A former San Diego State University graduate has raised $ 1.6 million – largely through her Twitter account – to invest in startups founded by a variety of people rarely seen in the entrepreneurial world.
22-year-old computer science graduate Paige Finn Doherty has raised the money from angel investors who follow her investment advice on social media. She founded Behind Genius Ventures, what she calls a “Gen Z fund,” with her partner Josh Schlisserman and has invested in four startups.
But how does a software student end up being knowledgeable enough to give investment advice?
Unlike many students who never work real jobs until graduation, Doherty started working for aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman at just 17, first as an intern, then as a full-time employee. She has worked in a variety of roles ranging from project management and technical writing to training groups of interns.
But after feeling a growing apathy towards the details of mechanical engineering, she decided to move from the highly technical to the entrepreneurial. She joined SDSU’s venture capital investment competition with a team of her peers.
Before the big night on stage, his advisor sent an email on what to wear: a blue shirt, khaki pants and a Patagonia vest. “Sorry Paige,” he wrote. “I haven’t found much about what women venture capitalists wear.”
“It sounds like a small thing, but it was representative of a disparity in the industry,” Doherty said. “I’ve learned that only 11 percent of VC decision-makers are women, and I think that’s an equal disparity with funded companies.”
This experience prompted Doherty to study venture capital investing. Her team won the competition and she was recruited by one of San Diego’s largest tech venture capital funds, TVC Capital, to work as an intern.
“Paige was eager to learn all aspects of the institutional investor,” said Mykel Sprinkles, partner at TVC Capital. “She had excellent personal and personal skills to combine with her technical background. Paige established several relationships with potential investment firms and helped deepen some of our data analysis throughout our due diligence processes.
Doherty said she has learned that her technical background – particularly in software engineering – is invaluable for investment firms that focus on tech startups.
“Talking to other venture capital funds, for the most part traditional investors come from investment banking and then moved on to growth stocks and venture capital,” Doherty said. “So they are career venture capitalists. Some of the founders I spoke to were excited that I could go deeper into the weeds on their product.
Throughout this experience, Doherty built a follow on twitter. She asked her audience what they wanted to know about certain topics related to investing. Then, she interviewed experts and set up educational content. It now has more than 14,000 subscribers.
It was from this group of people that Doherty connected with angel investors who wrote checks for his first fund through Behind Genius Ventures. While Doherty cannot speak publicly about the open rounds of fundraising, a public document filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed that its first closed round was $ 1.6 million.
Doherty and his 18-year-old brother, Owen Doherty, are publishing a 40-page adult educational picture book on venture capital investing themselves. It’s called Seed to Harvest. Its text is written by Paige, while the anime-style illustrations are done by Owen, a student at Rancho Bernardo High School.
The duo chose to illustrate the book with various characters.
“While the business doesn’t look like that right now, it’s what I would like it to look like in the future,” Doherty said.
Doherty said Behind Genius Ventures defines under-represented founders as women, people of color, immigrants, LGTBQ + and founders in secondary markets such as non-coastal cities.
“These founders have been undervalued and underinvested in the past, even though they have proven to be more capital efficient,” Doherty said. “It’s just a good deal.”
The fund has invested in four startups in wellness technology and software development tools, among others. Doherty declined to disclose the names of the company.
Behind Genius Ventures plans to continue investing in early stage software product companies.