Erik Popaja

Erik Popaja

Table of Contents

Firm

Current:

Where To Find Them

Type of Investing

Background

Tell us about your background before college

  • Erik was born in Germany and came to the US when he was very young. In Europe, his father was a professional handball player, so that was a big influence in Erik's life. Since there was no handball in America, Erik gravitated towards basketball and then eventually the analytics side of sports.

How did you decide to pursue investing?

  • Doing sports analytics as a hobby led him to do an introductory finance course during his last year of high school. This is what helped him decide to try and pursue investment banking when he got to college.
  • In preparation for banking, he interned for University Growth Fund (UGF) and got introduced to venture capital that way.
  • It was at University Growth Fund where Erik really decided that he wanted to do investing. As part of the application process, he had to prepare a pitch deck for Spotify (which was still private at the time).
  • When they brought him on board, one of the first actual deals he looked at was actually Spotify. That's what really got him hooked on investing.

What were some low-value activities during undergrad?

  • Doing random student organizations to pad the resume.
  • If he could go back, he would've spent more time building interesting content because that's what really helps once you get into the industry.

Breaking In

What is the one thing that really helped you break in?

  • Erik focused more on his work experience at UGF than on school because he believed that getting real experience would mean more than getting a perfect GPA.
  • He took on more responsibility there, tried to learn as much as he could, and relationships there eventually opened the door to his first investing job out of college.

What was it like getting your first investing job out of undergrad?

  • He had done banking at Goldman and even had a return offer, but he rejected it because he really didn't want to do banking.
  • Again, it was through his connections at UGF that he was able to get his first job with TCV.

What was the learning curve like at TCV?

  • Biggest challenge was going from a mostly-diligence internship with UGF to a mostly-sourcing job at TCV.

How do you think about hard skills vs. soft skills?

  • Hard skills are table stakes. They'll never get you the offer. It's the soft skills that really get you over the top.
  • Time management is extremely important.

What's some advice that you've gotten that's been particularly impactful for you?

  • There is asymmetric risk-reward in venture, but also in life as well. Always go the extra mile because you have everything to gain and little to lose.
  • You can't know everything starting out, so build deep expertise in one thing as you start out. That way you at least have some expertise to trade people as you network.

What's the most impactful thing you've read or learned?

  • "Jobs to be done" by Clayton Christensen

Current Job

What's TCV like?

  • Growth equity firm. Check size between $50M and $400M. Series C onwards, with some public investments as well.
  • Work experience was good, typical work week was anything between 50 to 80 hours per week. Culture is great as well.

How was success defined at TCV?

  • Quality over quantity. If you call 150 founders and nothing pans out, that's worth nothing. But if you just one phone call that goes really well, that means something.

What advice do you have for someone who's just starting out at their first investing job?

  • Build expertise in a certain industry. This has a multiplier effect as your career progresses and it will help you land deals.

What's your favorite part of due diligence?

  • Team is incredibly important, but Erik enjoys looking at markets and digging into a product

Career Plans

How do you craft your career?

  • You have to get into the habit of continuously learning and you need to be intentional about the people you choose to work with