From earning his degree at Stanford University to becoming a 4x World Champion medalist swimmer and USA Team Captain, Eugene has found himself at Bowery Capital. As the Director of Growth, Eugene reflects and takes us through his journey from a professional athlete to SaaS sales leader to venture capital.
What made you decide to pursue swimming full time after Stanford and put your business career on hold?
Well, it’s funny because my parents were initially skeptical, thinking “you got your Stanford degree, and now you’re going to swim full time?” However, I was lucky to also have mentors that gave me confidence in my decision. The consensus was I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go after my Olympic dream.
Talk us through the transition going into your business career post-retirement; what was it like for you?
Once I retired from swimming, I had my eyes set to move to New York and start a sales role at a tech startup. I knew sales would teach me skills that I could leverage throughout my career, regardless of the direction. My first role was as an SDR for Rocketrip, focused on lead generation (cold calls, emails, trying to schedule demos). The thinking was, if I could learn to quickly add value to busy people who didn’t initially want to talk to me and I could earn more time with them... that’s a pretty valuable skill to have and a great foundation to build my career on.
After your experience at Rocketrip, what led you to TripActions?
I love the idea of building something from the ground up with the people around you. At TripActions, I was one of the first hires in the NYC office and helped build it to over 100 people in under 2 years. It was an invaluable experience, as every day posed new challenges and hurdles that startups often face.
I made the transition from individual contributor to sales leader in the midst of a global pandemic. Imagine selling a travel solution to buyers when travel couldn’t be further from top-of-mind. This was what we had to overcome, and we were able to be really successful together. We also had a ton of fun doing it.
Why VC? Why Bowery Capital? What was the validation in your mind that this is what you wanted to do?
There were three key reasons why I joined the VC space and Bowery Capital in particular:
1) Why VC? I love many elements of being a sales professional and leader. To truly understand a product, market, buyer, and how to sell it is something I'm extremely passionate about. In my new role, I get to take those learnings and share my experiences with different founders to help them in their journey, and I’m really excited about that.
2) The people - I have always prioritized surrounding myself with driven, genuine people - and I found that in spades at Bowery. I’ve known Jess through my time at Rocketrip and have immense respect for her and her work. I’ve gotten to know Mike and Loren and am excited to learn from them. Everybody is highly competent, intelligent, and overall just a great human being.
3) The Bowery Capital Mission - One part that stood out to me, and it's something I really appreciate at Bowery Capital, is the focus on specialization. I love Bowery's approach to maintain a narrow investment strategy and say, “here are the things we are really good at and can do for you, and here are the things we don't do.” It's an excellent value prop for all involved, and creates more impactful relationships.
Lastly, before we let you go, what's your goal in taking on this role and responsibility? Where do you want to be five years down the line?
Number one goal is to do anything I can to have a positive impact on the founders in our portfolio. They all signed up to do an incredibly difficult job aiming to modernize a part of the business world, so if I can help them navigate early challenges in their go to market motion, it’ll feel amazing.
In five years? The truthful answer is that I don't know, but I'm really excited to figure it out. When I say that, I feel like a new college grad with the world at your fingertips, and I'm still hungry and eager to learn and expose myself to more areas in the business world. My belief is the more I can emphasize learning, the more good things will come my way and to the people around me.
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