We were thrilled to welcome Laela Sturdy, managing partner at CapitalG, the independent growth fund of Google parent company Alphabet, to Wade Institute’s investor education program VC Catalyst.

Before joining CapitalG a decade ago, Laela played a crucial role in shaping many of Google’s most profitable business units, including YouTube and Google Maps, video and display advertising and the firm’s early commerce products. She made the move to CapitalG shortly after its inception in 2013 and since then has had a hand in countless startups (turned unicorns), including Duolingo, Stripe, Gusto, UiPath, Whatnot, Curated, Chief and Webflow.

Laela brought her rich and diverse experience all the way from Silicon Valley to week one of Wade Institute’s VC Catalyst investor education program. Here’s what we learnt.

Much like entrepreneurship, there’s no clear trajectory to a career as an investor. In fact, the more diverse your background, the better. Laela said: “What I think is great about investing as a discipline, is there are so many things that you have to be good at, and so many different things that you need to learn, that no one background seems to be the perfect prep for it.” It’s also why Wade Institute touts investing as a team sport. Investor networks help to minimise gaps in your own knowledge and experience therefore supercharging your investing capabilities.

Investing is complex, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The required investor toolkit is broad but Laela has a laundry list she believes all investors should have, particularly for early-stage startups.

“You have to be good at evaluating talent, and opportunity, which I think at every stage of investing you do. But you also have to have quite an analytical, and a quantitative skillset to help you really take the data that exists in these early companies, and make a bet on who’s going to scale, and why.”

With less data to utilise in modelling, early-stage investing can sometimes be seen as higher risk, but with the right toolkit (like the one alumni leave VC Catalyst with), this can be minimised and mitigated.

Similarly to many of Wade Institute’s investors, Laela’s investment thesis is a key component in her VC arsenal. “We’re thesis-driven investors. I would say, a lot of the trends that we invest behind, we’ve been studying and thinking about for years and years. Some of the investments that we’ve made in automation, and AI companies, digital transformation, these are trends that we’ve been studying for a really long time.” CapitalG’s thesis provides a framework to guide her team’s research and focus, making it arguably the most important document in an investor’s possession.

There’s been no shortage of economic negativity recently as interest rates rise and the increased cost of living impacts many, but Laela still sees a glimmer of hope: “We’re coming up upon the best, likely to be one of the best times to invest ever. We’re also seeing these incredible secular trends in technology that great companies are forming. It’s going to be a very good time to invest.”