Michael Carusi

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.”

On Networking

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.

Continue Reading

Related Stories

DOING WELL BY DOING GOOD: Meet Nespresso CFO Hilary Halper T’07

Hilary Halper T’07, CFO of Nespresso, reflects on the company’s sustainability focus and the increasingly strategic role that CFOs play in business today. 

Read More

BEYOND THE BALANCE SHEET: Meet Derrick Johnson T’96

How an analytical mindset and a Tuck MBA helped propel Derrick Johnson T’96, SVP and COO of Agiliti Health, to the forefront of health care operations.

Read More

The People-First Manager

Leading with integrity and a keen focus on the human side of banking, Interbank CEO Luis Felipe Castellanos T’98 is helping build a better future for Perú’s middle class.  

Read More

The Resilient Founder: Sarah Ketterer T’87, CEO of Causeway Capital

As Sarah Ketterer T’87, CEO of Causeway Capital Management, will attest, weathering the inevitable storms that arise in global financial markets requires ample grit, teamwork, and humility. 

Read More

A Strategic Approach to Talent Management

Liberty Mutual Vice President and Senior Talent Advisor Alice Lin T’14 shares how effective leadership and data analytics can drive positive company culture.

Read More

A Winning Story: Meet Crunchyroll CFO Travis Page T’10

As the CFO of Crunchyroll, a specialty streaming service that boasts 120 million users, Travis Page T’10 is leveraging his varied experience in the media and entertainment space to bring the Japanese art form to a wider audience.

Read More

How to Shake Up an Industry, with Tomo Cofounder Carey Schwaber Armstrong T’10

Carey Schwaber Armstrong T’10, cofounder of Tomo, is working to transform the homebuyer experience.

Read More

How to Be a Successful Product Marketer with Meta’s Federico Queirolo T’14

Federico Queirolo T’14, product and go-to-market leader at Meta, shares his experiences and tips for successful product marketing.

Read More

Driving Innovation in Health Care: Meet Jeff Woods T’05

Health care in the U.S. is a $4 trillion industry. Jeff Woods D’97, GR’98, MED’98, T’05 believes private sector innovation will make it more efficient and effective. 

Read More

Closing the Financing Gap for Local Businesses: Meet Honeycomb Cofounder George Cook T’17

Honeycomb Credit works specifically with small businesses and allows consumers, nonprofits, and other organizations to loan small amounts of cash to a particular venture.

Read More

Addressing the Opioid Crisis through the Power of Community: Meet Steve Kelly T’18

As cofounder of Boston-based Better Life Partners, Steve Kelly T’18 is focused on providing same-day treatment for opioid use disorder by tapping into a network of community organizations.

Read More

Making the Most of Time at the Laundromat: Meet Courtney Bragg T’18

For Courtney Bragg T’18, founder of Fabric Health, the key to helping the millions of low-income people across the country started in an unlikely place—the laundromat.

Read More

At BCG, A Small-Team Approach: Meet Cristina Henrik T’08

A conversation with Cristina Henrik T’08, managing director and partner at the Boston Consulting Group, on how private equity has evolved and what has stuck with her since her Tuck days.

Read More

Tuck Relationships Run Deep at .406 Ventures

Classmates and spouses So-June Min T’95 and Liam Donohue T’95 reflect on their winding path as co-founders of the Boston-based venture capital firm .406 Ventures.

Read More

Leading with Purpose: Bank of America CFO Alastair Borthwick T’93

Alastair Borthwick T’93, CFO at Bank of America, reflects on his Tuck experience and the people-first approach that drives his success as a financial leader.

Read More

How to Be a Successful Operations Leader

To succeed in operations, says ZOE COO Nicole Xu T’11, you need the short-term vision to run the business day-to-day, but you also need to be able to think three to five years ahead to build for the future. 

Read More

Why We Need More Women Entrepreneurs—And Investors

A conversation with venture capitalist Elizabeth Davis T’20, an investor with the Anthemis Group’s Female Innovators Lab.

Read More

Anu Codaty

As VP of interventional pain at Medtronic, mission-driven leader Anu Codaty T’04 is helping to alleviate patients’ pain, restore health, and extend human life.

Read More

Julie Skaff

Julie Skaff’s health care career has provided her the opportunity to make meaningful change, and fostered a deep appreciation for the type of wise leadership the industry needs.

Read More

Phong Nguyen

Phong Nguyen made the leap to health care with Accolade, a provider of personalized health and benefits solutions to employees and their families

Read More

Diane Daych

After Tuck, Daych worked as “a generalist in the buyout world,” before making the conscious decision to focus on health care during a time when the industry was becoming dramatically more complex.

