Dec 1, 2021
Analyst Spotlight: Lucas Isaza
Investment Analyst, Summer 2018
What is your Palm Drive Capital journey?
My story starts in Colombia where I was born. At five years old my family and I moved to Toledo, Ohio where I grew up and graduated high school. I then went to Stanford to study computer science and economics, and I began experimenting with venture capital. From an early age, I was interested in the combination of software engineering, startups, and venture capital. In the summer between my freshman and sophomore year at Stanford, I began working at a very small venture capital firm. After my sophomore year, I worked at Microsoft as a software engineer and product manager. These two experiences brought me to a couple of early conclusions – I was very interested in building products and I liked cold outreach. I enjoyed reaching out to people within the Stanford network, picking their brains, and asking a bunch of questions.
When I started looking into where I wanted to work between my junior and my senior year, I really focused on looking at opportunities within venture capital and private equity – opportunities focused on analysis. I was at a point where I was interested in finding ways to combine programming with finance, so venture capital was attractive to me because I could look closely at technology companies and interact with the founders and teams behind them. I reached out to different companies within the Stanford network which was how I met the team at Palm Drive.
Palm Drive Capital captured my attention because of two main reasons, the first was that it was a relatively small venture capital firm that would give me a lot of liberty whilst also having guidance from the entire team. I knew that I would be able to figure out a lot on my own, and I would be responsible for identifying companies, reaching out to founders, and meeting and interacting with those founders. The second reason was that, in addition to being paid a regular salary, we would receive carry on the deals that we were able to bring in. I know from many of my friends that worked in venture capital, that this isn’t common, and as a 20-year-old, it is a great incentive to find high quality deals. It was also super exciting to know that Hendrick and the rest of the team are actually listening to the ideas that I was proposing and the companies I was bringing forward. That I was involved from the beginning to the end.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt working for Palm Drive?
For very big venture capital funds, for instance Sequoia, there’s a ton of inbound emails, and their job is to essentially filter the emails that they get. I think to a certain extent Palm Drive has gotten to that level – where you have a big enough reputation that founders reach out – however in 2018 when I was working at Palm Drive, there wasn’t much inbound traffic happening. Consequently, the responsibility of bringing in companies was really about identifying companies, identifying founders, identifying industries, and reaching out to them.
Probably the most valuable lesson I learnt from doing this was that if you have something valuable to offer, people are going to be receptive and pay attention. For example, it’s very easy to write a standard email and send that email to 100 people and see who responds. But it is very different to actually think about what you’re offering as a venture capital firm, and the value that it can provide to that founder or to that company, and to tailor the email accordingly. If you think of the value that you can offer to the founder and find a founder whose profile is a good fit, then the probability that they will respond is much higher. It really comes down to building these personal relationships with founders genuinely.
What was your most challenging experience?
Coming from Latin America, I think early on I realized that at Palm Drive this was one of the areas that I was more familiar with compared to the rest of the team. As a result, I focused a lot of my outreach on companies there. I was fortunate enough to find the company that became Palm Drive’s largest initial investment – Lentesplus.
This was an amazing experience for me because I was able to see the entire process play out. From sending the initial email to meeting the founders for the first time, to getting access to their data room, to thinking about the possible scenarios, and doing reference checks, it was a really cool and challenging experience. We ended up traveling to Colombia to meet with the founders and talk to suppliers and competitors, which was a lot more in depth than I thought it would be. Overall, I think the most difficult thing about it all was that there was always more that we could do to understand whether this company was a company that Palm Drive wanted to invest in or not. There are always more questions you could try and answer, and always more ways you can try and analyze the situation.
However, it eventually all comes back to forming these valuable connections, and trusting that you’ve done the best that you can do. I’m still in a Whatsapp group with the Lentesplus founders and Palm Drive team and it is amazing to still be involved three years later.
After my summer at Palm Drive, I realised that I was interested in the workings of a startup. I had also become extremely interested in the fact that there were a lot of big companies making experience-driven decisions in Latin America as opposed to data-driven decisions. As a result, in late 2018 I started PIVA Software Company, which provided consumer packaged goods companies with a marketplace to sell their products to corner stores in Colombia and Mexico. PIVA was acquired in 2020 by Chiper. The Lentesplus founders were some of the first people who I reached out to, and they essentially became mentors. It is through my experience with them and Palm Drive that I learnt a lot about the dynamics of how companies operate in Latin America.
Even though it has been years since I worked for Palm Drive Capital, I know that they will always be there to offer advice and try their best to help me out. It is a valuable relationship that will continue to be helpful in the future.
What’s your favorite thing about working at Palm Drive?
I think what I liked most about working at Palm Drive was the freedom they gave us to go out and find interesting companies all while representing Palm Drive. It really speaks to the level of trust they have with their interns, which I think comes from their extensive interview process where they make sure to hire the right people.