Cami Samuels on How to Launch a Career as a Venture Capitalist
On March 5th, Cami Samuels joined the Women Entrepreneurs at Yale for a conversation about her career path to becoming a biotech venture capitalist. Cami is a partner at Venrock, where focuses on healthcare with an emphasis on biotech, medical devices, and consumer health. She currently serves on the board of Iris, Ocelot, Unity (UBX), and XCaliber, and is an advisor to Mission Bay Capital. She has had the honor of working with many successful companies -- most recently, one of her portfolio companies, Corvidia, sold to Novo Nordisk for $2.1 B.
ON UNCERTAINTY AND SETBACKS
Cami shared honest memories about how her career wasn’t always linear -- and she had her share of setbacks. For instance, she wavered over her choice of major, something most college students can relate to. She ultimately majored in biology at Duke, but she advises students to not be too set on one path. Post-graduation, when Cami applied for jobs, despite being “wined and dined” in final rounds, she didn’t get her first or second choice jobs! Still, she took a job at a leading management consulting firm, which ended up being the perfect fit because she worked on many projects in the healthcare industry, setting her on the path towards her future career in biotech.
ON BEING ONE OF A FEW
Cami then went on to Harvard Business School, where she earned the prestigious Baker Scholarship. But business school had its challenges. At that time, HBS had only 24% women. Cami recalled a very male-driven atmosphere that sometimes left women out of critical socializing (networking) activities. She describes a “fearlessness” that allowed her to thrive even in a difficult environment. It was strong preparation for her role as a VC. When Cami started, on
ly 4% of venture capitalists were women. Today, it’s more-than-tripled, but that still means that only 14% of venture capitalists are women. Cami was the first female partner at her firm, Venrock. Today she feels a strong sense of responsibility to lift up other women and minorities in the VC world and has started an informal mentoring group that she irreverently calls “Biochicks.” Her advice to other women who are among the first in their industry is to “feel confident that you deserve a seat at the table.”
ON BREAKING INTO VC
For students interested in working in the world of venture capital, Cami offered some practical advice. She advised getting some operating experience at a start-up -- and at least one of either a graduate degree or “finishing school” in management consulting, before launching a career as a venture capitalist. “You also need intellect, vision, and integrity,” she says.
She counsels following what truly interests you, because without passion “even if you’re an A+, you will be a B performer.” Cami didn’t expect to become a venture capitalist, but by not adhering to the path she set out for herself, she carved a new one and opened up the path for more women to follow.
By Claire Kalikman.