Nicole Quinn - General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partner & Celebrity Whisperer - investor of Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Lady Gaga (Haus Laboratories), Sophia Amoruso (Girlboss), Rothy's, Calm, Cameo, Lunchclub

Ep 79: Celebrity Whisperer & Investor of Lady Gaga, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sophia Amoruso etc. | Nicole Quinn (General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners)

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Welcome to Episode 79!

Our guest for STIMY Episode 79 is Nicole Quinn.

Nicole Quinn is a General Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, where she focuses on consumer and FinTech investing. Consumer behavior, founder insights, and company brand are core in Nicole’s mind. Nicknamed the “Celebrity Whisperer”, she has led the Series A in Cameo and Lady Gaga’s Haus Labs and seed rounds in Girlboss, Illumix and Sagely. She also invested in the Series B in Calm and Series C in Goop. Earlier, she sourced Rothy’s and Zola.

Prior to joining Lightspeed, Nicole had her own startup in the wearables space and worked at the European FinTech startup Nutmeg. Earlier in her career she was at Morgan Stanley where she worked on the IPOs for Facebook, Pandora, Groupon and Ocado.

Nicole has been featured in The Wall Street Journal’s VC Women to Watch and Marie Claire New Guard Awards. She is on Lightspeed’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and an advocate for change around diversity.

Nicole received a B.A. in Economics and Math from York, England and an MBA from Stanford.


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    So This Is My Why podcast

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    Who is Nicole Quinn?

    Nicole grew up in England, where she started helping her father out with his online pharmacy chain at the age 10 and was always working three jobs while growing up. Seeing the uncertainty of the entrepreneurial life through her father, she decided to go for a “stable” job by working at Morgan Stanley for what turned out to be nearly 8 years!

    But the lure of the startup world proved too strong and while working in New York, Nicole began angel investing. 

    • 2:56 Learning the value of money
    • 4:04 Working at Morgan Stanley for 8 years
    • 5:06 Angel Investing
    Lady Gaga is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. She deeply believes that you can achieve anything in this world that you set your mind to.
    Nicole Quinn - General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partner & Celebrity Whisperer - investor of Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Lady Gaga (Haus Laboratories), Sophia Amoruso (Girlboss), Rothy's, Calm, Cameo, Lunchclub
    Nicole Quinn
    General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners

    Joining Lightspeed Venture Partners

    Nicole ended up leaving Morgan Stanley to work at Nutmeg, an European fintech startup before completing her MBA at Stanford. While at Stanford, Nicole had her first brush with Lightspeed and two years later, ended up joining them as an investor.

    • 6:04 Joining an European fintech startup
    • 7:40 Focus on your strengths & make them stronger (in Stanford)
    • 9:46 Meeting members of Lightspeed Venture Partners, including Jeremy Liew
    • 12:22 How founders find the thing they were born to do
    Nicole Quinn - General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partner & Celebrity Whisperer - investor of Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Lady Gaga (Haus Laboratories), Sophia Amoruso (Girlboss), Rothy's, Calm, Cameo, Lunchclub

    Celebrity Whisperer 

    Nicole has become known for her discerning eye in investing in consumer facing marketplaces, particularly those with celebrity founders. And she shares how she spots trends, analyses a celebrity’s followship as part of her due diligence, how she measures a “true brand” and the effective influencer policy at Calm that every startup can consider adopting.

    • 14:40 Working with Lady Gaga to build Haus Laboratories
    • 16:13 Doing due diligence on Lady Gaga to measure engagement
    • 17:42 Separating the celebrity from the company
    • 19:26 Leading indicators of a true brand being built
    • 20:23 Why Nicole invests in early stage founders (e.g. Girlboss & Rothy’s)
    • 22:03 How Lightspeed spots new trends
    • 22:47 Being wrong about future trends
    • 24:42 Why Nicole offered Lunchclub a sizeable term sheet in less than 7 days
    • 26:58 The ICE Influencer policy at Calm
    • 29:50 Companies incorporating NFTs well into their business
    Nicole Quinn - General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partner & Celebrity Whisperer - investor of Gwyneth Paltrow (Goop), The Honest Company (Jessica Alba), Lady Gaga (Haus Laboratories), Sophia Amoruso (Girlboss), Rothy's, Calm, Cameo, Lunchclub

