Dancing Toward Success: A Conversation with Selina Troesch Munster of Touchdown Ventures
The May 2020 episode at CoEffecient Labs for our Demo Day show features the principal of Touchstone Ventures, Selina Troesch Munster. In this show, Munster shares her advice for running a successful financial team and how she (and industry hopefuls) can learn the ropes of venture capital.
Selina Troesch Munster does not personally identify as a risk taker but is certainly no stranger to uncertainty. Her journey to becoming the principal at Touchdown Ventures roughly began with the decision to leave her hometown of Redwood City and attend New York University to study math and economics. According to Munster, this initial move was the “biggest risk she ever took,” leaving behind her family and all that was familiar to her to start fresh in New York City where she knew almost no one. Munster began an internship in the finance department of Barclay’s bank and was later employed at the institution, the same year the bank acquired Lehman Brothers. During this acquisition, the small team that Munster was a part of nearly grew overnight. Witnessing such a large financial institution going under taught Munster about corporate mergers, the pain of seeing employees being laid off, and the underlying psychology and economics of major mergers and acquisitions.
Advice for Working Amid Economic Downturn
Munster’s experience at Barclay’s taught her how to keep calm during the storm of economic downturn where she says it is “easy to get scattered.” She stresses the importance of being clear about the function of different roles within a team. In the situation of teams moving from a small environment to a larger team within the span of a few months, Munster advises that team members should identify and step into the roles that they are good at and know where their roles begin and end. For Muster, a good CEO is clear about their expectations and assigning roles while giving employees the freedom to excel in their areas of expertise and the creativity to come up with solutions. If a CEO doesn’t “feel comfortable giving that person (a prospective employee) the ability to figure out how they are going to get to the final deliverable, maybe you (the CEO) shouldn’t be hiring them in the first place.”
Lessons From Competitive Dance
Munster participated in various iterations of competitive dance (ballet, tap, jazz) throughout middle and high school. Her experiences performing choreographed routines in a team environment taught Munster the importance of “having a process, working through that process, and mastering a skill.” For Munster, it is important to “stay disciplined” in the world of venture capital which is, in her words, “a bit like the Wild West.” Later, Munster took up ballroom dancing where she became comfortable reacting to different (sometimes uncertain) situations and figuring out the appropriate reaction to a given set of circumstances. The ability to react in a strategic way to uncertainty is key for woking in venture capital, because there is an incredible level of uncertainty in startups.
On The Future of Education and Advice for Prospective VC’s
Munster now teaches venture capital as an adjunct professor at USC, an experience that, she says, sharpens her understanding of the subject. On the future of education, Munster speaks about the importance of learning through experience as well as being able to think and ask questions about a subject in a way that sparks creativity and creative problem solving. For prospective venture capitalists, Munster suggests collecting as much information as you can, being critical, asking questions, showing interest, and showing curiosity and humility. For VC interns, Munster highlights the importance of tapping into the people you may know that are engaged in new and innovative businesses. Students and younger VC’s have many networks available to them as far as new talent and companies are concerned. These networks of new talent are not necessarily available to older members of VC firms so, Munster notes that, universities are an amazing place to network during seed stage investing.
Collect information, be adaptable, be comfortable with uncertainty, and step into the role you perform best. Munster notes that there is always something new to learn in the world of venture capital. As a friend of Munster’s said, venture capital is the “greatest get rich slow scheme,” in that it takes a decade to truly master. According to Munster, venture capital has many components- there is always something new to learn and many new avenues to explore.