Part II: Jane Martin | Investing in Innovation

by Jul 12, 2018

In another two-part blog post, we are highlighting the work and wisdom of venture capitalist Jane Martin. In her interview with our Xtern, Anna Carpenter, Jane discusses her career in venture capital and her love for investing in innovation.

“After leaving US Venture Partners, my husband and I were looking for a little college town to retire to. We were looking up and down the West Coast at college towns, but they just felt like ‘yuppieville.’ Ashland and Medford in Oregon, Seattle, Santa Barbara—they just didn’t feel comfortable. We had 3 kids at the time, and my husband suggested that we consider Bloomington, where we both lived during our undergraduate years at Indiana University. I never thought we’d come back to the Midwest. I hadn’t even considered it before that.

We made an exploratory trip to Bloomington, and it just made sense for us. It felt like home. I’m now finding that a lot of smart tech folks are interested in right-sized towns with arts/culture lifestyles because San Francisco, Boston, and even Austin are becoming unlivable due to cost and congestion. In Bloomington, I can get to the opera in 15 minutes, instead of the 90 minutes it takes in San Francisco.

Like us, a lot of people become ‘Bloomerangs’ when their kids are young; they want to be closer to family, and they want to have a better balance between work and personal life. Bloomington offers that opportunity. It has all the advantages of a big city without the handicaps like traffic and cost. I like swimming in a pond this size—the initiatives here are sized to be able to accomplish them.
“In terms of investing in Bloomington innovation, it has been different, but it has also been a welcome change. Certainly on the coasts there are more investment opportunities, but the competition for good deals is intense. It’s hard to get into those good deals unless you originate them, which is very time-consuming and costly. Here, there are naturally fewer deals, but they’re just as promising, and their valuations are more reasonable. One could argue that it’s harder to make money in a more competitive environment because the competition drives the valuations way up. Regardless of location, deals find the money.

Whatever profession a person is pursuing, it’s important to develop relationships with a wide range of people. I think highly successful people know innately that they have an incomplete frame of reference, but they know that there is a bigger world out there. They’re always trying to look around corners to see what opportunity might be there. Where most people make a big mistake is coming out of school at 22 or 25 and failing to continue to pursue new relationships, both from a professional and personal standpoint. Devoting oneself to personal growth through new experiences and new relationships is the key to success.
“You can’t see around corners when you’re 22 or 25, but beginning to develop new relationships and meeting with people even when you don’t want to will end up benefiting you in the long run. How many times have you met with someone and you think it’s going to be a waste of time, but all of the sudden a new world opens up, and you think, ‘Wow, what an interesting person!’ Now you grow your network in a whole new vein that you couldn’t have predicted.

When I graduated from college and went on to graduate school at the University of Chicago to get my CFA, which was a 7-year program, we used to make 5-year plans. I came out of college with a 5-year plan, but even in those first couple of years I kept revising my plan. Had I stayed on that original 5-year plan, I would’ve been working at a Fortune 100 company and retiring with a nice pension and died of boredom. I would’ve missed so much because I didn’t know where life was going to take me.

“When I invested in those California partnerships as a limited partner, I had no idea that it was going to take me to California. In reality, you never know just where life will take you! I’ve always been a risk-taker and a pioneer. Having that adventurous kind of spirit would be my best advice—become the person that wants to live a life of innovation and new adventures. Take calculated risks, and enjoy yourself along the way. And, more importantly, don’t forget to pass it on.”

Part 2 of 2  |  Read Part 1 here