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As Long as There’s a Northern Star

A Slice on Eric Shu, Associate at ffVC

Eric Shu has worked in a lot of different industries to find his passion. From middle school teacher to public affairs, then artillery officer in the Marine Corps, to a consultant at Deloitte… Shu has just about done it all. The biggest takeaway from his windy career path is that he’s now developed a personal mission. Shu fell in love with the startup ecosystem in the Rocky Mountain region (Denver to be exact). He now wants to ensure companies and investors all across the globe are connected with the unique tech ecosystem in Denver. Shu now works as an Associate at ffVC, working closely with founders in the tech industry.

Shu’s first foray into the finance world was at Deloitte in Washington, D.C. His time there made him realize a key factor that exists in venture, “I really enjoyed learning about different industries and ideas. You’re talking to companies that are tackling problems in unique ways, and the freshness of that combined with the tech community is something really special.” Wanting to learn more and “hone his technical and financial analysis”, Shu decided to study finance at Columbia Business School. He used his time at Columbia to not only gain the knowledge needed for the venture world but also to familiarize himself with the ecosystem that exists in New York.

One year into grad school and learning about the New York startup ecosystem, the unexpected happened… COVID-19 hit the nation. Shu and his wife decided to pack up their tiny apartment and move across the country to Colorado. While living there for about a year, Shu learned a lot about the community in the Rocky Mountains and took every opportunity to connect with those in the area. “How I describe the Colorado community to people is that it’s super warm and gregarious. Everyone authentically wants to help you connect to someone that can lend a hand. I found the tightness in the community so appealing to the Colorado ecosystem.”

Due to the shift in remote work, Shu believes it’s made “talent, ideas and people more free-flowing” in nature. Moving and networking weren’t hard for Shu because of the tight-knit community in Colorado. He’s noticed it’s been easier to find out how to get connected with the right people, especially with the rise of local community platforms such as Paired. After a year well spent in Colorado, Shu now lives in New York as an Associate at ffVC.

If you weren’t already familiar, the “ff” in ffVC stands for “founder-friendly.” “ffVC is really focused on building community… We try to be a resource to the industry and community that’s in New York and beyond.” The team at ffVC works very closely with founders to ensure success, which is essential for early-stage founders. From helping them navigate metrics to joining the board, ffVC works hard to eliminate the obstacles founders may run into. “One of the things we’re most proud of is that the companies we invest in and work with are five times more likely to get to series B… From a combination of everyone on our team trying to help out, it gives founders a better chance.” 

As a founder-focused investor, there are traits Shu personally looks for in founders before investing in their company. He compared this relationship to a marriage, because of its long-term nature. For Shu, balance in the founding team and being coachable are two non-negotiable traits. “At these early stages, the balance of skill sets in a founding team is really, really important. If you’re a solo founder, that’s fine too. As long as you have an idea of potential risks and if you have an approach to these risks.” When asked about coachability, Shu explained it’s tough on both parties if founders and investors are not willing to collaborate. If both sides are not aligned and understand how to work with each other, they won’t be able to maintain the long-term “marriage”.

Of course, Shu and the team at ffVC look for more than just traits in a founder before making the decision to invest. I asked Shu what he looks for in a pitch deck, and he shared it’s important for founders to convey their solution and the problem they are solving. “I think that does a lot because it shows me the founder has thought carefully about how to communicate their idea to different people, whether it is customers or investors.” This is important because it highlights the founder’s communication skills as they are both a CEO and salesperson at the early stages.

When asked about what advice Shu would give to anyone starting out in the venture industry, he gave an analogy from a recent experience. Shu ran the Leadville 100, a 100-mile race in Leadville, Colorado, and went on to describe how this can actually be applied to just about anything in life. “This was the first time I’ve ever run any type of long-distance race and it was horrible. 30 miles in, I was like, ‘I’m done, I can’t do 70 more miles.’ But one of the coaches was out there with me and told me, ‘think about it like if you’re hurting right now, just like in a normal day, there are ups and downs. Your days are going to get bad, but at some point, it’s going to get better.’” With that knowledge in mind and at the 30-mile mark in the race, he kept going and thought, “maybe at mile 35, I’ll feel better”… Sure enough, he did. Shu now applies the endurance sport analogy to his career in order to navigate through the tough days.

“There are days that are gonna suck, but then there are days are gonna be great, even within one day you can have your ups and downs. As long as there’s a Northern Star keeping you on track, I think it makes everything that comes up bearable.”

Founder Bio

Eric Shu received his MBA from Columbia Business School. Shu has worked at Teach for America, Deloitte, and dedicated five years as an artillery officer in the Marine Corps. He now works as Associate at ffVC and resides in New York City. With a mission to be a resource, Shu advises founders to reach out if they need guidance. Connect with Shu on Twitter.

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