Jody Page: Long Road Leads to a Career in Financing Startups for Alumnus
By Becky Kramer
When Jody Page talks to college students about building a career, he tells them “not everyone is fast out of the gate.”
Page (’96 Bus. Admin., Fin.) is a director of investment for Lighter Capital, a Seattle company that provides financing to early stage software and technology firms.
A guest speaker at the WSU Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Page often tells students about the career detours he took before landing at Lighter Capital. He attended WSU on a track scholarship and spent years in other jobs before discovering an affinity for the private capital markets.
“We’re still in a time where most people going to college are first or second generation,” says Page, the first four-year college graduate in his family. “We don’t come from families with long-standing professional backgrounds who can give us advice on building a career.”
Page talks to students about traveling a long road to a satisfying career and finding opportunities during economic downturns.
Running track is about showing up every day, putting in the work, and making incremental improvements. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that’s what building a career is all about. Track was preparing me for my professional life. At the Carson College of Business, I also started to value what I could do outside of athletics.
Econ 301 about killed me. The class was all about derivatives, and I hadn’t had calculus yet, so I was learning it on the fly. Along with portfolio management, it was the class I was most proud of. Not because I did well, but because it was so challenging. I was discovering I had something to offer the world beyond being able to run really fast.
When I was job hunting, I got a call from a startup called PitchBook—a data and analytic company for the private equity and venture capital industry. PitchBook’s founder had worked at a Dow Jones company. He saw an opportunity to provide private market data. Getting that call was pure luck. I had submitted my résumé on LinkedIn maybe a month prior and completely forgotten about it. When I started at PitchBook in 2010, the 15 employees all worked in one room. By the time I left in 2014, there were over 200 employees. I got an unbelievable education in startup culture and the capital markets, and I fell in love with that part of the financial industry. But working for PitchBook was like being in the press box during a game. I wanted to be on the field. I wanted to do deals.
When I found out about Lighter Capital in early 2016, I almost stalked the CEO. I finally said, “If you don’t hire me, I’ve got to take this other job, and I don’t want that job.” I received an offer a few days later.
Most venture capital firms are looking for companies that can deploy $5 million-plus in funding. But a lot of companies operate at a level below that. That’s the market Lighter Capital serves. We provide risk-adjusted debt capital that allows entrepreneurs to preserve their equity in the company. We focus on early stage software-as-a-service (SaaS) or similar subscription business models, preferably with a proprietary software.
I work with a lot of millennials and Gen Zers. One of the things I say is, “Don’t think about money, it will work itself out over time. Think about things that capture your attention intellectually and things you are curious about. And, give yourself room to figure things out.” Most people don’t have it all figured out when they graduate from college. I didn’t. At the time, I wouldn’t have been able to articulate that I wanted to work in private capital markets.