Meet the GD1 - Aaron Small, Investment Principal

GD1 Team

With over 10 years of experience in VC and Growth Capital roles in both the UK and NZ; a fascination with how new technologies can transform industries and enable new business models and an unwavering belief in audacity, meet Aaron…

Why venture capital? 

“I did a PhD in materials chemistry under a Professor whose focus was very applied and centred on outcomes. We worked closely with the industry in which we were conducting research and I loved seeing first hand how technology (and new business models) can change industries, lives and the planet. I never wanted to wear a white coat full time; and thought I’d eventually land a commercial role in a science-based organisation because I’d seen companies spun-out based on our research. From this experience, I understood venture capital from early on and the impact it has in terms of bringing technology and innovation into the real world. My ‘next’ was an internship as an analyst at a VC fund…and the rest is quite literally history!”

More importantly, why GD1?

“GD1’s vision echoes that of Sir Paul Callaghan (one of New Zealand’s most high profile scientists and New Zealander of the Year 2011), i.e. we need many more companies that are high value and productive so we can do better as a country. I’m particularly interested in the role technology companies play in achieving this  - and like GD1, I’m convinced that they can emerge from this part of the world. GD1’s challenge to industry is to ‘believe bigger’. They believe in audacity and I share that philosophy and belief.” 

What do you do at GD1, 9-5?

“I lead GD1’s investment team which means making sure that we are able to efficiently engage with the founder ecosystem to uncover the most exciting opportunities. We are a small, tight-knit team and we work very closely together to form opinions on the companies seeking VC investment.” 

What makes a good analyst?

“As a team, our number one focus is this: always question. We look to learn and be robust in our decision making and this requires asking the right questions and taking a critical view of the information we have in front of us. I also always say, ‘once a scientist, always a scientist!’ You have a hypothesis you’re testing and you are always questioning it. When you ask the right questions and then analyse the data that comes in, you’ll arrive at the right answer. That translates perfectly for startups which are actually a series of experiments on the way to building something more lasting and sustainable.” 

What’s your superpower?

“I love building one-on-one relationships with founders in a high trust environment. You really need this to support them in their goal to grow something big. I also love taking complex info and distilling that down to its very essence…” 

What gets you up in the morning?

“Besides my kids…? It would have to be the opportunity to learn.  I am consistently blown away by the founders we meet and I love coming to work to engage with them!” 

If you won the lotto, what would you do? 

“I would love my family to have an international experience, so maybe an extended period of travel first. I am also a passionate golfer - and I'd love to return to Scotland to play some of those courses…” 

What would you say to someone wanting a career in venture capital? 

“There’s no one pathway into VC…people have diverse backgrounds in finance, technology, science and even journalism or politics. Try to develop an ‘edge’ in an industry or within a particular capability - if you can do that and make it ‘your thing’, you’ll convince the best founders and investors to want to work with you, which is ultimately what our industry is about.”

Written bY
GD1 Team



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