Lauren Morera ’15, Visionary Capital

Completing the Princeternship at Visionary was definitely a unique experience that I won’t soon forget.  The organization itself was run very differently than I expected, and the actual work the company did was less financial than I expected it to be. I spent two days working in New York with the Visionary team.  Visionary is like the e-harmony of business and is an outgrowth of the older VisCap model founded by the same Princeton alumni as Visionary, Alex Salzman ‘07.  The time during the Princeternship was very exciting for Visionary because the organization was sponsoring the Wall Street Green Summit at the time.  This allowed me to see all the behind the scenes work that goes into a conference and all the logistical issues that can arise when more than one group of people is attempting to run the same conference.  My first day was mostly spent helping Visionary with some administrative work on Salesforce by organizing the contacts that Visionary would be inviting to the closing reception of the Summit the following day.  Alex also let us listen in to some calls which was interesting and this allowed me to get a better feel for what the business was.  At the end of the first day we went over to see the venue for the conference where we would be meeting the next day.

Lauren, Alex Salzman, and fellow Princetern Kyle

On Tuesday Kyle, the other student on the Princeternship, and I met at the conference venue where we spent the day talking to various professionals in ‘Green’ fields.  We met people who worked for green investment banks and green manufacturing companies and I thought that these interactions were extremely valuable because they allowed me to get exposure to a unique and innovative field of New York professionals.  At the end of the second day we went to the reception hosted by Visionary where we met some other professionals, but mostly talked to Princeton alumni who also worked at Visionary and gave us their perceptions of the field.

I would really like to thank Alex for giving me the opportunity to work with the company and learn both about myself and Visionary through this process.

 

Kyle Douglas ’15, Visionary Capital

Alex Salzman ’07 and I first met before a speech he gave at Career Services a couple of weeks before my Princeternship. As it turns out, he lived in the room next door to mine when he was a freshman; looking back, something as little as this helps engrain in my mind that entrepreneurship and our career paths start right here, right now.

Alex’s newest project is Visionary, an offshoot of a company he co-founded called Visionary Capital, an investment firm for the media and technology sectors. There wasn’t much structure to the Princeternship, but that reflects the way Alex works—he is spontaneous, and in this way he is successful. What Visionary does is establish a network of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other investors or figures seeking relationships, especially, but not exclusively, in broad “green” or social entrepreneurship sectors. It’s what Alex calls “eHarmony for business.” Before the Princeternship, I tried my best to help collect contact information for small angel and venture capital groups or campus entrepreneurship groups through the region and e-mail some over to Alex. Then on the first day, Lauren and I entered and updated contact names and organizations in Visionary’s online network, such that an employee (another alum) could call invitees of Alex’s networking cocktail event the next day, had they not already been called. We also listened in to Alex’s conversations with figures in industry to learn about how he sets up meetings and establishes connections. Later on the first night we were supposed to attend a networking event to help promote Visionary, but there was a business conflict between Visionary and the CEO of the company sponsoring the event. That fell through; while it was disappointing, Alex looked at it as a lesson learned about decisions, relationships, success, and failure in general. On Tuesday, we listened in on interviews Alex held for entrepreneurial speakers at the Wall Street Green Summit (WSGS), so we were able to learn about their services and interests throughout the morning and early afternoon. During and after lunch, we spoke to entrepreneurs and speakers on break and introduced them to Visionary, its goals, and its networking event later that night. I wasn’t exactly prepared to be an advocate for the company and introduce myself and Visionary to attendees of the WSGS, and I didn’t know what exactly I was going to be doing beforehand, but to me it was interesting and an opportunity to be assertive. Finally, in the evening we worked at check-in for Alex’s cocktail networking event down the street from where the WSGS was held. A couple of the businessmen at the event stopped to talk to me about what they do, which was really cool..

What I learned the most from this Princeternship experience was neither about entrepreneurship nor venture capital, but about business in general. I was able to see both sides of Alex’s pursuits: his successes and his failures. On one hand, the conflict that he had with the CEO of the company hosting the WSGS on Monday night resulted in a lengthy but respectful discussion outside the event, so I could see firsthand that things rarely go as planned and interests so often conflict. I also saw firsthand how difficult it is to “make a name for yourself” in entrepreneurship and the business world because spreading the word about Visionary was not easy; sometimes the best way to stand out is to physically introduce yourself and make a sort of pitch. On the other hand, Alex’s networking event was very successful and the attendance was far higher than he had expected. At dinner after the event and throughout both days, Alex told us about his struggles and his successes. We also had the chance to learn about the unique experiences of other Princeton graduates working for him. To me, learning about how Alex and his employees acted when things didn’t go as planned and how they made decisions was the most valuable function of the Princeternship. Although I am still not totally sure about my future plans and whether they will include entrepreneurship, this experience solidified that whatever path I take will include many successes and many failures; we simply have to learn from both.

Fellow Princetern Lauren, Alex Salzman, and Kyle

I would certainly recommend this Princeternship to others in the sense that through it, you will learn about successes and failures in the real world. This specific program will likely not be the same in the future because so much of it was on the spot, but if you are spontaneous and at all interested in venture capital, this is an awesome way to spend two days in New York. I even had the chance to walk through the city for a little over an hour and meet up with friends. As someone who hasn’t spent much time in the city, this was also pretty exciting.

For any Princeternship, I would emphasize that communication with your alum is most valuable. From learning about their stories, maybe you will learn about yourself. At the very least, I saw that some decisions don’t work, but they must be made and their effects serve to teach.

 

Julian Dean ’13, Visionary Capital

On Tuesday, March 20, during Spring Break, I participated in a Princeternship at Visionary in New York City, hosted by Alex Salzman ’07. Visionary is a recently founded company that works to match businesspeople including investors and entrepreneurs, particularly those focusing on green tech, social entrepreneurship, and sustainability.

I came on the second day of the Wall Street Green Summit, a conference for people interested in sustainable and “green” finance. Visionary was hosting a reception after the event. My contribution was to encourage as many people as possible to attend.

I began in the morning at the headquarters in Brooklyn where a team of employees, mostly Princeton alumni, were calling invitees to follow up and encourage attendance. I identified contacts and prepared materials for the conference.

Julian, Alex Salzman, and fellow Princetern Kyle

Around lunchtime I moved to the conference in Manhattan, where I described the reception to conference attendees and provided them with materials and surveys about the event. After the conference I attended the reception and further described Visionary to attendees and encouraged them to investigate participation.

It was interesting and energizing to experience the fast pace of a new startup. I quickly learned the fundamentals of the business so that I could describe Visionary, and the post-conference reception, to conference attendees.