I was in an Uber on my way to class when I got the email – inviting me to a spring internship with S2G Ventures, the leading multi-stage investment firm in the food and agriculture industry. A few days ago, I had turned down another offer with a family office in the Chicago area and had clearly taken a gamble: either I would get the S2G internship that I really wanted, or I would not intern at all, thus foregoing the option to enroll in the venture capital lab course at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I can happily say that I made the right decision. Below is a summary of my internship experience at S2G Ventures and the framework I used to make the decision. Hint: culture matters.
– The people that you surround yourself with make a tremendous difference in your experience so prioritize culture wherever you go.
– The venture landscape in food is one of the most dynamic investing opportunities available with opportunities not just in the brand space, but across the agriculture space.
– Have a framework to make decisions on how you spend your time because your time really is your most valuable asset.
A little about my background: I am currently an MBA candidate at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and prior to my time in Chicago, I lived in Arkansas and Philadelphia where I worked for General Mills in a rotation program across sales, category management and trade planning. I’m planning to move to New York in a few short weeks to start on the M&A team at J.P. Morgan where I interned last summer.
My interest in the food space began with a personal story where my mother would prick her finger to test her blood sugar as the doctor had prescribed. Seeing this piqued my own curiosity as to how food plays into health at a young age. After exploring the pre-med academic route in undergraduate, I decided to completely pivot and go into a sales rotation program with General Mills where I hoped to gain some broad business skills. During my analyst year, the company acquired a Berkeley, California based company called Annie’s, which introduced me to the idea of M&A. After a few years of industry experience, I made the jump to business school to move into M&A and landed with the team at J.P. Morgan in New York. With everything set post-business school, I had to figure out how to spend my second year at Booth.
At Chicago Booth we have intensive lab courses, and one popular offering is the Private Equity & Venture Capital course where host firms in Chicago take on interns for the quarter to expose them to the two areas. After submitting my resume, I had interviews with a number of firms in Chicago, but candidly none felt like the right fit. I was looking for something I couldn’t articulate at the time, and using a framework that didn’t immediately hit me until now. Below is the framework that I encourage you to use when considering internship options:
– Assess the people and the culture: Trust your gut on this one. If you feel a connection, follow it. If not, move on because you have to deal with the culture every day.
– Gauge your interest in your interview prep: If you are not excited preparing for the interview (which is just a taste of working 20+ hours a week on the same topics) then reassess.
– Have a clear goal: For me, I knew that I wanted to complement my operating experience at General Mills with a food focused venture perspective.
Codifying my own framework helped me understand the trade-offs I was willing to make both for my internship, and my future goals. For me, S2G Ventures met all of my criteria and a little more. To that point, I want to highlight some of my favorite parts of my time with S2G for those considering applying:
– Culture: This was the reason I chose S2G Ventures. In my prep, I noticed that they had clearly codified their own culture and values system and presented it on their website. Big points.
– Opportunity: The food venture space presents mounds of opportunity for investors. For potential interns, the chance to meet leaders in the food venture space should be a big consideration.
– Experience: Over the course of my time at S2G, I had the chance to participate in due diligence calls, research new companies and even present a new investment opportunity to the team.
My last point is that S2G showed me that making an impact and generating returns can indeed be married. The key is to have a clear understanding of the value that the team can bring, and seeking out opportunities for continuous improvement along the way. The sense of empowerment was a key differentiator at S2G, especially when I was handed my final project and essentially told to create something original. That sense of empowerment is something that I plan to pursue moving forward and I’m thankful for the opportunity I had with S2G Ventures.
– Leon Evans, ’19 MBA Spring Intern