Listed as one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 and founder of Slope Media, Caitlin Strandberg ‘10, has worked her way up in the venture capital industry since graduating from Cornell University. Recently the 28-year-old spoke at Forte Campus at Cornell’s Speaker series and highlighted her startup experiences at Cornell and beyond.
Strandberg graduated from Cornell’s College of Arts & Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in History. While she was involved in the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and Men’s Lightweight Crew as a cockson, her biggest passion was launching Slope Media. She worked to bring this new exposure to radio and digital media to campus, and today, Slope Media is Cornell’s multimedia powerhouse, producing media and entertainment with a creative, student perspective on everything that matters to the Big Red community. The club’s motto is “Media with an edge” and that “Slope is for students, by students”. Looking back, Strandberg talked about how she had struggled with knowing what she wanted to do and starting Slope Media sparked her interest in startups.
After graduation, Strandberg worked with Behance, acquired by Adobe, and joined the company as the 10th employee. She enjoyed the startup culture and hands-on environment that Behance fostered and then eventually left the company once it had 35 employees. She later worked at Learnvest and FlyBridge before going back to school for her MBA.
Strandberg was a participant of Harvard Business School’s 2+2 MBA program, that offers early acceptance to college graduate and creates a contract for them to gain 2-4 years of work experience and then matriculate automatically to graduate school. This security of graduate school gave Strandberg to opportunity to learn and explore as much as she could before starting school again. Strandberg mentioned HBS allowed her to meet strong female friends who were equally ambitious, build a network, and gain a broader exposure to business beyond startups. After receiving her MBA, Strandberg joined the investment team of FirstMark, a venture capital firm. FirstMark has been an early investor in Pinterest, Airbnb, and Riot Games. Strandberg now serves as a Vice President of FirstMark.
Given all her accomplishments, Strandberg offered the following advice to her student audience:
1. There is no required path.
As a history major, the finance and venture capital field was completely new to Strandberg, but that didn’t stop her. Her unique degree allowed her to bring a fresh set of ideas to the table. For internships, she focused on startups that valued initiative and allowed her to work in all aspects of the company, using her experience starting Slope Media as her commitment to being on the frontlines of something new.
2. Believe in the future.
When asked how she incorporates creativity in the venture capital world, Strandberg emphasized suspending belief and imaging what the future can hold. She referenced Snapchat, a company with disappearing images that would most likely have been thought of as crazy in the early 2010s. Now, Snapchat is one of the most successful tech start-ups, revolutionizing the photo and video-sharing field. Furthermore, she’s interested in the future of New Media 2.0 and how people can foster original content in interesting ways.
3. Have a strong support system.
As one of the few leading women in venture capital, Strandberg mentioned having a support system is crucial. She encourages students to, “find the best place for you to succeed, grow professionally, learn, and be on the edge of your comfort level” while having both male and female mentors to guide you.
Caitlin Strandberg’s (‘10) story showcases the benefits of being passionate in your work, curious about the world, and defying boundaries of what you are expected to do.