Back to Blog May 29, 2024 in

An Update from MVCA Venture Fellow, Caroline Wolanin, Plymouth Growth

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The Michigan Venture Capital Association is proud to offer the Venture Fellows Program to Michigan’s venture capital community. The program, launched in 2023, is designed to increase the number of venture professionals in Michigan in order to accelerate the fundraising and deployment of capital into early-stage companies.

Caroline Wolanin, Analyst supporting the investment team at Plymouth Growth, a B2B SaaS-focused fund investing at the growth stage. Lucky for me, being on a 10-person team means all hands on deck, and therefore I get to spend my days on a multitude of projects to support the fund. Since I’ve joined Plymouth, we’ve closed two deals, deploying over $15MM in growth capital. I’ve had opportunities to travel, identify M&A targets, hire and build out our summer intern program, work with our portfolio company management teams, and so much more. I feel incredibly lucky to do this job and learn something new every day!

What are some of the most important skills you’ve learned during your fellowship and how have they benefited you?

One of the most important skills I have learned in my time as a fellow is the value of building a strong community. To me, this is different from networking, which can often feel too transactional. What this fellowship has really shown me is the value and benefit of connecting with your peers, people who are similar in age, potentially have the same title, or are experiencing similar dynamics within their own fund. I learn so much from my colleagues, who have impressive and extensive careers, but the fellowship has reminded me just how much I can learn from those right next to me! Additionally, the MVCA Fellowship has really helped me to build my confidence in an industry I was not familiar with prior to finishing undergrad. This fellowship has created a platform for me to learn the industry and build relationships with professionals of all levels within the MVCA network; something I think would’ve been more challenging without this experience.

So far, what’s the most memorable thing you’ve experienced during your fellowship?

The people! Meeting and growing with the MVCA Fellowship cohort has been such a wonderful experience. Having peers at a similar stage of their career in an industry that does not normally hire junior positions has been transformative in helping me improve my skill set and find a community of people to learn from. We laugh, talk about the struggles, give each other tips, and relate over the turmoil of an early career. Looking around this cohort, it is amazing to think we can potentially be the next generation of Michigan VC, and that is such a cool thought.

How are you promoting a diverse and inclusive entrepreneurial and investment community in Michigan?

Traditionally, venture capital is an industry built for the elite by the elite, and it can be really challenging to dismantle this idea. Michigan’s ecosystem is evolving at a different time than some of our coastal peers, and therefore has so many more opportunities to build under a different status quo. For me, diversity and inclusivity in VC manifest in elevating the voices and creating opportunities for students and young individuals curious about VC but potentially lacking the know-how of breaking in. VC is this kind of spoke and wheel world where learning about the investing piece grants you exposure to just about everything from bad-ass entrepreneurs to successful operators, seasoned limited partners, community builders, and people passionate about innovation anywhere, but most importantly in Michigan. Our summer intern program was my opportunity to put this into action, hiring impressive, highly-qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds who just needed a little bit of support to make the jump into the Michigan VC ecosystem. Creating a diverse and inclusive ecosystem starts with the things we can do on the day-to-day in our jobs to foster this environment, and I think Plymouth’s summer internship program is a great step in that direction.

What excites you the most about growing your career in Michigan?

Building a career in Michigan has given me an opportunity to watch the City of Detroit blossom, and I think it is a magical place that truly deserves to thrive. Michigan is a place with Midwest humility and coastal ambition, and I think it’s positioned well for innovation. In general, it’s exciting to build alongside people who believe in this state and want to be a part of its renaissance. Detroit has a dynamic culture, which I think can be a very inspiring place to build and invest in companies.

Besides work, what is one of your passions or aspirations — what do you love to talk about?

I love everything about food. It’s a topic that has captivated me my entire life. The hospitality industry propelled me into VC and continues to be a world that allows me to nurture the relationships in my life. Sharing meals together, cooking for loved ones, and exposing people to new cuisines and cultures are only a few of the ways food moves people, and I am forever grateful for its continued impact.

Learn more about the Venture Fellows Program supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.