Breaking into venture capital…with Davina Sirisena

“Don’t even bother with trying to get into venture capital. You need to have an MBA and loads of connections.” 

That was the advice Davina received when expressing her interest in learning more about venture capital (VC).

It’s a common misconception about VC and though at first it was a barrier for Davina, she was determined to find a way in and instead found the Newton Venture Program. Here’s Davina’s story.

Discovering technology

Like most children, working in the world of finance and entrepreneurship when they’re a ‘grown-up’ wasn’t Davina’s plan. Instead, she fancied being a herbalist and as she approached grown-up status, her focus switched to being a social worker specialising in drug addiction. But, it still wasn’t the right fit for Davina and so life took “a less deliberate focus and became more opportunistic.”

Starting out as a financial data analyst at Reuters was Davina’s step into finance, a role secured by her ability to speak fluent German. This coincided with the rise of technology in the early 1990s. Observing a new computer system being built around her, Davina’s fascination with technology began.  

“Tech is my thing. I love technology and finding solutions. I love to be involved in the what, the why, and the how. I love to be involved in the whole journey.”

And what a journey it’s been. From teaching herself to code to leaving the banking industry when technology was deemed too risky an investment, Davina has grown her experience and skillset, pivoting when necessary and seeking out the next best solution for her. In this case, it was the VC Fundamentals program.

Venturing to Newton

“At the start of the program, I wanted to be a venture capitalist. Now I’ve finished, I’m looking at where I fit into the VC ecosystem and for me, that’s helping early to mid-stage startups. That’s where I fit.”

Though Davina thought the course would help her realise her VC dreams, her place within the ecosystem is outside of the actual investing.

“Advice, due diligence and helping startups. That’s what I’m best at. To do those things, I needed to know how to break into VC. And if you want to become a VC, the program gives you everything you need.

“This is learning that will stay with me. In comparison to doing a course and sitting an exam and forgetting it all the next month, this is information you take away and apply and that changes the way you view the industry. The discussions are amazing and hearing others’ thoughts gives you so much more. The whole program was well thought out and structured. It doesn’t feel like a relatively new course.”

Taking the plunge

At the start of the program, Davina had also taken on a new job. 

“There were case studies, then the sessions, working groups and exercises between sessions. You do think ‘there’s my Saturday gone’ because you’ve got to get the work done and reach people and try and work out a time to do the work, but when you start doing it, it’s really fun. You enjoy communicating with everyone and you’re really glad you did it.

“The fact that I enjoyed every single moment of the course, including the exercises and things we were doing in our free time, is testament.” 

Next steps

From having a “magical idea of VC” to now understanding what it really entails, Davina is seeking out a new type of role within VC. She’s also drawing on the support of the community created by the cohort and the Newton Network.

Speaking of the connections she created through the program, Davina said: 

“On this course, everyone has different lives and experiences and are living in different countries, so the conversations that you have and the people you meet are amazing. 

“And now the course has finished, I have time to catch up with fellows I didn’t have a chance to before.”

Make your break into the VC ecosystem and check out the VC Fundamentals program here.

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