    If you’re looking for more inspirational stories, check out:

    • Kendrick Nguyen: Founder of Republic
    • Austen Allred: Founder of Lambda School (now renamed Bloom Institute of Technology
    • Dr Finian Tan: Chairman of Vickers Venture Fund, former Deputy Secretary of the Singaporean Ministry of Trade & Industry and Regional Director and Head of J.Aron (APAC trading arm of Golden Sachs)
    • Michael Lints: Partner, Golden Gate Ventures – on raising USD 70 million in venture capital
    • Guy Kawasaki: Chief Evangelist of Apple and Canva

    If you enjoyed this episode with Nicole, you can: 

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    If you’d like to support STIMY as a patron, you can visit STIMY’s patron page here

    STIMY Ep. 79: Nicole Quinn (General Partner, Lightspeed Venture Partners)


    Nicole Quinn: Lady Gaga is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. She deeply believes that you can achieve anything in this world that you set your mind to.

    And she's definitely a great example of having shown that, you know, she's an Oscar winning actress, but she set her mind to that. You know, we all know her for her incredible music because she set her mind to that. And now we're gonna have HAUS in many, many stores you're gonna see across the country.

    And so HAUS Labs came to your point because Lady Gaga had a very strong view. Her view was like, listen, I have been obsessed with makeups from a very, very young age.

    I used to play with my mother's. And whenever I'm in the dressing room before going on stage, I'm always like mixing up concoctions with different makeup and she had this view of like what she wanted her makeup to look like.

    And then what she wanted a beauty company to look like, which will, you know, then go into hair and skincare. She really like to the point of like the ingredients that she wanted in there and these to be clean, beautiful products and the names and the models that they were used and the exact shade of coloring, like she has strong opinions on everything.

    And so this is not a company that she is endorsed. This is very much her company. And so we love that. We felt like, gosh, she has deep insights, you know, to the earlier point. It is really what we look for and I just felt like she was so authentic. So yeah, she's an amazing chair woman of HAUS.

    Ling Yah: Hey everyone!

    Welcome to episode 79 of the So This Is My Why podcast.

    I'm your host and producer, Ling Yah, and today's guest is Nicole Quinn, general partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. Nicknamed the celebrity whisper specializing in consumer and fintech investing, nicole shares what a true brand is, how she measures and engaged followship, what it's like to work with celebrity led companies, including how to separate the celebrity from the company. The due diligence, she did prior to investing Lady Gaga's company, what makes founders like Sophia Amoruso of Girlboss standout, and why she produced a sizable term sheet to Lunchclub in less than seven days.

    If you've been interested in consumer products and wondering what it's like to invest in future trends, then this is the episode.

    But before we begin, this podcast also has a weekly newsletter that highlights other interesting initiatives and people that this podcast doesn't get to cover.

    To subscribe to this newsletter, head over to the show notes And I'll see you in your inbox next week.

    Now you're ready?

    Let's go.

    You grew up in England, your father's from Sydney, and he was very entrepreneurial. And when you were 10 years old, you were actually already working with him running his pharmacies. So what was that like?

    Because you were also a hustler working three jobs a year as well.

    Nicole Quinn: Yes. I think when you have a father who is entrepreneurial, it gives you a lot of lessons from a very young age. And so for me, some of the lessons that I took away were, take risk. Definitely calculated risk and make sure that you're sensible and thinking about that risk.

    I think my father took maybe a little too much risk because there were years where we were doing incredibly well and were millionaires and years where we were, you know, very close to bankruptcy.

    I learned the value of money from a very young age. That was another lesson. And so there were many years where we couldn't really afford anything really.

    And so I said to my dad, I'm gonna start working. I'm gonna earn some money. And he was like, well, you're 12, so it's not legal. And so when I was 13 and it was legal, I went out and, oh my gosh, I worked about 10 different companies over the next few years. About three at any one time.

    As you said, I guess it was a hustler, but I just loved working. I'm working really hard. I really believe in that phrase, you know, the harder I work, the luckier I get. It's something that I'm teaching my two year old son right now, you know, work really hard.

    It's the effort you put in that drives a lot of the output.

    Ling Yah: I feel like that experience scarred you in a way initially to startups because you ended up working for eight years in Morgan Stanley, which is a very stable job.

