NEXT VENTŪRES Founder Melanie Strong on Taking the Difficult Path

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

​NEXT VENTŪRES Founder Melanie Strong
Courtesy of Melanie Strong

On this episode of the Behind Her Empire podcast, Melanie Strong talks about being a founding partner of NEXT VENTŪRES, a VC firm that focuses on building sports, health and wellness brands.

Strong has been a lifelong runner, always interested in the world of sports. After 18 years of global marketing and managing at Nike, she had the opportunity to break into the venture capital world.

She started from scratch as a first-time investor and founder.

"I chose the difficult path, which is not to join an established fund, which I had the privilege of having the option to do,” she said. “I decided to start a fund from scratch. That, intellectually, was the kind of challenge I was looking for."

Having spent some time at Visco, a social media startup based in Oakland, Strong made connections with VCs that taught her about the industry. When trying to figure out how to do her first deal or negotiation valuations, she turned to James Joaquin from Obvious Ventures. He became a mentor to her.

"Those are scary moments. And I needed to know that I could call someone who wasn't going to make me feel bad about not knowing," said Strong.

As learning has been a big part of Strong's experience, she also wants to make sure that the founders of the companies she invests in feel her involvement adds something unique to their trajectory.

One of the things Strong looks for in investors is a level of self-awareness. She believed that founders need to know when they've hit their own threshold.

"If I don't get the sense that a founder is willing to do that work… That's a flag that that founder might not be willing to understand when she has hit maybe the threshold of her own abilities when it's time to ask for help," said Strong.

Another thing Strong wanted founders to do is make sure they do their research on investors. A major point she made is seeing investors are open to letting founders talk to their existing portfolio.

"For founders, it's such an awesome time to be in this space,” she added. “Because you have so much power—you really do—and you should feel like you get to choose who is lucky enough to invest in your company."

Want to hear more of the Behind Her Empire podcast? Subscribe on Stitcher, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.

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