How to be a private equity rising star: 1315 Capital’s Ian Li

Ian Li, Vice President, 1315 Capital

It’s one thing to land a job at a private-equity shop as an analyst or associate. It’s another to make the heady climb to partner in a decade or less.

So I took the question of how to become a rising star to Ian Li, vice president at 1315 Capital, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based specialist in healthcare growth equity. Earlier this year Li spoke eloquently on a panel I moderated on opportunities in private equity at the Toigo Foundation’s Catapult event in Jersey City. Li wrote up the following six tips, reproduced verbatim with a few minor edits for style:

  1. Be proactive and take as much off of your team’s plate as possible, in every aspect that you can. It not only frees up their valuable time, but also serves as great experience for you to learn and understand what goes into running a firm, from fundraising to deal execution to portfolio management. I joined at a very interesting and opportune time with 1315 Capital because we were still in the process of raising our first fund, so Adele [Oliva] and Michael [Koby], our founding partners, were extremely busy and on the road. I did everything I could to make their lives easier, from jumping on diligence for what would be our first investment, to updating and printing pitch decks. It was helpful to the team but also great exposure for me as I got to see the inner workings of what it’s like to raise a fund.
  2. Pay attention to the details and triple check all your work. Once people lose confidence in the completeness or accuracy of your work, it is hard to re-gain.
  3. Take advantage of your exposure to great mentors and leverage every opportunity you have with them to learn. Emulate their strengths and understand their lessons learned; they have years if not decades of wisdom they can impart to you. I’ve learned so much from both our founding partners and am so grateful for all that they’ve shared with me. Two quick examples are that Michael is a master negotiator and has taught me the value of ‘playing it cool’ when negotiating terms, and Adele has taught me the value of being tenacious and staying top of mind with our networks. It’s really helped me have a more well-balanced approach to investing.
  4. Find the gaps in knowledge in your firm and become an expert in that topic. In a constantly evolving marketplace, you may even be lucky enough to find an area where you can educate your firm on a space, and that’s true value-add. For me, through my portfolio management and deal experience, I have had more exposure to healthcare IT, aesthetics capex devices, and ophthalmology, and I believe diving deep in those areas has enabled me to contribute more meaningfully on deals in this space when we see them.
  5. “Lunch at your desk is a wasted opportunity.” This advice was passed down from our Founding Partner, Adele Oliva, which was passed down from her mentor, Alan Patricof. Your network is crucial to your success, so start building it early, even if it doesn’t feel immediately accretive. One day, your counterparts will be partners and CEOs and heads of business development and you don’t want to start the relationship then.
  6. Don’t forget where you came from if you move up. Be a team player: it’s extremely transparent when you’re not. I think it can be tempting to push off all the hard work and focus on higher-profile opportunities, whereas I always try to think about all the exposure to management interactions, board meetings, business development negotiations, and other higher-level activities that my partners afforded me instead of just pushing more modeling and slide-making. At the end of the day, we are a lean team and the better that every member becomes, the more successful we are all going to be.

Li is recruiting for a healthcare growth equity associate to start next summer at 1315 Capital. Find details in this edition of Private Equity Career News.