    Nicole Quinn: You are exactly right. I saw my father have no stable income, just constantly putting every penny that he made for one startup into the next startup.

    And I thought, hmm, wouldn't it be good to actually have a salary for a little while? You know, have a sort of typical job. But also I did math and I loved math and I was like, what's the best way to put math or maths as we call it in England to good use.

    And this was pre-financial crisis.

    And so back then working in an investment bank, I only spent one year in investment banking, by the way, the rest of it was in research and equity sales, which was just so fun and exhilarating to, you know, be deeply understanding companies and spending time with the CEO and writing reports on like what direction you think the company's gonna go.

    And so I really loved that job. I didn't think I would stay there for eight years, but I was between London and New York worked in both offices and so did love it.

    Ling Yah: But the lure of start-up was too strong because you ended up angel investing while in Morgan Stanley. How did you first start doing that?

    Nicole Quinn: Yeah, it's interesting because there was a man who I met through Morgan Stanley and he was angel investing and he sort of taught me about angel investing.

    I think in America it's terrific cuz you learn, these things at a young age, you know. You probably learn what it is when you're in school.

    In England it's quite the. the opposite. You don't really know what venture capital is at a young age. You definitely don't what angel investing is. You sort of heard of private equity as an asset class, but that's about it.

    And so he taught me about it and then I started to invest in companies that he introduced me to. and then He had a, angel syndicate that he was a part of and I met the other folks and started to get great deal flow through them as well.

    And similar, when I was in New York, a lot of the hedge fund folks that we were covering also did angel investing on the side. Good diversification from public markets.

    So I started co-investing with them and really fell in love with early stage investing.

    Ling Yah: At what point did you think I wanna turn this side hustle into a main hustle and how did Nutmeg fit into it?

    Nicole Quinn: I decided I wanted to leave Morgan Stanley and go to business school. Cause I felt like business school would've been a really terrific on ramp into Going into VC. They say that you should go and do an MBA for three reasons to pivot into a new career, to accelerate current career or to explore yourself.

    And I didn't want to accelerate my current career, but I definitely wanted to pivot into a new career and also explore myself.

    In England people have something called a gap year. And of course, because I love to work so much I didn't take a gap year. So I'd never really traveled and really spent any time on myself.

    I just always been working. So I was like, I'm gonna take a little bit of time out and I'm going to, you know, spend a year doing that and then go to business school. And then of course, I met the founder of Nutmeg and was like, oh, I want to work for him. So I didn't really take much time out. I went to work for Nutmeg and he was brilliant.

    He had been to Stanford business school and I just got in, but I had maybe 10 months before I was gonna go. He said to me, if you want to go into venture capital after business school, you need to see what it's like from the other side of the table. So come to Nutmeg for the next year and work with us and help us raise our Series B. help us see what it's like you know, watching and observing what VCs are like, but from the founder's perspective. From an employee's perspective.

    And so I did that and I worked at that FinTech startup and it was incredible, a really fast growth period to be there. We raised our series B and I did maybe a month of traveling and then I went off to business school.

    Ling Yah: And at Stanford, you were told to focus on your strengths and make them stronger.

    How did you do that?

    Nicole Quinn: Yeah, I like that phrase. Cause I think when I grew up in England, people would say, okay, well, what are your weaknesses? You need to work on those. But Stanford was like, it doesn't matter about your weaknesses. Don't try and change those. Focus on your strengths and then make them so much stronger.

    I loved that piece of advice. I love anything to do with math. I love analyzing things, thinking about probabilities, going through company's data. And then I also love people. I love getting to know people. Probably similar to you in this way, right?

    It's sort of like you get to meet these people and learn nuggets of the future and learn parts of them that really make them tick. And it is just fascinating. Every single person you meet, they're just such a rich mosaic.

    I just love meeting people and forming connections, and I guess people call it networking, which has negative connotations, but I think that's just wonderful.

    And so I found a business school. I was around people that also love meeting people and like-minded folks and So I really dived into all of that.

    Ling Yah: I think networking is still something that's really scary, especially if you're still at university or even in business school.

    How did you find, or what was the best way you found to network effectively?

