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Q&A with Summer Associate Casilda Angulo Obieta: A Global Citizen Tackling Cybersecurity VC

July 26, 2022

  • Blog Post

This post is the first blog in a series that showcases our MBA interns participating in Forgepoint’s Summer Associate program. Designed to provide comprehensive exposure to venture capital while advancing participants’ understanding of cybersecurity and cloud innovation, this ten-week program includes hands-on thesis development, market-mapping, sourcing, diligence, and company building experience along with opportunities to get to know the Forgepoint community and team.

Learn more about Casilda Angulo Obieta here.

Casilda, please tell us about your background. Where are you from and what did you do prior to joining us this summer at Forgepoint?

Although I’ve lived in Spain, the US, and the UK and even spent some time in Peru, I consider myself Spanish above all. Bilbao and Madrid are the cities I call home. I come from a very large family that settled in Bilbao, which is where I was born. However, I lived in Madrid most of my life, and have a strong bond and sense of heritage with the Basque region.

Since I was young, I have always sought challenges, academically and personally. As a child, I didn’t just like to dance – I wanted to become the prima ballerina of the Russian Ballet. I enjoyed studying biology but mere books weren’t enough: I dreamt of becoming a marine biologist exploring the Great Barrier Reef.

This same challenge-seeking behavior has accompanied me through my career. At university, I chose a concentration in Finance, because I found the complexity of derivatives and hedging strategies to be quite stimulating. After completing my degree, I decided to pursue a career in Investment Banking, an industry I knew would challenge me from day one. Despite having no technical background, I was attracted to the Telecom, Media and Technology (TMT) sector, as again, I felt challenged by the technical aspect of it. I spent nearly three years in Madrid and London working on several transactions involving complex infrastructure assets such as towers and optic fiber as well as several technology deals. A cybersecurity deal I specifically worked on for almost a year made me change my perspective about the industry. I stopped considering cybersecurity as a problem targeted at large corporations and IT departments and began to acknowledge its impact and relevance in daily life.

I had briefly worked in venture capital back in Spain, but at the time, I wasn’t sure I had the right skillsets and experience to really make an impact. As such, I decided to apply to business school. Conscious of the technical gap in my educational background and having struggled here and there as a banker to understand the operational aspects of telecom and tech companies, I specifically chose to do my MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management. MIT is known as a technical school with extensive engineering and entrepreneurial initiatives and programs. Here I could continue sharpening my financial skills while building up a network in the startup ecosystem.

What a powerful story of persistence and learning. Your tenacity is admirable. Why VC and Forgepoint?

I knew venture capital was the perfect intersection of financial and operational skills and was aligned with my interests and strengths. I was also obsessed with learning about a specific sector. I knew if I wanted to become the best at what I did, I had to specialize. I tried looking for sectors where I could leverage prior expertise and it was then that I met Forgepoint. From my time in TMT investment banking, I knew Forgepoint was one of the most active investors in the cyber space, I was lucky enough to enter their summer internship interviewing process.  After considering multiple summer opportunities, I decided to join Forgepoint which offered the opportunity to  build on the financial skills I had acquired in banking while gaining up hands on sector knowledge in an area of deep interest. I had found my next challenge, and I was determined to make the best out of the experience.

Tell us about your experience as a Summer Associate. What expectations did you have and how did they compare to reality?

Having worked in the financial industry before and dealt with VC firms in the past, I thought I had a clear idea of what to expect as an intern:  would meet with startups and conduct market research. I couldn’t have been more wrong. This internship has exceeded all my expectations.

My days are usually dynamic and fast-paced. Such dynamism is what has allowed me to have exposure to an incredibly broad array of responsibilities of a venture capitalist: portfolio management, investment thesis development, fundraising, etc. In addition to actively supporting two portfolio companies with fundraising efforts, I have worked on core investment thesis development, researching the intersection of fintech infrastructure, governance and security. I have also been involved in strategic analysis with a significant global banking partner to explore opportunities in other geographical areas.

Another aspect of my summer at Forgepoint that has surpassed my expectations is the fund’s community-building efforts. I was lucky enough to participate in the RSA Conference (the largest conference in cybersecurity) during my first week and network with some of the most relevant and leading players and innovators in the industry. I helped host a couple networking events and was able to even meet some Spanish cyber startups that were presenting their products at the conference!

Finally, Forgepoint’s culture has also been a key element of the summer internship experience. Since day one, I have had exposure to portfolio companies and prospective investments showcasing the open environment at Forgepoint. I am constantly joining meetings and collaborating on due diligence efforts, where my contributions matter. I have also received several teach-ins from various member of team ranging from venture capital financial concepts to security macro environment lessons. I have had the chance to work with every member of the Forgepoint team and each of them could not have been more welcoming!

In conclusion, yes, we meet with startups on a daily basis and conduct market research, but there is so much more.

What would you recommend to someone trying to navigate the internship/recruiting process for VC?

My main recommendation would be to be extremely intentional. Despite being a very demanded industry for graduates, the industry is still broad, and experiences can change drastically from one VC to another. I would try to understand your strengths and skills gaps and find a place that will enable you to fill them. For this, due diligence on VCs is extremely important, as well as finding the right culture.

There is no defined set of skills that make a successful investor, hence finding a place that will give you the opportunity to grow into your own strengths is the key to professional and personal success. It is important to reflect on what could be your edge or unique selling point and leverage it during the recruiting process.

VC, specifically, is a people-first profession and network-driven industry. Opportunities arise when you least expect them. I recommend talking to people, to understand their motivations and what excites them to understand the way they work. Thesis-building is also a key component that will help during the recruiting process and when having conversations with other VCs. Plus, it is a good exercise to learn about a specific sector!

Finally, I would always have a growth mindset, as there is no manual on how to analyze startups or to build an investment theses. Having the ability to absorb everything from your interactions with VCs and startups remains key to learning and keeping up with what is happening in the industry.

If not working at Forgepoint and learning about the security space, what else would you be doing during the summer?

I have been trying for almost two years now to finish my 200 hour yoga certification to become an instructor. If not working as an investor for the summer, I’d probably be travelling around Southeast Asia, spending time at yoga camps and retreats trying to complete my training. Nevertheless, I still have managed to squeeze my biweekly yoga practice from my small apartment in Hayes Valley, which is essential to help me decompress!

(Or more realistically, I would otherwise be interning at a startup in a strategy or business development role, trying to gain operational experience.)

What have you enjoyed the most from your summer in the Bay Area?

I have used my free time to take advantage of all the outdoor experiences that the Bay Area has to offer. I have hiked Yosemite and Muir Woods, attempted to swim in Lake Tahoe, visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and enjoyed wine tastings in Napa and Sonoma. As a food lover, I have also enjoyed the food scene in San Francisco and tried some of the best Mexican and Greek restaurants the world has to offer! In my remaining weeks before I go back to MIT Sloan, I plan to explore Southern California and enjoy the sun of San Diego and LA.

Thank you, Casilda for your many contributions this summer. On behalf of the team, we wish you all the best with completing your MBA and all that’s ahead!