If you’re looking for an investor with their finger on the pulse of all things consumer, Natalie Dillon – an investor at consumer-only venture capital firm, Maveron – is your woman. In fact, she’s been obsessed with consumer behavior, brands and experiences from an early age. At ten, she asked her father how she could invest in Jamba Juice – clearly a very early adopter of the juice trend. Now she’s focused on investing in beloved brands that capture the hearts and minds of consumers, and game-changing consumer tech that solves critical pain points for the everyday consumer. Take a look at her typical day (and the coffee shops that have her stamp of approval).
I’m not a morning person, so I try to be thoughtful about structuring my morning to the inevitable truth that early mornings aren’t my prime time. I wake up around 7:30 AM, my Amazon Echo plays music, usually Kygo, to help ease me into the day. The first thing I do is check texts. My mom is from Bolivia and sends me the most wonderful, inspirational Spanglish texts nearly every morning. Next, I look at emails – from my team, founders and other investors – and respond to urgent ones. I glance at other messaging platforms like Telegram, do a quick Twitter scan and check Instagram, because I’m unfortunately addicted. I think in our field of work there is a productive way to use social media, and Instagram in particular, to spot trends, hyperactive community groups, emerging brands that influencers follow, the narrative followers use around brands, and offers a more personal lens into a founders life. After this, I’m out of bed, dressed and ready to go in ten or fifteen minutes. My routine is short – a go-to is Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser, followed by serum from The Ordinary and Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer with SPF. I skip makeup if I’m in a hurry.
I head to The Mill for a meeting over coffee and a quick bite. They have this amazing cinnamon sugar toast, it’s a must try. Coffee keeps me going and I rotate between black coffee with a splash of soy milk, a soy latte, or matcha, depending on the time of day. If I want to switch things up, I go to Cafe Réveille on Steiner. Both of these spots are well designed, minimalist decor, and serve a strong cup of coffee. I spend a lot of time bopping around from one coffee shop to the next, and as someone who is impacted by their surroundings, I am a bit particular about the coffee shops I choose. Coffee shops have this wonderful function of being a third space, a place people naturally convene, and a far more neutral location than an intimidating corporate office. For many founders, pitching can be this unnatural and stressful process. I hope that the small act of literally tearing down the corporate walls and replacing them with this neutral, inviting coffee shop, that this environment allows founders to feel more natural and authentic version of themselves.
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
I use Uber to get around the city when heading to the office or other meetings. I always find it funny to consider the fact that growing up your parents warned you of two things – getting in cars with strangers and taking candy from them – now I hop into cars with strangers every day. I catch up on podcasts including “The Twenty Minute VC” or “How I Built This” if time allows.
Mornings are stacked with fellow investor meetings, via phone or in person. They tend to be more relaxed as many of them are with friends. One of my favorite parts about working in venture are the friendships and community you become a part of. Whether you’re sharing a deal, sitting on a board together or just have a common interest for the same spaces, there’s a lot of room for collaboration and winning together. You spend a lot of time with one another and I consider many fellow investors close, genuine friends. I joined venture in 2017, it was an interesting time to join as a woman as there was increasing public awareness of the lack of diversity in decision making roles. I’m fortunate to work at firm where half of the investing team are women, and 68% of our deals in the last 12 months have included a female founder; those metrics even in isolation are an extreme rarity in venture. Since I joined venture, there has been good progress on recruiting more women in venture and more formal organizations like All Raise supporting women in venture. It has been incredibly exciting to be part of that momentum, the question still remains how many of these women will stay. A gender gap exists at the partner level that we are miles and miles away from closing.
12:00 – 5:00 PM
I spend the afternoon in back-to-back founder meetings. After I’ve downed several coffees, I’m caffeinated and locked in for pitch meetings. I take these meetings wherever needed. If a founder wants to meet with me, I’m happy to go to them, pick a neutral location or host them at the office. My day doesn’t include a routine lunchtime, mostly because I snack throughout the day at meetings and can’t carve out the time.
When I have a few minutes, I do a news download via industry newsletters and briefs. Lean Luxe is a good one, it’s an afternoon newsletter on the latest and greatest in e-commerce and consumer brands. Fortune Term Sheet, of course, and PitchBook. For non-venture news, I subscribe to The Skimm, Wall Street Journal and The New York Times’ Daily Briefing. Living in the Bay Area, it’s easy to get sucked into reading only about tech and what’s happening here, but we’re in the business of investing in all consumers. We want to back household name brands. It’s important to have a perspective of the world outside of San Francisco, therefore I find it’s enriching and crucial to have a pulse of what else is happening in the world
5:00 – 9:00 PM
During the evening, you’ll often find me at venture industry events. This tends to be a staple aspect of the job, particularly for junior investors that do a lot of sourcing. If you’re looking for a standard 9 to 5 schedule, venture capital is unlikely a great fit you. Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a different gathering to attend nearly every night, either themed dinners with founders or connecting with other VCs. My mom would be disappointed, I never cook and if I’m at home for dinner, I’m hitting up UberEats like it’s my best friend. My evening meal usually consists of horderves at a cocktail hour or dinner at a sit-down event.
I wrap up at events and head home by 8pm or later. At home, I catch up on emails and other work. Usually, reviewing decks and notes from companies I met with earlier in the day or looking at decks to prep for the next. Making introductions for our portfolio companies, diving deeper into a sector, sub-culture or consumer behavior that I’m curious about. I’m pivoting so quickly from one meeting to another that often nighttime is my most productive time because I have quiet, undisturbed hours to knock out any reading, writing or research. This might be diligence for a company we’re considering an investment in, or research on a new space or target demographic our team is interested in pursuing.
Friday nights are dedicated to rest. I head home, open a bottle of wine and relax with a movie – ideally a documentary, rewatching GOT or stand up comedy. I recently watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” – the one about Mr. Rogers – which was amazing. I also love a good read. I’m in the middle of “Hit Makers: How to Succeed in an Age of Distraction” by Derek Thompson. Part of its premise is that people are drawn to things that are familiar, yet also new, which is why companies find success in reinventing an existing consumer experience – it’s super fascinating.
I finish up with work or evening reading and head to bed between 11:30 PM and midnight.
Want to learn more about how Natalie spends her time? Follow her on Twitter @ntdillon.