The InSITE DC breakfast series is designed to connect powerful DC entrepreneurs with current InSITE fellows eager to dive into the startup world. A few weeks back, InSITE DC provided an opportunity to interact with Grant Allen, the Senior VP of ABB Technology Ventures. This week, I had the opportunity to converse with Sara Zulkosky of CNF Investments VC firm.
Sara Zulkosky is a former graduate of Georgetown McDonough School of Business, class of 2014. Prior to her MBA degree, Sara worked at an Arlington,DC based startup, SkyBuilt Power. Sara started her journey with an engineering focus and quickly managed to become the Director of Engineering, and subsequently became the Director of Product Management. While working there, she also managed to get her masters degree in Engineering Management. Thereafter, she joined the evening MBA program at Georgetown while still continuing to work for SkyBuilt. During her term at Georgetown, Sara played a key role in the StartupHoyas initiative along with a leadership role in InSITE DC fellowship program. She was also part of the winning team of the 2013 VCIC International competition.
Sara quickly got involved with the VC career option during her MBA program. After going through several informational interviews with VCs in her third year of the MBA program, she started working at CNF Investments, a Bethesda based VC firm. Working part time there, Sara demonstrated her value to the VC firm, and eventually joined CNF Investments as a full-time employee in 2014.
With an impressive background, it was a great opportunity to chat with Sara regarding her current experiences at a VC firm. The InSITE students attending the breakfast series raised some very useful questions. As a part of a VC firm, Sara discussed the challenges surrounding the sourcing and valuations of startups. One of the main challenges of a startup is to valuate a company that has no stable cash flows. Sara mentioned that appraising a startup is a combination of art and science. There is no one way to figure out the potential success of an emerging company. One key attribute that helps in valuations is the founding team. VCs take into consideration the past background of the team members, their knowledge and experience in a certain space, as well as their passion, dedication and commitment to the startup. Of course the idea and the product have to be disruptive as well; however, the team can make or break a startup. Thus a lot of VCs also use their gut feeling and intuition based on their interaction with the startup to decide on investing in that particular team.
Sara encourages students to consider a career in the Venture capital world. She advises current Georgetown MBA students interested in breaking into the VC space to start participating in startup organizations such as Startuphoyas, Georgetown entrepreneurship club, and the VCIC competition. Finally, she iterates that students should participate in informational interviews with alumni and VC representatives to better acquaint themselves to the field.
Sara currently continues to work at CNF Investments and is responsible for sourcing and evaluating potential disruptive startups, as well as managing CNF’s direct and fund investments. She has offered her help to any student interested in building the career in the VC world. Thank you InSITE DC for providing a wonderful discussion with one of MSB’s successful alumna.
Suchit Ligade is a first-year MBA student at Georgetown McDonough and an InSITE Fellow. He has experience in engineering and software development.