Five years from intern to partner: 137 Ventures taps Nick Procaccini

Talk about growth equity: 137 Ventures in 2014 hired Nick Procaccini as a summer intern and just five years later named him an investment partner.

“From associate to principal to partner, exactly as I drew it up.” Procaccini jokes.

But no joke here: The firm, which itself is just eight years old, tapped the Delaware-born Procaccini to join Justin Fishner-Wolfson, who is managing partner and a founder, along with S. Alexander Jacobson, Andrew Laszlo and Elizabeth Weil on the investment team.

Such a rapid rise in VC is rare, Fishner-Wolfson told VCJ.

But Procaccini, 30, had “quickly proved his ability to spot trends, diligence investment opportunities, and connect with entrepreneurs,” Fishner-Wolfson said.

“He had an incredible work ethic, command of the details and had a breadth of knowledge about our portfolio,” he added.

Procaccini a few years earlier had graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a bachelor’s in business administration. And he’d been an analyst for three years at UNC Management Co, which manages the school’s endowment.

He’d found out about the internship from friends at UNC, and he told VCJ that he’d been excited about moving west and jumping into the venture world.

The growth-stage investor 137 Ventures had just raised its second fund, and Procaccini recalls being thrown into the fire on day one.

Fishner-Wolfson recalled that Procaccini filled whatever role the firm asked of him, including due diligence. Among his accomplishments, Procaccini built a customer-relationship-management database to keep track of the firm’s LPs and help it scale.

Since he joined the firm he’s led the diligence process for most of 137 Ventures’ investments, including such portfolio companies as Flexport, Gusto, Didi and Curology.

He also led the firm’s recent investments in e-commerce company Wish and a yet-to-be disclosed company in the consumer-health space.

137 Ventures, which closed on $210 million for its fourth fund last year, declined to discuss fundraising.

In truth, the path to becoming a GP varies at each firm. Sometimes, after an associate is with a firm for a few years, he or she might get poached by another firm, perhaps with the promise of a fast partner-track trajectory.

“There’s a point of pride for a lot of firms to develop their investment talent internally, it’s in line with the venture startup culture, but it’s unusual to see from associate to partner,” said Neal Graziano, director of investments at W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The firm is not an LP in 137 Ventures.

Often, a young staffer jumps to a portfolio company to gain operating experience. Another common route: attending business school as an entry point to VC. In recent years, many individuals have started investing on their own as angels after their tech companies exit.

For Procaccini, he had been accepted to UC Berkeley‘s business school on a fellowship, and passed it up. “He turned down business school and got the VC job he would have gotten a few years after graduating,” Fishner-Wolfson said.

A San Francisco Bay Area recruiter, who declined to be identified because this person works with investment managers, noted that the path to general partner at each firm depends on several factors, including its stage and investing style.

“I’ve seen anecdotally, on a few occasions, firms that promote within,” the recruiter said. “But it’s unusual for a person to go from zero to 60 and become partner.”

Neil Sequeira, co-founder and managing director of the venture firm Defy, and a managing director at General Catalyst Partners for 11 years prior to that, said the path to partner in the VC community has changed in recent years.

Scaling the ranks of a firm and getting promoted within is less common than it was 20 or 30 years ago, Sequeira said. University degrees and MBAs matter, but not having one is no longer a barrier to entry to VC, he said.