    Nicole Quinn: Yes, I think it is right difficult at university. It's more difficult when you're very early in a new career. So when I first started in VC, I'd be going to these conferences. There'd be hundreds, if not thousands of people at some of these big conferences and perhaps you wouldn't even know anybody there.

    So it is quite intimidating just going up to somebody. I'm like, okay, I'm not going to leave this room until I've made three good connections.

    I'm just gonna bite the bullet. I'm gonna go to the bar, get myself a drink and then speak to somebody there. And then they'll introduce me to somebody else.

    By the time you've met three people, you were enjoying yourself and then you want to stay. Before you know it, you've that 50 people.

    I always think the beginning is the hardest part. So just set yourself a little challenge, be competitive with yourself and say to yourself, I am going to meet three people and then meet many, many more.

    Ling Yah: I think it also helps that you are an extrovert and you love meeting people as well.

    Nicole Quinn: I definitely got energy from meeting people. That's why COVID has been really tough for extroverts that's for sure.

    Ling Yah: And at Stanford, you also started the women in VC club. You said before that some of these conversations changed the way you thought about the world. Made you dream about what's possible.

    Was there anything that stood out for you during the spirit? Was this where you met Jeremy Liew and Lightspeed?

    Nicole Quinn: Exactly. That's definitely what stood out for me because we started doing these dinners, you know, women who were interested in VC and technology. We started doing really fascinating lunches and dinners with various VCs at all the different Sandhill road firms.

    And we did one with light speed. And Lightspeed was just wonderful. You know, we met with Barry and Ravi and Jeremy. Jeremy, gosh, it really stood out just the way that he thinks about consumer. He's one of the most insightful people I have ever come . . and so I felt like if I'd gone to another VC firm, it might have been like, here's a computer, here's your phone off your go.

    Whereas with Jeremy, he was like, listen, this is an apprenticeship business. I wanna spend every waking moment with you so that we can really dive deep into what makes a great consumer business and like how I analyzed the data before investing early on Snapchat. And like what it was about max legend that really stood out above all other founders that made me invest in a firm.

    Jeremy really teaches by example and was just a wonderful person to spend time with, to learn from. And I actually started a micro VC firm to specifically invest in women called Athena. And Jeremy said to me, you're having great impact with this. But you were investing, you know, maybe like a 100k cheques.

    Do you think you'd have more impact by coming to Lightspeed and investing one, 10, maybe even a hundred million dollars into any one company? And of course the answer was yes. I definitely felt like I'd have most impact in this world by doing that.

    Ling Yah: From the initial conversation to him offering, I think there was a two year period where you were building that relationship with them.

    But even in that initial conversation, I think they already asking you, have you ever considered going into venture capital? So I wonder during that two year period, how did you build that relationship? Was it Jeremy reaching out to you all the time? Cause it's one thing to have met someone, one thing to have continued to build something that's meaningful between two people, right?

    Nicole Quinn: Ah, yeah. So what I actually did was I had several interviews with him. And then I just started working informally with Jeremy. So while I was still at business school um, I probably worked just a few hours a week.

    But it was wonderful to be able to, you know, take the train up to San Francisco and go and have meetings with him and inspiring founders.

    I remember one of our first meetings just sitting there in the middle of a coffee shop with big VR devices on. This was probably in like 2014.

    And, it was just made me realize at the moment, oh my gosh, this is exactly what I wanna do for the rest of my life.

    Ling Yah: You talk often about found the product fit.

    And you said also that they are perfect for the company they're building like the co-founders of Calm, like Sophia Amoruso, I wonder having met so many people who feel like they were born to do this, has there been a trend in terms of how they found this thing that they are now doing and working? on?

    Nicole Quinn: Through failing many, many times before. That probably is it. like, I do think that folks who have built exactly the right business for them, they've probably been through many steps that were wrong for them before. Like Travis from Uber, he was the right person to have founded that company. And he founded lots of companies before that didn't work out.

    But he definitely had found a product fit. And so you think about evan from Snapchat. Okay, he was young. He hadn't started lots of companies before, but he definitely had ideas. You know, while he was at Stanford, he was just such a entrepreneurial spirit ever since he was a kid. And so, when he came up with Snapchat, you know, gosh, it was exactly right for him.

    That's exactly what we look for that true product founder fit or founder market fit.

