It’s no surprise that COVID-19 significantly accelerated attention to and investment in the future of work, given trends like shifting workforce dynamics and increased demand for technology.
Lizbeth Nunez, WG’22, thought a lot about these shifts during her recent internship with Firework Ventures, an impact venture capital firm co-founded by Ashley Bittner, WG’13, a Wharton Social Impact Bendheim Fellow.
Nunez, now a second-year MBA student, spent several months in this social impact internship. She reflects on her experience and how the pandemic has increased the importance of investing in the future of work.
What is Firework Ventures and what did you do there?
Nunez: Firework Ventures is a venture capital firm that leads Series A investments in future-of-work companies along four focus areas: models of work, worker mobility, support and well-being, and skills. As a summer associate, I met with incredible founders, performed policy and market research, conducted due diligence, and developed an investment thesis focused on the small business e-commerce sub-sector.
What drew you to this opportunity?
Nunez: The firm’s founders have a mission that strongly aligns with my desire to invest in human-centered business models. They have an impressive investment track record and 30+ years of collective experience funding startups in this space. The team also has a reputation for being collaborative and providing great support to portfolio companies.
How does the firm seek to create a positive societal impact?
Nunez: Work opportunities and education are two critical pillars of socio-economic mobility. They often overlap and strongly influence one another. Investing in these two areas can drastically improve quality of life for individuals and equip great organizations to fulfill their missions more efficiently. For example, some of the companies I worked with over the summer expanded access and affordability of education to help individuals prepare for in-demand and higher-paying careers. This translates to improved wealth opportunities for workers and a job-ready talent pipeline for companies.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected impact investing in this space?
Nunez: COVID-19 significantly impacted the job market and accelerated future-of-work trends. The U.S. saw extraordinarily high job vacancies, record-breaking quit levels, accelerated technology adoption, and new workforce demands. Our team was constantly researching shifting market dynamics and expanding our thesis where appropriate. The pandemic’s impact has increased the importance of rapidly investing in the future of work.
What was the most surprising thing you learned?
Nunez: I was surprised by how many aspects of venture capital I was able to participate in during the summer, the opportunity to fully own projects, and how much I learned from simply shadowing the leadership team. They have a wealth of knowledge that allows them to identify great opportunities, and meaningfully support founders.
How did you draw on your prior work experience in this role?
Nunez: In my prior role, I was working with government officials and industry executives on initiatives that would strengthen South Florida’s economic environment. This kind of work requires being forward-thinking about community needs and facilitating relationships among leaders that can make complex projects come to life for the benefit of many. As a venture capital investor, you are largely making investment decisions based on an assessment of broader market needs and the ability of founders to solve those needs with the support of their network.
How has this experience been transformative for you?
Nunez: Working directly with the founders of a young venture capital firm was a tremendous learning opportunity. I loved being able to learn from their years of experience in the industry and greatly enjoyed working with a Wharton alum. This experience increased my knowledge of the venture capital industry and gave me significant practical training. I am looking forward to continuing to build my knowledge on campus this year, both through related coursework and internship projects.
Posted: October 22, 2021