Words of Wisdom for Gen Z from a Top Venture Capitalist

As a result of hosting and meeting Steve Case, the founder of AOL, at a speakers’ series event at Georgetown University in December 2016, I learned more about the exciting world of venture capital and inclusive entrepreneurship. I was intrigued. And this intrigue eventually landed me an intern position at Case’s venture capital firm Revolution, specifically on the Rise of the Rest team. Rise of the Rest is a nationwide effort to work closely with entrepreneurs in emerging startup ecosystems.

This opportunity allowed me to meet many inspiring entrepreneurs and venture capitalists — notably, Philippe Bourguignon.

Philippe Bourguignon is the vice chairman of Revolution Places Investmentsin Washington, D.C., where he leads a team that is creating a new model for tourism and traveling that encourages a healthy lifestyle. Philippe was born in Salins-les-Bains, France, and spent most of his childhood in Morocco. He received a master’s in economics from Aix-Marseille Université in 1972 and a master’s in business administration from Institut d’Administration des Entreprises de Paris (IAE Paris). 
Philippe started his career at AccorHotels in 1974, and he eventually reached the position of president of the Asia/Pacific region. When I talked with Philippe, he told me that he wanted to pursue a career that involved travel, and he did just that. In 1988, he joined The Walt Disney Company and eventually served as the chairman and CEO of Euro Disney from 1992 to 1997.

For the next five years, he served as the chairman and CEO of Club Med. After 9/11, Philippe told me about how the travel industry was hurt. So, after restructuring Club Med again, he became tired of corporate America and took a two-year sabbatical. After meeting Steve Case, the founder of AOL and Revolution, in Paris, he decided to join the initial team. At Revolution, he primarily focuses on travel-related, vacation-based, and real estate-based investments. From there, he has also served as the co-CEO of the World Economic Forum and the CEO of Exclusive Resorts. He currently sits on the boards of CAVA, Neiman Marcus, Vinfolio, Operation Hope, Positive Planet, and Worldview. He has previously served on the boards of Zipcar and eBay.
When talking with Philippe, he told me that he fell into venture capital and growth equity investing by accident. However, that has not stopped Philippe from entering the scene wholeheartedly. While he primarily deals with entrepreneurs in their mid-30s, he has four factors that he considers in any investment.

  • First, he thinks about the idea and the vision of the team that is pitching.
  • Second, he examines how competitive the space is. Philippe believes that there is a premium for first movers in a space, and that there is “always a first place while everyone else is second place.”
  • Third, he evaluates the team and the founder. He believes that it is critical for a founder to be social and a good communicator, as the founder has to surround his or her vision with the right people.
  • Fourth, he looks at the acquisition cost. He wants to know why and how the founder values the company the way he or she does.

When I talked to Philippe about marketing oneself as a young entrepreneur, he recommends being your authentic self. He noted that he receives resumes relatively frequently, and he admires those who present themselves on paper in interesting and unique ways. He also explained that “experience is a backpack that you carry, which is getting heavier every day.” He thinks that young people have a unique way of looking at problems because of their lack of experience.
When I talked to Philippe about determining a career path at a young age, he said that young people need to care less about their brand and more about just pursuing their interests. He noted that advertising agencies that he has worked with in the past have pushed companies to make “big mistakes.” When branding a company too specifically, it prevents the company from pivoting and ends up restraining its potential for growth. He noted that Apple did not have “much of a brand” in the beginning, and he thinks this is what allowed them to be innovative and disruptive. Philippe is also a big proponent of traveling at a young age, as it exposes you to different cultures, different people, and different ways of thinking.

If you are young and hungry, take Philippe’s advice and just go for it. Pursue your interests, and if you fall into the right career like he did, plunge into it head-on and see where it takes you.

To learn more about me, you can check out my personal website here, contact me at agh42@georgetown.edu, and follow me on Twitter here. To read more, you can buy my latest book on Amazon in paperback or Kindle here!