    Ling Yah: So would you say that failure is a factor when you are meeting founders for the first time? Cuz you said that you have this instant gut feeling. So I wonder what is that, how would you explain that gut feeling?

    Nicole Quinn: Sometimes founders have failed before sometimes they haven't though. So I don't think that is a prerequisite to success. Instead, I think it's the deep insights that founders have.

    There's various places where those insights might have come from. Maybe they have come from failing before. Maybe they have come from working in a similar company in the same sector and having very strong views.

    Um, so Often the most opinionated founders who are the greatest founders. Or maybe they've just been thinking about this idea for a while and have strong views on it. But whatever it is, they understand the customer so deeply that they have these key insights about their company, their sector, their consumer, just better than anybody else.

    And that's exactly what I mean, terms of like you learn nuggets of the future from these founders, because they really do know.

    Maybe it's a crazy view of what the future will look like, but they really do know and then shape the future. That is what we look for. And sometimes it doesn't work out, right?

    Cause you also need luck on your side. You need a lot of factors to go the right way for you. Those are some of the factors of what we look for.

    Ling Yah: When you spoke about strong personalities, I immediately thought of Lady Gaga, cuz you mentioned that she really knew what she wanted.

    I wonder how did you first get involved in building HAUS Laboratories? Cuz you were speaking to her before there was even anything.

    Nicole Quinn: Lady Gaga is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. She deeply believes that you can achieve anything in this world that you set your mind to.

    And she's definitely a great example of having shown that, you know, she's an Oscar winning actress, but she set her mind to that. You know, we all know her for her incredible music because she set her mind to that. And now we're gonna have HAUS in many, many stores you're gonna see across the country.

    And so HAUS Labs came to your point because Lady Gaga had a very strong view. Her view was like, listen, I have been obsessed with makeups from a very, very young age.

    I used to play with my mother's. And whenever I'm in the dressing room before going on stage, I'm always like mixing up concoctions with different makeup and she had this view of like what she wanted her makeup to look like.

    And then what she wanted a beauty company to look like, which will, you know, then go into hair and skincare. She really like to the point of like the ingredients that she wanted in there and these to be clean, beautiful products and the names and the models that they were used and the exact shade of coloring, like she has strong opinions on everything.

    And so this is not a company that she is endorsed. This is very much her company. And so we love that. We felt like, gosh, she has deep insights, you know, to the earlier point. It is really what we look for and I just felt like she was so authentic. So yeah, she's an amazing chair woman of HAUS.

    Ling Yah: Didn't she use to say that I have my fingerprints over. It's like a crime scene. And then before you jumped into this investment with her, you also poured over Lady Gaga's Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, just to see whether she had this engaged followship. I wonder how do you measure engagement?

    Nicole Quinn: If it's a social app, then we very closely measure engagement by looking at daily active users over the weekly or monthly active users. But for something like this, you're right. It is much harder to measure engagement.

    And so we were trying to measure where the Lady Gaga's fans were engaged and yes, we can see that through her social following, but are they engaged around beauty?

    Are they engaged around color cosmetics? I went away on vacation for a week. And on this week, I basically did read through every single comment that I could possibly find about Gaga online. And so it basically took every hour for about a week and I was reading through and I wanted to see like, What were people commenting on?

    Like, were people commenting about her makeup? Were people commenting about her look, because if that is what people associate with her, then she is gonna have much more authenticity in selling that product.

    And it's true. Like that is what a lot of people comment on her look and comment on like, my gosh, you know, one day she'll look like this, and then she'll put on this incredible piece of makeup and look just the total opposite.

    And so she was able to like command attention and had a real right to win in that space.

    Ling Yah: Were you ever concerned that you will not be able to separate the celebrity from the company?

    Nicole Quinn: It is definitely something that folks talk about. We were early investors in the Honest Company with Jessica Alba, if you speak to the CEO, Nick, when they were doing their IPO, he actually said, listen, like we are a celebrity company, but it is very much product first celebrity second.

    So you really want to ensure that the product speaks for itself. And even if that celebrity was not associated with it, people would still be buying the product. And so that's true with Goop or HAUS or the honest company.

    I think that is so important. It's like product first, you know, brand first and then the celebrity. The celebrity is really just amplifying what's already there.

