Kirsten Green is the venture capitalist behind Jet.com, Glossier, Warby Parker, Outdoor Voices, Birchbox, Away, and many more well-known companies. As the head of Forerunner Ventures, a venture capital firm, her job is to spot ambitious entrepreneurs who are seeking to be a part of the next generation of commerce.
Numbers and practicality always came easy to Green, but her passion for people and relationships was the driving force behind her decision to start Forerunner. After being laid off during the banking industry consolidation of the early 2000s, Kirsten was at a loss of how to move forward.
“On a practical level, I said, ‘Geez, no matter how good of a job I'm doing, my opportunity here changed. It got taken away from me for one reason or another, I'm not going to put myself in that situation again,’ and I think that really unearthed the entrepreneurial side of me, which was taking things into my own hands,” Green told ABC News’ Chief Business, Technology and Economics correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis on an episode of the “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.
Green began her career immediately after graduating from college. She accepted an auditor position at Deloitte & Touche, a major accounting firm, while many of her friends opted to take the year off and explore the world.
“In retrospect, I think I should’ve done that because I think there's so much to be had for being open-minded about what your path and your journey looks like and embracing experiences,” Green said.
While many would have jumped at the opportunity to ski snow-covered mountains or sunbathe in the Greek islands, Green was too overwhelmed with the excitement of having a business card to think about much else.
After three years with Deloitte and getting her accounting license, Kirsten decided to try her luck in the world of investing. She ended up at Montgomery Securities, which later merged with Bank of America. The team Kirsten was working on was eventually dismantled, leaving her feeling completely upended. However, it was also during this time that Green was able to take a step back and discover who she was outside of her career.
“It made me step back and reflect on what does a career journey look like, and not to be so caught up in climbing a ladder, but thinking a little bit more open-ended about what each step could lead you to,” Kirsten explains. “I'd been heads-down in a particular job and I needed to poke my head up and explore a little bit.”
Instead of looking for a set and structured plan, Kirsten spent the next five to six years seeking a variety of opportunities and taking things along the way that she felt were fostering her development. She worked on consulting projects, helped different investment firms, made her own investments and took time to enjoy writing, photography and painting classes for her own personal growth, something she had never made time for in her previous roles.
Throughout her years of internal exploration, Kirsten was able to pinpoint exactly what it was she was passionate about, aside from numbers and strategy.
“I loved the opportunity to engage with people and learn from people, and have relationships be a big part of whatever I was doing.”
She realized investing in private companies was a way she could combine her strategic side with her personal side to create a business that allowed her to engage with others and form relationships while also allowing using spreadsheets.
And that’s how Forerunner Ventures began.
Of course, there were people along the way who voiced their doubts, but Kirsten chose to ignore the negatives and focus on the people giving her good advice instead.
“There were plenty of people that told me along the way, ‘you can't start your own venture firm when you haven't been in venture.’ Good thing I didn't listen to them,” she said.
You could say Kirsten has come full circle from raising capital to start a business she was passionate about, to now funding others who also have aspirations of becoming their own boss.
And if you’re wondering what matters most to Kirsten when pitching an idea, it’s to just be yourself.
“Don't try to come in with just a formula. Be informed. Do your homework. Know the things that are important, but also be you. Show up and let me know why you're excited about what you're doing.”
Hear more from Kirsten Green on episode #113 of the “No Limits with Rebecca Jarvis” podcast.