What began as a volunteering opportunity at MVCA’s Follow-On Reception turned into a chance for Brandon Epstein to become a MVCA Venture Fellow. Now, Brandon is an associate at Detroit Venture Partners (DVP) where he focuses on deal sourcing, portfolio company support, and fund operation management! In this Q&A, Brandon shares why his perception of venture capital has evolved and his plans for the future.
How did you find out about the Venture Fellows Program?
Two years ago when I was in New York, I began to network with MVCA and venture funds in Michigan. MVCA Associate Director, Emily Heintz, and MVCA Events and Program Manager, Molly Theis, suggested that I handout nametags at a reception for Michigan Growth Capital Symposium where many of the investors in the state and region were attending. While handing out nametags is a rather thankless job, I met tons of investors, entrepreneurs, and stakeholders who would all help in landing me my position with DVP! It was a good lesson in networking and in accepting that I needed to take every opportunity offered to me. It was at that event that someone had told me about the Fellows program. After researching the program more and meeting some of the fellows, I knew I had to join.
What are you most looking forward to about being a Venture Fellow?
There is no set path to get into venture capital, but typically, venture capital professionals are MBA’s, former entrepreneurs, or long-time financiers. All of those paths usually take more time to lead to venture capital, and you can create networks along the way. While I’ve made great friendships in venture capital over the last year, I hope that the Fellows will be a group that I can grow alongside of. Venture capitalists who have been in this industry for many years have vast networks and people who can give them advice in any situation.
What do you hope to be doing in 10 years?
Who knows what ends up happening, but I hope that I’ll be in the world of startups in 10 years. I have always admired entrepreneurs and venture capitalists’who have executed on their grand ‘vision’ -Elon Musk thought that all cars should be electric. But I think that people often forget that venture capitalists’ must have foresight and know what the future holds too. Whether I’m running a startup or a venture firm, I want to execute on my vision of the future.
What attracts you to the venture capital industry?
Initially, when I got into venture capital, I thought that venture capital was about prestige – financing companies and building the next Facebook. Yet, what I’ve realized is that venture capital isn’t that glamorous. There are companies that I meet with every day who are changing the world and others who are struggling to continue to operate. It’s especially difficult to hear about companies and their employees who are going through a tough time. Despite what I thought was the allure of venture capital, what really attracts me now is the opportunity to help companies succeed in both good times and bad. Those interactions and being able to give the right advice is what I’m really striving to do.
What’s your dream deal (the venture-backed firm you wish YOU had spotted first!)?
Stonyfield would’ve been a dream deal…in the end! What began as an organic yogurt company out of a tiny barn in Vermont, grew to have 100’s of millions in sales and an acquisition price of $875 million by Honest. Not that the deal was necessarily a clear, linear ascent. The founders faced bankruptcy multiple times, and it took more than ten years to prove that organic yogurt could work on a large scale. In the end, they pioneered an entire industry that is better for both human and animal well-being. Can you imagine if you had stuck with the company throughout that whole time and saw it succeed in the end? The only investor who had enough conviction was Gary Hirschberg, one of the co-founder’s, mother-in-law.
Learn more about the Venture Fellows Program supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.