Student Summer Highlights Series | John Najafi

Posted 2017-09-06

For some students, summer is a time to kick back and relax. But for others, summer 2017 was an opportunity to build networks, make a positive impact in local communities and learn more about the business world. In the second of this series, we speak with fourth year Bachelor of Commerce student John Najafi about how he chose to spend his summer away from the classroom, and how his experience is shaping his future in business.

How did you spend your summer break?

I had the pleasure of working as a Summer Analyst at VFF – a seed-stage venture capital firm founded by UBC Sauder MBA alums Fraser Hall and Dan Eisenhardt aimed at kick-starting Vancouver’s tech community. At VFF, I worked on new company due diligence and assisting our portfolio companies in various capacities. The role was extremely challenging and meaningful, but there was a steep learning curve – which I loved! Ultimately, I chose to work at VFF not only because of the strong connection to UBC Sauder and the amazing talent in the company, but also because I’m genuinely curious as to what makes a business successful. With my background in finance, genuine curiosity and life-long learner mentality, venture capital seemed like a perfect match.

This curiosity also led me to recently launch a blog/podcast called Maple Ventures, which features conversations with some of Western Canada’s top entrepreneurs, startup founders, CEOs, investors and anyone else involved in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. The B.C. tech sector continues to outpace B.C.’s overall economic growth by two-to-one, so there are definitely a lot of amazing things happening in our tech sector that deserve to be highlighted and discussed.

How did your UBC Sauder education prepare you for this role and help you succeed?

I transferred to UBC Sauder in my third year of business studies, and the one thing I’ve found most valuable has been the emphasis on group work. UBC’s diverse student body provides a great opportunity for students like me to learn how to interact with people who have different skill sets and backgrounds. It’s critical to learn these soft skills early on, since it’s undoubtedly a challenge to adapt and work effectively with others in a “real world” setting.

How do you think this experience will help you with your career aspirations?

At this stage in my career, I wanted to make sure that I was in an environment where I could constantly learn new things, remain challenged and push myself to new extremes. While it can be difficult to quantify that progress, I have no doubt I ended the summer significantly more knowledgeable about the venture capital industry – and business in general – than when I first started in May.

I’m really happy to say that I will continue working with VFF on a part-time basis during the academic year, and will join the team full-time after graduation! It’s an exciting time to join VFF – we have a lot of great portfolio companies with promising futures and we expect to close our second fund in the near future. Ultimately, that provides us with an opportunity to invest in more high-quality entrepreneurs and companies while simultaneously growing the VFF community. I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue working at VFF and helping entrepreneurs along the way!

Besides school and work, tell us one interesting thing you did this summer.

I didn’t get to travel as much as I would’ve liked this summer but I did make a quick trip to Las Vegas! It was everything I expected it to be – fun, energetic, and exciting. The roulette table was definitely not my friend but it was a great experience nonetheless.