I’m starting a new career journey

After 21 years as a venture banker, I’m leaving banking and it leaves me equal parts energized, sentimental, and perhaps a bit anxious.

Dating back to my youth, I loved the idea of building and continually found myself inspired by those that took the plunge to build things from scratch. It didn’t matter what it was they were making or how large the project, but the simple act of taking something that didn’t exist before and creating something real and usable was viscerally rewarding for me. Before my father started his own commercial real estate firm, he was a civil engineer, which only served to further stoke my passion for following builders.

That feeling was what led me to start my own sports card business when I was 13, and I fondly remember being ferried every weekend to memorabilia shows by my parents. While that experience was only mildly helpful to my pocketbook, I remember the pure unadulterated joy of being a business owner.

When I started my professional career in 1999 at Silicon Valley Bank, I found myself surrounded by inspirational entrepreneurs and teammates every day. During my first ten years, I had the great fortune of being exposed to luminary companies such as LinkedIn and Meraki Networks during their very early days.

And when I moved over to covering venture funds full time in 2009, it couldn’t have come at a better time as a convergence of factors led to the emerging manager sector’s official birth.

In 2012, the allure of building a new effort focused on this sector proved to be too great, and my colleague Sam Heshmati and I moved to First Republic Bank to start a group whose focus was to serve emerging fund managers (it has now expanded to fund managers of all sizes and types, along with startups).

Our thesis was to pair traditional banking services offered at high touch service levels with a suite of informal advisory and network services designed to help fund managers launch, scale, and manage durable firms.

Not dissimilar to any other early-stage effort, the early days of building our practice were rough, with many long days and weekends solving for typical growing pains.

Still, in the nearly nine years I’ve been there, our group has now grown to nearly 50 team members, with several hundred fund managers entrusting us with their business. Most importantly however, I’m so incredibly proud of having been in the trenches with a team that not only exudes passion toward helping builders but also cares enormously for one another.

In our time extensively working with both LPs and GPs, we’ve discovered how complicated and broken the process of allocating and raising private capital in today’s noisy environment is.

Personally, I’ve sat in the passenger seat in over 600 unique fundraises and have seen little in the way of progress when it comes to reducing the real friction of fundraising and allocating within the emerging manager landscape.

Internally, we worked hard to solve this informally over the last few years and ultimately collectively decided that the best avenue to realize the best solution was to start a new company, whose focus will be products and services designed to streamline and democratize the fundraising environment.

So…I’ll be moving over as CEO formally of this soon to be established new company.

We’re not quite ready to talk about the company’s products and services but expect to in the coming 2–3 months (hint: we’re supercharging what we’ve done in the past and then some). Until then, we’ll be heads down planning and working.

I’m very excited for Sam and the team to continue building a world-class offering for fund managers and startups at the bank.

I’m taking a couple of weeks to recharge. Before I do that, I wanted to express gratitude and thanks to my former colleagues, family, FRB, SVB, industry friends, and most of all, my wife Ashlee for the support, opportunities, and experiences to be able to get to this point.

For those interested in what we are working on, feel free to reach to me at samir.kaji@gmail.com as I’m happy to get something on the calendar in the coming weeks and months.

VC/tech advisor, venture blogger, active angel investor, banker