Mentoring Forward with Jeff Clavier of Uncork Capital

Mentoring Forward - Venture Forward series

Welcome to our Mentoring Forward series! We’re highlighting an incredible group of mentors and the positive impact the VC University Mentorship Program has had on VC University scholarship recipients. Since launching in 2020, the Mentorship Program has had four cohorts with a total of 121 new and early career VCs from historically underrepresented backgrounds, each who have been paired with one experienced VC mentor and one peer VC mentor. Thanks to these mentors, we are working together to create a more inclusive and diverse VC community.

Jeff Clavier is a former NVCA board member, founding Venture Forward donor, and instructor for VC University ONLINE. He has volunteered as an experienced VC for two mentorship cohorts and shares more about his experience below.

Jeff Clavier, Founder & Managing Partner, Uncork Capital

Jeff Clavier - Mentoring Forward

Why is mentorship important in VC and why did you want to serve as a mentor?

VC is an apprenticeship – you learn from your peers and your mentors. I have been lucky to have key mentors since I started Uncork/SoftTech 17+ years ago, and I wanted to play the same role for the next generation. That’s why I have been so focused on education and mentorship when I was an NVCA board member, and throughout my (long) journey.

How did you support your mentee?

Tell my story, answer questions, point out the questions they were not asking (having been there, I know the tough spots of building a firm).

Is there any advice or guidance you shared with your mentee that you want to share more broadly with industry newcomers?

It takes dedication to build a franchise: often you will need to self fund the raise of your first fund, which can take up to two years. You will get hundreds of No’s from potential investors and only a few Yes’s. You will have to demonstrate how you and your strategy represent unique opportunities for them to back in a world where hundreds of other GPs are raising a fund. It’s very much what any entrepreneur faces to be candid.

What did you think were the best aspects of the mentorship program?

It’s a great opportunity to meet people I would probably have never come across. I have supported, mentored, or taught hundreds of GPs by now – but they were often people I knew who were calling in a personal favor. Classes I taught were great because we could help dozens of wannabe investors at a time, but the advice was not personal. This mentorship approach is super interesting because we can focus on what the mentee’s needs and questions are.

Mentorship programs are primarily thought of as helping the mentee, but did you (as a mentor) come away with any new insights or were there aspects that benefited you?

Their investment focus may be different than mine, and I will learn from them on their particular interest. Their context is also different: I was one of the original “super angels” and I raised one of the first micro-VC funds in history. We had to establish the (sub) asset class and convince LPs it was a worthy bet. It’s totally different today.

Why would you encourage your VC peers to serve as mentors?

It’s super interesting, personally rewarding and it’s a way to pay it forward. You have not gotten to where you are without support, it’s your time to give back.

Get Involved

Volunteer as a mentor! Check out the program details and sign up by Friday, October 8.

The next round of this program starts in November for VC University ONLINE’s September Scholarship cohort. We’re seeking Experienced VC (5+ investing years’ experience, and Partner level or equivalent) and Peer VC (1-5 investing years’ experience) volunteers to serve as mentors. Pay it forward and join us in supporting the next generation of VC leaders!

Help us spread the word, so we can reach a strong pool of mentors. Here’s some sample content to use.