Future Private Capital Leaders: Sanjay Zimmermann

July 23, 2018 | By: Jon Jackson

Encouraging and supporting the development of industry leadership is a central part of the sustainability of Canadian private capital. Showcasing talent and telling their stories helps to build and encourage the next generation.

The CVCA is embarking on a new content series featuring the junior talent in the ecosystem. As part of this new series, we caught up with Sanjay Zimmermann, Associate, White Star Capital.

What’s your current position? How long have you been in this position? Can you provide a brief overview of what it is you do in your work?

I am an associate in White Star Capital’s Montreal office. I am one of three associates in the fund, with my peers being in London and New York and one of the three (soon to be four) team members in the Montreal office. I have been in this position for about a year and half and while my title is quite standard, I can’t say that there is anything standard about my day to day or role. Broadly I would split my time as follows:

  • 30% on deal sourcing: meeting companies/evaluating new opportunities, events, etc.
  • 30% on portfolio matters: helping portfolio companies grow and get ready for the next round of financing, reviewing board decks and tracking performance metrics
  • 30% on fund operations and LP reporting: gathering information across offices and ensuring key information on our fund and portfolio companies gets communicated to our LPs
  • 10% on cutting edge technologies education and new sector deep dives (basically reading about cool stuff)

Sanjay Zimmermann, Associate, White Star Capital

What are you most excited or passionate about?

At a high level, I’ve always been passionate about entrepreneurship and finance, which is why I’ve found venture capital to be my ideal career choice (if not to say dream job). I first became interested in finance in my early teens when I was running the “models” to help my dad purchase small multi-family properties with close to 100% leverage (pre-2008). Around the same time, I got my first taste for entrepreneurship through the Junior Achievement program in high school, where I got to run my first “company.” Since then, I’ve remained passionate about these two topics and love the fact that I get to mix them in my day to day at White Star Capital

Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today? What were the skills you had to gain to get where you are? Where and how did you learn those skills?

Taking a step back, I would say that there are three life changing experiences that have set the course for my professional career and what I’m doing today. From these experiences I’ve also gained valuable life lessons that have stayed with me ever since.

1) Moving to Canada

At the age of 8 my family decided to immigrate to Canada from Europe, a move that I firmly believe provided me with a wealth of new opportunities. For one, coming from a humble background, I was fortunate to receive scholarships to attend some of the best schools in the country such as Upper Canada College and earned my first summer job working for the Canadian government at the age of 16 after sending a cold e-mail to the Minister of Finance’s office at the time. In essence, with a German mother and an Indian father, I’m proud to be Canadian and to have grown up in this great country. From this experience, I learned at a young age that with hard work, anything is possible.

2) Travelling the world to meet entrepreneurs

Attending Babson College for my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate enough to receive a stipend to pursue my passion for entrepreneurship and meet entrepreneurs around the world. Over the course of my degree, I travelled to 9 countries, 30+ cities (from Buenos Aires to Bangkok) and met with over 60 entrepreneurs, whom I interviewed as part of a series of mini clips/documentaries that can be found at www.eship7.com. From this experience, I learned that no matter where in the world you are, entrepreneurs are hustlers and interconnected around key investment hubs, university research centres or networks of angels.

3) Starting out as a Rothschild Investment banker and returning to Canada

I started my career in Investment Banking (M&A) at Rothschild in London with the Tech, Media and Telecoms (TMT) team. I worked with brilliant people from all over Europe and the world and learned the discipline of analyzing company business models, digging in on financial details and modelling out key revenue and expense drivers as part of a variety of M&A transactions. Essentially, I learned how successful businesses operate, how they get valued as well as the art of negotiating through complex transactions.

I learned about White Star Capital through a colleague at Rothschild and found it to be a perfect fit because White Star is a transatlantic VC firm based out of London, New York and Montreal and team is of a scale that allows for constant interaction across these hubs. By joining the fund, I could not only enter the VC world but also return home to Canada while continuing to build on my US and European networks.

When you think of the future of private capital, what gives you a sense of hope? What makes you concerned or worried?

I’m quite optimistic about the future of private capital for a variety of reasons but most importantly because I’m quite involved with many of the young future leaders of the industry through my involvement in both the CVCA’s Young Professionals Committee (YPC) and Reseau Capital’s New Generation Board as well as being on the VC advisory board of Front Row Ventures. Getting to know the next generation of private capital leaders across Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and beyond over the last year and half has given me a strong sense of hope in the industry. In talking with peers, concepts of diversity, gender equality, responsible investing and the sheer desire of backing S**t that that matters comes as second nature to many.

From a macro perspective, I do worry as many in the industry that the extended bull run that we are in may come to an end at some point soon and that for many of my peers including myself, this may be the first time we witness such conditions. One of my New York colleagues had put it best by stating that “In my professional experience, markets only go up”.  Which is a comical yet quite accurate statement. Nonetheless, I take solace in the fact that we’ve got several current leaders in the industry who have lived through one or multiple economic cycles to rely on for guidance in these times. For example, at White Star, in Canada alone, I’ve got the pleasure of working with Jean-Francois Marcoux and Christophe Bourque who’ve and will continue to serve as great mentors in my venture capital career journey.

If you would like to submit an idea for content, contribute to an article, or are interested in submitting an op-ed, contact the CVCA’s editorial department here.