    And so, yes, of course there's key man risk as there is with anybody exceptional related to a company. You can take out insurance for that, but it doesn't really help to the degree that you need it to. You need to ensure that that celebrity knows this is gonna be a 10 plus year journey.

    I mean, Gwyneth Palthrow has literally been doing Goop for over 10 years. And so as long as they're committed, then that's what's important.

    Ling Yah: How do you measure commitment? Because you've said before, in other interviews that celebrities have so many things going on and they could say I'm very committed to it right now, but 10 years is a very long time and things could change.

    Nicole Quinn: Yes. It can't be just that they say that they're committed. I always think actions speak louder than words. And so you really do need to look at their actions. And we were working with Lady Gaga and watching her actions probably for a year or so before we invested. So it really gave us a long period of time to get to know her, spend time with her agent, her manager, her friends and really better understand the authenticity and the commitment.

    Ling Yah: And what are the leading indicators of a true brand being built?

    Nicole Quinn: Yes. Thank you for asking this question. We invest early, we invest the, you know, seeds, usually series a stage and something I look for is our leading indicators of a true brand being built.

    So those include the NPS score. We need to definitely look at whether a customer loves a product. The repeat rate. So is a customer coming back time and time again.

    The referral rate. Does a customer love it so much, not only are they using it, but they're also telling their friends about it.

    Their social media. Like how many people are following them and you know, what is the percentage of likes to followers?

    And then just qualitatively, what are people saying about them out in the world? What's their reputation, what's their brand. And so those are some of the leading indicators that, a true household brand name is being built.

    Ling Yah: So you worked with Rothy's in pre-series A. You were the first board member for Girlboss and also led the seat round. What was it about these founders that made them so investible at such an early stage?

    Nicole Quinn: Yes. So Sophia Amoruso from GirlBoss is just such a force of nature.

    She has very strong opinions, deep, deep insights about who her customer is a real drive and determination and grit. And I'm gonna run through that wall to make this happen.

    She has all of those raw skills that you really look for in a founder.

    The founders of Rothy's are very different to Girlboss, but it's also something we really look for.

    So Roth and Steven, the two founders of Rothy's have deep insights into who their customer is and what they're looking for.

    And they believe that people are looking for environmentally friendly products. People are looking for sustainability. People are also looking for beautiful, beautiful shoes.

    Roth is really such a design expert. He is a true creative.

    You know, Gaga always says that about herself as well. She's a creative. She's an artist. And I would say the same about Roth. Gosh, he is such a creative and an artist. You can see that in the shoes, in the handbags that they've built.

    And then Steven. Steven is a really incredible leader. And so the two together are just so complementary. They understand their customer. They're also able to build a great business and you know, very quickly. It was this reason why on Facebook you have Rothy's addicts, there was a craze behind this company and it still is.

    You know, my view is that it will always continue because it really has filled the gap in terms of comfortable, but beautiful flat shoes. And now the bags as well, they're comment worthy. So yeah. Rothy's is you a great, great company.

    Ling Yah: You also often say that Lightspeed is always at the forefront of investing in new trends.

    So how do you spot this new trends?

    Honestly the best way

    Nicole Quinn: to spot new trends is to really have your head on a swivel. And that's something that Jeremy Liew always says, you know, have your head on a swivel, constantly be looking around. It's not your job as a VC to predict the future.

    It's your job as a VC to spot the incredible CEOs who are able to predict the future, or are able to actually shape the future based on their strong views.

    And so we need to constantly be reading magazine, watching TV, listening to what young people are doing. You know, listening to fantastic podcasts such as yours. And that really gives us a better understanding of like when you trends are emerging.

    Ling Yah: Have there ever been times when you thought a new trend was emerging but you were wrong?

    Nicole Quinn: Oh, my gosh, of course. Yes.

    We were really interested in the scooter space. We thought that scooters was a trend that will always be around. And maybe it will always be around, but I don't think it will be around to the extent that we thought it would.

    The numbers definitely spoke for themselves. Suddenly there were scooters popping up everywhere. You know, you go to LA and there would be like four or five different companies that had scooters all on one corner. And people were using them.

    You know, people were jetting around the city and then people were like, I don't wanna go down into the underground when I can just get on my scooter and, you know, go a few blocks or even go halfway across the city.

