backed start-up during the first dot-com boom then eventually led to investing directly in private companies for a single family office in the Seattle area. Over the course of that journey, I worked at a small cap hedge fund, global strategy consulting firm, a global institutional money manager, and a Big Three automotive manufacturer that went through bankruptcy while I was there. Living in interesting times, indeed!
What sparked your interest in venture investing and working for Westwood Ventures?
I’ve always found inspiration in the human stories behind how companies started – the brains, the courage, the luck, and the perseverance that created something larger than the creator imagined. Working with company founders to take their company public during the Internet boom sparked my interest in venture investing. The opportunity to be part of a new way for more people to invest in venture capital, along with the bench depth of experience, talent, and wickedly smart and accomplished colleagues inspired me to join Alumni Ventures Group to launch Westwood Ventures.
Which trends are you most excited about in venture investing?
Technologies, processes, and people who can bring (once) inaccessible products and services to a broader audience. Specifically, Electric Vehicles, Big Data, Mobile, FinTech, IoT, and Cybersecurity capture my attention the most.
What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned on your VC journey?
1) Be humble and spend more time listening than speaking, even if you think you’ve already seen this movie before.
2) If you’re wrong, own it and move on so you don’t waste other people’s money, time and energy (and your own).
3) Surround yourself with smarter people who are also humble.
Which resources or sources of inspiration (podcasts, books, blogs, mentors, etc.) are most useful to you on a regular basis?
For work, VentureBeat, TechCrunch, Geekwire, Gizmodo, NYT, Economist, Bloomberg, and Barrons. (yawn!)
For fun, ThePointsGuy, Jalopnik, Petrolicious, and LiveSailDie.
What else would you like to share about yourself?
I like to spend my spare time on racetracks, regattas, jazz, and lindyhop – and I love those things more when they are found in faraway lands!