Jody Page is a director of investment for Lighter Capital in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Jody Page)

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.

Q.
How did you end up at WSU?
A.
I was recruited to run hurdles. I was 22 by the time I arrived in Pullman. I had spent two years at different community colleges running track and playing football, and I had also taken a couple of years off. Thankfully, I’d figured out how to perform in school by the time I got to WSU. I knew I was very lucky to have this opportunity, given where I’d started from. I’d grown up in less than ideal circumstances, and I wanted something better for myself.
Q.
What experiences at WSU and the Carson College of Business had a lasting impact on you?
A.

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.

Q.
What was your early career like?
A.
My first real job was selling copiers, which gave me a foundation in sales. During the dot.com bubble, I worked for a Seattle internet company where I watched 20 to 30 people at a time get called into the conference room and laid off. It was my first experience with a big economic correction and working for myself seemed more stable. A buddy and I started a real estate investment company and a mortgage brokerage. Later, I worked for Countrywide Financial as a sales manager. Then the 2008 mortgage industry meltdown happened. It was a humbling time.
Q.
How did you gravitate toward startups?
A.

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.

Q.
What is Lighter Capital’s niche?
A.

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.

Q.
What do you enjoy about working with startups?
A.
For me, success is about finding meaning in what I do and making a difference. Every time I fund a company, I’m creating opportunity. I’m opening doors for entrepreneurs or creating jobs—new hires are the most common use of proceeds. I’m also generating great returns for our business and investors.
Q.
What advice would you give to students and recent graduates?
A.

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.