    So we thought that was a really big trend. Um, And it was especially prevalent in Europe. Cause Europe has such a great transport system and they have separate roads for bikes. And so it made it much easier for scooters to go along. But I would say there will definitely be some companies that will succeed. I think tier in Europe is doing very well.

    But I'd say we were wrong. I don't think that is a trend that will be as big as we thought it would be. You know, you look around many cities and the numbers are a fraction of where they were previously.

    Ling Yah: And you also often say that you are with the founders through the good times and the bad times.

    I wonder. At what point do you decide that company is not something that you're going to go with along that journey?

    Nicole Quinn: No. I think once we commit to being with a founder, we always down that journey. And so our view at light speed is we're on 10 year funds. And we're gonna be with this founder for the next 10 plus years. MuleSoft and Nutanix were two great enterprise exits for us. One to 12 years, one to 14 years is, and that's great.

    You know, we're very patient with regards to the long journeys and the zigs and zags along those journeys, nothing ever goes straight up into the right. And so that's really important to us to be patient and to be a good partner and to be a long term partner for those founders.

    Ling Yah: So there's one thing I noticed that you're invested in Lunchclub, which I love, and I use all time and I was researching to and realized that you offered a sizeable turn sheet in less than seven days.

    Is that a typical? What was it about Lunchclub that excited you?

    Nicole Quinn: That is very true. We did move at light speed. Excuse the pun.

    With that company, you know, and other companies, this environment is definitely fast moving. I always say that we make sure that we do the same amount of diligence, but we just have to do it in a shorter time period.

    So it just means more hours committed to doing that deal.

    And so what was special was I was introduced to the founder through an angel investor in lunch club. He said, Hey, lunch club would love to have you come and do one of their fireside chats. And I met the CEO. I was instantly really impressed with the CEO.

    I mean, honestly, the CEO, Vlad, is one of the most intelligent people I have ever come across. And in fact, the year that his IQ was tested, it was one of the highest in the world. So he really is one of the most intelligent people. And he always says, well, I'm not intelligent compared to my co-founder Scott.

    Yeah. That shows you how smart Scott is. I think he was on maybe the US math team at some point. He really blew me away with how he thought about the space and, you know, just quite frankly, the very intelligent views that he had around networking and how he could really scale that.

    And lunch club was entirely offline. So people were meeting in person and then as soon as COVID hit most people floundered around for quite a while. Wondering what to do thinking, oh no, people won't be able to meet up.

    But not lunch club. I would say within a few days, Lunchclub decided, okay, we are moving to have a digital version.

    So it was hybrid in person and digital. And then of course they just decided to put in person on pause and just be a fully digital company. And their growth, my gosh, you know, they were growing like 200% month over months for a couple of those months. They really found product market fit. I mean, folks like you and I, you know, can meet one another can meet people that we'd always wanted to meet, but never been able to meet through lunch club in different countries.

    So it's wonderful that it's digital. We don't have to be confined only meeting people in the area that we're in. So lunch club has been on great growth trajectory and I just think they've done a terrific job.

    Ling Yah: Absolutely. And I wanted to speak about Calm because they have this interesting ICE influencer policy: invest, create content, engage.

    Do you think that all companies should embrace the ICE influencer policy? Are there instances where it wouldn't be applicable?

    Nicole Quinn: You have done such good research.

    So for folks listening, the ice policy is at Calm, if we decide to work with an influencer, we need them to, I (invest), C (create content for us) and E (engage authentically with the product).

    And so I do think that most companies could really benefit from that, to your question. I think that if you just have folks invest in the company, then perhaps they're not really deeply involved as if they were creating content for you or helping to tell people about you or going on YouTube and shouting about your company from the top of the roofs.

    So I think it's a great policy for anybody wanting to use an influencer strategy. And to that point, I would say I think an influencer strategy is a great way to diversify away from Facebook. And quite frankly, it's easier to turn a fan into a customer than it is to buy a brand new customer. And so great work with an influencer who has many, many fans and turn those fans into customers.

    It's a far cheaper and more efficient way to acquire customers for your business.

    Ling Yah: Is there an effective way to get an influencer or a celebrity to get on board with your company? Because I imagine a lot of companies would be like, I would love that kind of free promotion cuz they are their own acquisition channel.

    But how do I even convince them to jump on board with me and invest so much time and effort?

