After completing my MBA at Wharton and spending two years in San Francisco, I thought nothing except the perfect opportunity could bring me back to the East Coast. About seventy job applications on the West Coast and one application on the East Coast later (yes, that’s right, one!)… I couldn’t be happier, or more honored, to be joining such a great firm. So what made me pack my bags and board an airplane in the middle of a pandemic?
Here are the seven reasons why I joined Edison Partners:
1. Operational Focus
In my prior career, I worked at Hamilton Lane, one of the largest private equity investors in the world. While there, I was often privy to fundraising meetings, in which Hamilton Lane had to determine, ‘what makes this fund different from the rest?’ The truth is, many managers are willing to write checks, but less are willing to invest in world-class talent in order to make impactful operational changes within their portfolio companies. Overall, my biggest takeaway from the four years I spent at Hamilton Lane is: fund managers must invest in operations to be successful long-term.
When I first read the description for my current role, every other word was operations (okay, that’s a bit exaggerated, but you get my point!). My reaction was, "Woah, there must be something special here!" A few hours of digging later, and I was submitting my resume to Edison. The rest is history.
2. Diverse Team
If you were to just glance at Edison’s website, the truth is, you’d see something fairly familiar — a group of mostly middle-aged white people with a couple of exceptions. However, upon digging deeper, you’ll find an exceptional group of people with incredibly diverse backgrounds, skill-sets, upbringings, and even political views.
You’ll find people on the team who never pictured themselves at a startup (until they joined one and loved it). You’ll find others, like myself, who are first-generation in their family to attend college. You’ll find people who immigrated to the US at a young age and fought tooth-and-nail for their own success. Collectively, you’ll find a group of people with different ways of viewing the world who aren’t afraid to question assumptions and challenge the status quo.
3. History of Success
Edison Partners is a 34-year old firm with a track record of solid success. This factor in my decision to join may seem obvious, but it’s really not. I can’t tell you how many of my MBA colleagues were considering careers with early venture capital and private equity funds (aka "first-time funds"), who sold themselves to eager MBAs as a way to "accelerate their careers." While sometimes joining a young firm results in rapid career growth (Eurie Kim at Forerunner is a great example), there are many more cases of unsuccessful funds than most care to admit or consider. In truth, the average VC fund returns less than 12% IRR annually.
With Edison’s long history of success, there is a wealth of institutional knowledge at the firm. Need to transition to a different CEO? Moving operations from Europe to the US? Want to roll up a series of competitors to consolidate the industry? Edison’s response: “Been there, done that.”
Bottom line — I love working alongside former CEOs, GTM strategists, and sales gurus. While this reinforces my first two points of operational focus and diverse perspectives, there’s just something special about a group of people who have played together long enough to figure out how to win together.
4. Growing Platform
At our core, Edison Partners is centered around growth equity — investing in companies that have found product-market fit to accelerate growth and adoption. However, starting in Fund VIII, we made select investments in earlier-stage companies, with the hope of them maturing into growth-stage opportunities. Ultimately, this strategy paid off: early-stage investments (only 7% of the initial capital committed) are expected to return the entire fund.
So how did we do it? We relied on time-tested thematic investing combined with inside expertise through our networks.
The truth is, there’s so much talent, expertise, and institutional knowledge packed behind our four walls that it’s natural for us to think about how to apply ourselves to adjacent strategies and industries. As we move forward, we’ll continue experimenting and challenge ourselves to unlock more value for the companies we invest in and the investors who trust us.
5. Unapologetically Realistic
During the two years I spent in San Francisco, every venture capital firm I met had one thing in common: they hunted Unicorns.
At Edison, we invested in our fair share of now-Unicorn-status companies, but we don’t necessarily hunt them. Not every company we invest in will become a Unicorn, and we’re 100% fine with that. If we can help a company grow 3–5x larger and return capital to our investors with a holistic approach to risk versus reward, we’ll do so all day every day. In fact, it’s rare that our expected return relies on a Unicorn outcome (but hey, we don’t complain when it happens!).
When over 51% of all capital invested into venture-backed companies over the last decade lost money, we have a pretty good reason to stay grounded.
6. Constant Improvement
During the interview process, much of the conversation focused not just on my background, but how I could weigh in on potential changes at the firm. I was greeted with questions like, “Kristen, how should we approach gathering this type of data?” Out of all the firms I interviewed with, Edison was the only one which focused on firm improvement. This was another ‘aha!’ moment for me, revealing more about the culture than any description ever could.
Upon arriving at Edison, I went to work identifying small inefficiencies. Whether it was better collaboration tools, training infrastructure, faster ways to pull data, or deeper market analysis, each change I proposed was usually greeted with, “Go for it!”
And it’s not just me — Edison is comprised of passionate self-starters chock-full of ideas. Each person I meet seems to have at least 4–5 pet projects they’re pursuing for the betterment of the firm. Despite its long history, Edison is one of most forward-thinking firms I have come across, with a keen ability to embrace change.
7. "Feels like Home"
What do you get when you take a group of people with deep operational expertise and mix in a spoonful of passion, a pint of diverse backgrounds, and a dash of obsessive improvement? You get what I call home.
While many think that important career decisions should be purely ‘non-emotional’ (as though everything can be decided with a list of pros and cons), I couldn’t disagree more. I believe that our hearts and minds are one and the same, and the right decision should feel like the right decision.
Upon hanging up after an interview with Edison a few months ago, my husband remarked, “You always get off the phone smiling. What’s the name of this firm?”