Brian Keil's Entrepreneurial Journey

Chestnut Street Ventures' Managing Partner shares his journey into venture

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Brian Keil, Managing Partner of Chestnut Street Ventures (Alumni Ventures’ fund for the Penn community) shares his venture journey, including his first job, lessons learned, exciting investments, and more.

Brian Keil
Brian Keil
Managing Partner, Chestnut Street Ventures

Brian is a seasoned venture capitalist with over 20 years of investing experience across a range of industries. Before joining Chestnut Street Ventures, Brian was the Managing Director for New York Ventures, the venture capital arm of the State of New York. Brian holds an MBA in Finance from The Wharton School and a BS in Industrial Engineering from The University of Southern California.

1. What was your first job in venture and how did you get it?

My first job in venture capital was as a Vice President in the equity investment group at GE Capital. I was connected to the opportunity by one of my wife’s colleagues at Catterton Partners, a growth equity firm.

2. Share with us a story about how someone, especially a fellow alum, helped you along the way. 

As I noted, my wife — whom I met while we were both pursuing our MBAs at the Wharton School — was instrumental in providing the connections that enabled me to transition from management consulting to principal investing. Her bosses at Catterton put me in touch with the Capital TrustGroup, one of their frequent co-investing partners, regarding a role on their growth equity team. I spent two years at Capital Trust honing my investment skills before making the switch to GE Capital.

3. Share one of the top lessons you’ve learned over the years in working with founders. 

I have served as a Board member or observer on dozens of venture backed companies during my over 20-year career as a venture investor.

What that experience has taught me is that the most successful founders are flexible in their approach.

They continuously adjust to the feedback they are receiving from customers, board members, and investors. They are also acutely aware of the changing competitive environment around them. Adaptability has become a key quality that I look for in startup founders.

4. Give an example of one recent investment that you’re particularly excited about.

I am particularly excited about Certa, a Chestnut Street Ventures Fund 4 portfolio company, that provides Fortune 500 companies with a single solution to manage all their third-party relationships. The opportunity came to us through one of our investors and has strong Penn connections. In fact, both the company’s CEO and CFO are Wharton alums. The company’s solution is also ideally suited for the modern business environment, where large enterprises increasingly rely on partners to deliver value to the customers. Certa digitizes and automates the entire third-party journey so companies can move faster while reducing risk.

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