Read More

E. Selemon Asfaw

 E. Selemon Asfaw’s interest in health care came later, awakened during a summer internship at Goldman Sachs and sharpened the next year in a Tuck elective.

Read More

Enoch Kariuki

Enoch Kariuki’s blend of scientific knowledge and business training is suited to the current moment in biotech, where breakthroughs in the understanding of the human genome and technologies have opened a world of new opportunity.

Read More

Si France

France began his career at McKinsey as a health care consultant, where his exposure to urgent care centers in Portland, Oregon called to mind a Tuck lecture entitled “Is Your Industry Ready for a Rollup?”

Read More

Simplifying the Search for Therapy: Meet Jonathan TranPham T’10

Jonathan TranPham T’10, founder & CEO of reflect, wants to improve lives by making it easier to access quality mental health resources.

Read More

Meet Tuck Alumnus Jose Minaya T’00, CEO of Nuveen

A commitment to building diverse, inclusive, and equitable structures across organizations is personal for Jose Minaya T’00, who was named CEO of Nuveen in 2020.  

Read More

Improving Financial Health in the COVID-Era

Prudential President Jamie Kalamarides T'94 on how to improve your financial health during the COVID-19 era.

Read More

Melissa Llarena T’10 on Feeling Empowered Amid Uncertainty

As a career coach and host of the An Interview with Melissa Llarena podcast, Melissa Llarena T’10 is driven by helping marketers and creative professionals rediscover their sellable strengths.

Read More

Laura Ward T’89 Is Tackling the Mental Health Stigma

Armed with an MBA and an MPH, Laura Ward T’89 is building a more informed health care model for individuals with histories of trauma and abuse.

Read More

How to Create a Customer-First Culture

Alison Elworthy T’11, SVP of customer success at HubSpot, offers advice on how to put customers first—no matter the size of your organization.

Read More

How to Build Your Personal Leadership Style

Successful leaders develop their own authentic and personal leadership style, says long-time PetSmart CEO David Lenhardt T’96.

Read More

Meet Tuck Alumnus Richard Noyes of Bartlett Associates

Meet Tuck Alumnus Richard Noyes of Bartlett Associates

Read More

The Humble Leader

In 2015, Tuck alumna Aisha Barry decided to change the course of her career to help other people who felt immobilized by the health care system and a disease diagnosis.

Read More

Noreen Doyle

Noreen Doyle T’74, chair of the Newmont Mining Corporation, was the first woman to chair the British Banker’s Association in its 96-year history.

Read More

Preserving Culture Through Banking: Meet Dawson Her Many Horses T’10

Dawson Her Many Horses T’10, SVP & Native American business leader at Wells Fargo, helps Native American tribes protect their way of life.

Read More

International Development

As the vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean, Andrei Belyi T'01 leads TechnoServe’s mission of providing business solutions to poverty in 11 countries.

Read More

Tuck Alumnus Named Head of Goldman Sachs’ Global Securities

At Goldman Sachs’ Global Securities Division, Tuck Alumnus Jim Esposito orchestrates a global operation managing risk for asset managers, pension funds, insurance companies, hedge funds, corporations, and governments.

Read More

Bringing Order to the Chaos

Solving complex problems is what's kept Diego Ferro T'93 in finance for 25 years. Here's what he's learned. 

Read More

How to Keep Your Company Data Secure

What Alison Connolly T’11 finds fascinating, most corporate leaders find terrifying. The director of strategic partnerships at DarkOwl is an expert on the darknet.

Read More

How to Make a Successful Startup Pitch

In her seven years as a venture partner at LaunchCapital in Cambridge, Mass., Heather Onstott T’07 has heard about 1,000 pitches from startups.

Read More

Marketing a Disruptive Brand

Together, two Tuck alumni, Kate Jhaveri T’03 and Michael Aragon T’01, led marketing and innovation at the growing global brand Twitch.

Read More

Betsabeh Hermann

Before you know what she is, you first need to know what Betsabeh Hermann T’13 is not: She is not an astronaut. Or at least, not yet anyway.

Read More

Rick Cardenas

T’98 Rick Cardenas’ first job was bussing tables at a Red Lobster. Fast forward 30 years and he’s now CEO of Darden Restaurants which, until 2014, owned Red Lobster.

Read More

Lindsey Drake

Fun Finance: Lindsey Drake T’11 talks about her role as a senior finance manager at Amazon Books.

Read More

John Sory

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

Lea Tompsett

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

How to Promote Diversity and Nurture Talent

After Tuck, Suzanne Schaefer T’02 went into management consulting, figuring that eventually she might connect with a particular industry—to her surprise, she instead felt a strong pull toward recruiting and talent development.

Read More

Duncan Reece

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

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

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