General Partner, Lightstone Ventures and Advanced Technology Ventures
I went to Tuck thinking I was challenging myself—it became clear right away that there were more options in front of me than I ever realized, and that maybe I needed to think bigger.
Not many people in ball bearing sales finish their careers in venture capital. For Mike Carusi T’93, now one of the most successful health care investors in Silicon Valley, that unlikely journey started with two eye-opening years at Tuck.
“I had never thought about consulting or venture capital and, frankly, didn’t really know what those things were. It was Tuck—and more so my classmates—that showed me those opportunities because they were all from different fields and had experiences that were different from my own.”
Carusi had studied mechanical engineering as an undergraduate and began his career selling industrial equipment. He was good at it, but wanted something more.
“I always liked a challenge, and that’s part of what drew me to Tuck,” he says. “I went in thinking I was challenging myself, and it became clear right away that there were more options in front of me than I ever realized, and that maybe I needed to think bigger.”
After Tuck, Carusi weighed a good, safe offer from a big pharmaceutical firm, but at the 11th hour chose to join the Wilkerson Group, “a quirky little consultancy that did nothing but health care.” He took an opportunity to help open the Wilkerson office in London, then did the same in San Francisco. He repeated that pioneering pattern in his venture capital career, both at Advanced Technology Ventures (ATV) and his new health care-only fund, Lightstone Ventures. He’s now a general partner in both firms.
“I always chose the satellite office or the startup even within the big company,” Carusi says. “You can fall on your face when you do that but also, if you succeed, it’s very visible. That creates opportunity, and it certainly did for me.
In 2001, he invested in a biotech startup called Plexxikon. “It was just a tremendous team and a piece of paper,” Carusi says with a laugh. “I was a new venture capitalist and I had to scrape and claw my way in.” Once he got a grip he didn’t let go. By 2011, when the company sold to Daiichi Sankyo for just under a billion dollars, he was the largest investor.
That same year another venture that Carusi had backed, Ardian, sold to Medtronic for $800 million. One of the bankers in the deal was a Tuck classmate, Michael McIvor T’93. Soon after the high-profile transaction closed, Michael Zubkoff invited them both back to Hanover. Zubkoff is Professor of Health Economics and Management at Tuck and director of Dartmouth’s MD/MBA program.
“He thought it would be neat if it two of us would do a class together—myself as the venture capitalist who invested in the deal and then Michael as the banker who helped to sell it,” says Carusi, who has now taught the 5-week “mini” course for four consecutive years. It’s Carusi’s way of passing on the lesson that changed his life: to think bigger.
“Having people in the classroom that have been there and done that adds a different element,” he says. “It’s something that students can draw on.”
When Carusi wants to discover the next new thing, or figure out if a startup company’s revolutionary heart stent really is revolutionary, he taps into his network. Here Carusi shares networking tips gleaned during his two decades of meeting people and making deals.
It’s OK to network. Some people hear networking and think “slimy” or “cheesy.” I define it as trying to continue to meet and get to know as many people as possible. And also learning from them. What are they interested in? What areas are intriguing? What strategies are they pursuing?
Not just a foot in the door. Part of networking is how you get a job, but in a lot of professions, networking is a critical success factor in keeping your job and performing well. Especially in venture capital.
Make a connection. Sometimes it’s cold calling. Usually you look for linkages to get introductions, and there’s a whole technique to how you do that. A lot of this is done using the Internet, Facebook, LinkedIn. But I’m old school, so I still tend to pick up the phone, send an email, or have coffee.
Find the right person. Make sure you’re reaching out to the right people. I work in health care venture capital, but I often get calls from people interested in IT venture capital. Well, I’m not really the right person.
Do your homework. Before you have a meeting, you need to have an agenda. It may not be written down. What is it you want to talk about? What do you want to learn? What do you want to get out of it? What are the next steps?
Baby steps. The goal of the first meeting might just be to get to a second meeting that’s longer and in person. It doesn’t need to be a lofty goal. It’s a process; don’t rush it.
Be curious. Ask lots of questions, and listen. Sometimes there’s a tendency to want to talk. There’s a time and place for that. But if your agenda is to get information, there should be a lot of questioning and listening.
What can you offer? Try to think if there’s anything you can offer in return. Sharing what you’re learning that is interesting, sharing different points of view you’ve heard. I will be more engaged because you’re giving me something. It’s a two-way street.
In pioneering new health-care models emphasizing preventive care, John Sory T’93 overcame skepticism in the most direct way possible: He guaranteed better results.Read More
At Boston-based nonprofit Health Leads, Lea Tompsett T’06 is working with health care providers and social service agencies to ensure patients have access to basic necessities: food, transportation, housing.Read More
Duncan Reece T’08 was seven years into a career in finance when he realized he wanted to have a greater impact on the world around him. He found that connection in the health-care industry.Read More
James “Jim” Lindstrom
Providence Service Corporation CEO Jim Lindstrom T’01 has a career of both investment and senior operational roles—a unique perspective to lead a multinational corporation in today’s dynamic environment.Read More
Amrit Ray T’02 is working to improve compassionate access to investigational medicines and medicines for children—callings that combine his professional strengths with his personal convictions.Read More
As managing director of the Boston Forum of Golden Seeds, a national network of angel investors funding early-stage companies led by women, Deb Kemper T'95 lives by the motto: be the change you want to see in the world.Read More
Kathryn Baker T'93 is a true expert on boards of directors. She has served on more than 20 of them over the last 16 years, ranging from oil and gas companies to Norway’s Central Bank to Tuck’s own European Advisory Board.Read More
The Chinese economy has grown tremendously since 1989, and so have the opportunities for enterprising Tuck graduates, like Jie Lian T'01.Read More
Williams College chief investment officer Collette Chilton T’86 is helping deliver big returns for the Little Ivy.Read More
Investor. Philanthropist. Entrepreneur. Roger McNamee T’82 is all of these and more in a career that has taken him to the top of the tech world.Read More
Alain Karaoglan T’87 never could have predicted he would one day be chief operating officer of Voya Financial, a top-tier retirement plan provider with more than $500 billion in assets under management and administration.Read More
Navigating the present while honoring the past is a challenge for many Native people. Debbie Atuk T’04 has found a way to do both.Read More
After working in security sales for Golman Sachs, Christopher Fox T'81, was drawn back to the public sector because he wanted to serve his community and for the intellectual challenge.Read More
At Tuck, Vicki Craver T'97 discovered a latent interest in financial strategy. Now, after a successful career at Goldman Sachs and raising a family, she applies her financial accumen to vetting nonprofit projects.Read More
Following five years in the mergers and acquisitions industry, Scott Frantz T'86 joined a few close friends in putting together a private equity and venture capital business.Read More
Sword, Rowe & Company CEO Daniel Rowe T’09 is blending his love of music into a successful career with the boutique merchant bank.Read More
In much of the Middle East and North Africa, cash is still king. PayPal’s Francis Barel T’05 wants to change that, and open people’s lives to the world along the way.Read More
One of Blair LaCorte T’90’s great skills as a leader is not only to guide a company from infancy to success, but to know when to set it—and himself—free.Read More