Huw Sparkes has been part of the Midven team since joining as a graduate in 2019. He was promoted to Senior Analyst in October. Read on to learn more about how Huw works to support investments and portfolio companies at Midven.
Congratulations on your recent promotion. Many things have changed in 2020, can you walk us through the changes through your eyes?
At the start of lockdown, I was quite happy about the lack of commuting as I could get up shortly before “reporting at the office” at 9am. At that time, no one could have really predicted that it would be a long term arrangement. So, it was a welcome change of pace.
Now, as we continue to work from home, I prefer to wake up earlier to have a cup of coffee and really get into the right mindset to start my day. As lockdown went on we all realised it was important to have separate places for work and rest. This was a learning curve for many of us who were used to having that separation by commuting to and from offices.
The management team at Midven is incredibly understanding and ensured that we have a good work-life balance while working from home. Since we aren’t seeing each other every day we have a “happy hour” call every week to catch up on our non-work life. It’s not quite the same but certainly helps us feel less isolated when working from home.
You have recently been promoted to Senior Analyst. Let’s talk about your position and how this fits in with day-to-day business at Midven.
Well, each of us gets teamed up with a senior member of staff to go through investment enquiries. This is usually the first stage of evaluation to see if they are appropriate for the fund. I will have to ensure that they have sent their pitch deck or business plan and if these businesses look like an attractive investment. We then organise a meeting. These days, it will be in the form of a phone call or Zoom meeting rather than in person.
As we move along the process these companies need to send us more information for us to arrive at a decision. It is up to the analysts to get the bits of information in preparation for director meetings.
We also work with potential portfolio companies to build their investment paper and take it to the investment committee for their decision. These documents are very in depth and run through all the reasons we think the fund should invest. After that, we arrange due diligence on them before the investment completes
Working in teams like this means that even the junior team members get experience in the entire lifespan of a deal, from the first enquiry to us exiting. This hands-on approach is pretty rare in venture capital funds but it means we all have a good understanding of the portfolio and can give them all the support they need
This sounds like there is quite a lot of collaboration going on. What does this look like in the present scenario?
One of the most challenging things is that you can’t just peek over your desk and speak to somebody whenever you like, which can make communication harder. However, not commuting to meetings has helped us all have more time in the day to work on things.
Meetings now are more structured and specific and we prepare the questions beforehand so that everyone knows what they’re getting into. This also means that we’re more focussed and there’s always an opportunity to learn something new.
Speaking about the change of pace, what do you think is the most challenging part of what you do now? How do you manage this challenge?
Well the lack of networking events is definitely strange. As someone who is still in the early stage of their career, I want to make the meaningful connections that I would typically get a chance to during these events. I used to go to at least one networking event a week.
Since the lockdown, these opportunities have dropped to zero. Virtual networking events exist but they do not feel the same at all in terms of making that connection.
I have found myself using LinkedIn more in order to bridge this gap.
What do you enjoy most about being an Analyst at Midven?
No two days at Midven are the same. As we deal with portfolio companies from so many backgrounds, you find that you learn something new everyday. A lot of businesses starting out generally have similar challenges, but the way in which you tackle these challenges will be different based on their circumstances so every day brings new problems to be solved.
I’m always reminded that everyone has an interesting story to tell. Whether it is a portfolio company or angel investor, you get a chance to learn from them.
Many people get into venture capital at a later stage of their career and not all companies recruit analysts out of university. Midven’s grad scheme is unique and a great opportunity for early careers.