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Alumni Connection: When Stakes Are High, People Matter Most

Alumni Connection: When Stakes Are High, People Matter Most

In the world of venture capital, Paul La Londe SHB'02 says that you have to be prepared to invest in people first, and then their ideas. It is a lesson he learned while working for fellow alumnus Ron Conway SHB'66.

In the big-business world of venture capital, Paul La Londe SHB'02 says that you have to be prepared to invest in people first, and then their ideas. It is a lesson he has learned from the best: fellow alumnus Ron Conway SHB'66, founder of angel investment firm SV Angel. Paul is now an Associate at Ron's firm and focuses on deal evaluation, portfolio management and raising capital. In his spare time, he mentors entrepreneurial college students at Stanford University and his alma mater, Santa Clara University. He brings to the table experience advising early-stage technology companies from his time at a boutique investment bank, as well as working with ultra high net worth individuals across the technology and venture capital landscape from his tenure at Goldman Sachs' Investment Management Division. The young man who grew up two blocks from campus went on to attend Santa Clara University, studying finance and playing lacrosse.

What was your experience like at Stuart Hall?
Stuart Hall was a very positive and enriching experience for me and I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend the school. The strong community and support system is what makes Stuart Hall truly unique. Teachers, such as Mrs. Gigounas, Mr. Luna, Mr. McSpadden, Mr. Raj and Mr. Jaggers, (among many others!) truly cared about the development and well being of the students. Most importantly, the school teaches strong morals and ethics that build integrity, honesty and compassion.

How would you describe what you do to current Convent & Stuart Hall students?
I'm currently an Associate at SV Angel, a venture capital firm based in San Francisco. VC firms provide capital to companies to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into realities. SV Angel partners with companies at the earliest stages in their life cycles (often times pre revenue and pre proof of concept) to help entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses. For example, we invested in Airbnb in 2010 before it became a household name. Over the last five years, we continued to invest in and support Airbnb and it is now one of the most valuable private companies in the world. On a personal level, my everyday responsibilities include evaluating investment opportunities, managing our portfolio and raising capital for the firm.

How did you connect with angel investor and fellow alumnus Ron Conway and what do you enjoy most about working with him?
I connected with Ron Conway through a mutual colleague who I played lacrosse with in college. It's been an honor working with Ron and I've learned a great deal from him. Considered by many to be the "godfather" of angel investing in Silicon Valley, he's been working with entrepreneurs and founders for over 20 years and has invested in many successful technology companies including Google, Facebook and Twitter. What makes Ron successful is his ability to empathize with entrepreneurs and consider the founder's best interests. Those unique skills of empathy and integrity are promoted at the Schools of the Sacred Heart and it's great to see those attributes play such a big role in Ron's success and consequently the success of the community.

Based on SV Angel's philosophy that people matter more than ideas, what personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful as an entrepreneur?
When we review new opportunities to invest in, we pay particularly close attention to the founders. More specifically, we analyze the entrepreneur's background but more importantly his or her emotional intelligence and ability to lead. Some of the leadership characteristics we look for include decisiveness, thoughtfulness and humbleness.

What advice would you give students who desire a similar career to yours?
Do not be afraid to take risks and try to push yourself outside of your comfort zone once every day. Be open to new ideas and try to find creative solutions to complex problems. Work hard, never give up and be relentless when you find something you really want to do. Most importantly, be an ethical, thoughtful person.

Briefly describe how you are involved with student entrepreneurs at Stanford and Santa Clara.
I mentor student entrepreneurs at Stanford through Cardinal Ventures, the student-run venture capital firm and teach founders how to turn ideas into businesses and how to pitch investors.

At Santa Clara University I work with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and participate on a panel that judges student start-up pitches. I also mentor the student entrepreneurs beyond demo day regarding growth strategies and product market fit.

How is Stuart Hall a part of your life today?
Stuart Hall is a major part of my life today. The compassionate nature and critical thinking skills I learned play a major role in how I solve everyday challenges. I'm also an active participant in the alumni basketball game and Miller's Mile but I hope to become more involved in alumni relations in the future.