    Nicole Quinn: Lightspeed can definitely help there when we invest in our company's businesses, that's something that we do. We introduce them to really great influencers or celebrities who can invest in their business. And so hopefully can rely on your investor or advisors to help you with that.

    Ling Yah: And so I wanted to talk about your recent investment, which is autograph: Tom Bradley's NFT platforms. You have worked with many, many female celebrities. What was it like to work with a celebrity couple Tom and Giselle?

    Nicole Quinn: So autograph was one of the very few companies where we didn't invest early on. We invested very recently, just uh, end of last year.

    It wasn't so much about Tom and Giselle or Tom in this case. Cause it's very much Tom Brady who's the co-founder of the company. But it was much more about ,my gosh, this company is really working, you know, they have really found something that is just so powerful. They're working with A-list celebrities, people like Tom Brady, people like Tiger Woods and really able to help them create NFTs of all different levels, or their signature, of their autograph.

    The numbers that we saw really wowed us. And of course the NFT marketplace or the NFT world in general is just growing so quickly and this was a company that I just feel like is becoming very quickly part of popular culture and will be a key one in NFTs.

    Ling Yah: I've been interviewing a number of people who have launched their own NFT collections.

    There are so many different users and offerings out there. I wonder if there's any particular usage that has really stood out, that's been really exciting for you and how companies can think about incorporating NFT into what they're doing?

    Nicole Quinn: Cameo is probably the best example of that. Cameo came up with three incredible pieces of art.

    They named them things like good morning, good afternoon, good night. They sold out of all of their NFTs within about two seconds. um, and Actually I think it was business insider. I did the piece on the good, the bad and the ugly of NFT launches. And they said that Cameo was definitely the good and the best actually.

    That had me done.

    Ling Yah: There's one question that you were asked when you were starting to work with Lightspeed, which was, who's a competitor that you admire industry and why? I wonder how you would answer that question.

    Nicole Quinn: Oh um, gosh.

    A good friend of mine who is about to give birth, Um, Stephanie Zan, she's at Sequoia. I think that her and Jess Lee have done just such a great job at Sequioa. I think that our values at Lightspeed are very much similar to their own. And it is about being a really good person and being a true partner and standing by your word and really helping those companies. Like being a true partner attached, like help the company where you want to move the needle to and asking the right questions.

    And I think that they do that and I really admire them.

    Ling Yah: So rounding up this interview, do you feel like you have found your WHY?

    Nicole Quinn: Definitely found my why. Um, I feel like maybe eight years of Morgan Stanley was definitely not my why, but working in this industry, being able to invest in incredible founders, especially female founders who are just changing the world is, is my why.

    Ling Yah: What kind of legacy do you wanna leave behind?

    Nicole Quinn: I saw this question and I loved it so much. Um, I wish I had a stronger answer for it, especially as I'm now bringing up my little uh, son as well.

    To thine own self be true. You know, do the right thing when no one's watching. Invest in great companies. Yes. But always make sure to do it in a way that you stay true to your values and principles.

    Ling Yah: What do you think are the most important qualities of a successful person?

    Nicole Quinn: The most successful qualities of a founder or person are: you honing in on exactly the area that you are gonna be successful in. And so you take a successful person in one area, put them in another they're wrong for that area. They won't be successful over there.

    It's really thinking about what is it about this product, this sector, this industry that is so right for you. It's about doubling down your strengths. I think the most successful people know themselves so well. They know their strengths and they go after the company or the industry that is so right for their strengths.

    And that is what makes them so successful. That's what I've observed.

    Ling Yah: And where can people go to find out more about what you're doing, who you're investing in?

    Nicole Quinn: You can go to or you can follow me at Nick Quinn on Twitter. And I always make sure to reply to all my emails as well.

    Ling Yah: And that was the end of episode, 79. The show notes and transcript can be found at if you want to learn more about interesting people, companies, initiatives, and opportunities, then make sure to subscribe to STIMY's weekly newsletter. The link can be found in the show notes:

    and tuned for next Sunday, because we will be meeting a two-time entrepreneur deep in the ed tech space for young children.

    Who's focused on raising gen Z and entrepreneurs while also leading global programs at one of the largest VCs in the world.

    If you want a snapshot into what future entrepreneurs are interested and are doing then stick around and see you next Sunday.

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