The Winding Road – “Why I Joined PowerPlant Partners” by Dave Reed

Dave Reed — February 2, 2022


Like so many finance pro­fes­sion­als, I start­ed my career in pub­lic account­ing.  It was more than just a career-launch­ing point, it was a reflec­tion of where I came from.  My father was a part­ner at Peat Mar­wick Mitchell & Co. back when it was still the “Big 8” account­ing firm.  My moth­er taught her­self Quick­books to man­age the book­keep­ing of the Church where she worked.  My old­est broth­er worked for Grant Thorn­ton and my oth­er broth­er, who fol­lowed his pas­sion into youth sports coach­ing, couldn’t escape man­ag­ing the books for the base­ball league.  Every­one in my fam­i­ly is heav­i­ly right-brained and shows a strong genet­ic pre­dis­po­si­tion towards order and prag­ma­tism that is per­fect for the account­ing world.

In my first semes­ter at UCSB I took intro­duc­to­ry cours­es in Eco­nom­ics, Polit­i­cal Sci­ence, and Psy­chol­o­gy, think­ing it would help me nar­row down a major.  In real­i­ty, it took very lit­tle time for me to real­ize that Eco­nom­ics with an Account­ing focus was the choice for me, and I quick­ly declared it to the world (or at least the Busi­ness school).

The road I fol­lowed after grad­u­a­tion has been well-trav­eled.  It feels like every PE/VC CFO I meet got their start in pub­lic account­ing, and I was no dif­fer­ent.  My first two clients at E&Y were Light­speed Ven­ture Part­ners and  Noth­ing against Zap­pos, after all they had top-tier snacks and a break-room equipped with a mini tram­po­line, foos­ball table, and Playsta­tion, but much like my choice of majors in col­lege, the answer seemed obvi­ous.  Alter­na­tive Invest­ments were the place for me.  I spent six years audit­ing all kinds of fund struc­tures.  Wind Farms? Check!  Air­plane Leas­ing? Check!  VC, PE, Solar?  Check, check, and check!

After EY I spent a decade at a pri­vate equi­ty firm that took over man­age­ment of the HRJ Cap­i­tal Fund of Funds after HRJ col­lapsed in the cred­it crunch of 2008.  I got mar­ried, start­ed a fam­i­ly, and con­tin­ued to sharp­en my skills.  Once my 2nd son (final­ly) start­ed sleep­ing through the night, I knew that it was time for me to find a new chal­lenge.  That led me to my role as VP of Finance at a blue-chip ven­ture firm focused on Biotech invest­ing.

They say if you want to get smarter, you should put your­self in a room with peo­ple smarter than you.  This was nev­er clear­er to me than dur­ing invest­ment team meet­ings when I sat amongst a group of folks whose title was MD2 (i.e. Man­ag­ing Direc­tor and Med­ical Doctor/PhD).  Most of the med­ical jar­gon went about a mile over my head, but I was fas­ci­nat­ed nonethe­less.  The most reward­ing part was lis­ten­ing to aca­d­e­m­ic founders speak pas­sion­ate­ly about the role of sci­ence in help­ing peo­ple.

After some time, I decid­ed I had learned enough to be ready for anoth­er chal­lenge, and the nat­ur­al next step for me was a CFO job.  Becom­ing CFO of a PE/VC firm had been my goal for 15 years, but it had to be the right firm.  For those of you famil­iar with the Myers-Brig­gs per­son­al­i­ty test, I am a big-time INFJ.  Peo­ple with this per­son­al­i­ty type tend to seek careers that align with their val­ues.  As such, find­ing a firm that embraced a com­mit­ment to mak­ing the world a bet­ter place was my #1 pri­or­i­ty in assess­ing poten­tial land­ing spots.

At Pow­er­plant, I found a group of peo­ple who feel pas­sion­ate­ly about Impact as a core invest­ment the­sis, not just a box to check on a DDQ.  Every­one at Pow­er­plant walks the walk, and mea­sures suc­cess based on ROI2, which does not just return on invest­ment, but also return on impact.  The for­mer pays the bills, but it is the lat­ter that nour­ish­es the soul.  It’s been about three months since I joined the team, and much like my choice of majors and indus­try, the obvi­ous choice end­ed up being the right one.

Thanks for read­ing and ‘ll be back with more soon. I’m kind of on Twit­ter now too, here.

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