When Paul McCreadie began the full-time MBA program at Michigan Ross in 2001, he had limited knowledge of the world of venture capital. Today, he is a Partner with Arboretum Ventures, which raised a $250M fifth fund in 2019. Arboretum is a healthcare-focused venture capital firm specializing in medical devices, diagnostics, life science tools, and tech-enabled care delivery.
McCreadie pointed to his experiences with the student-led Wolverine Venture Fund (WVF) as what fueled his interest in venture investing. The connections and relationships created through WVF ultimately led him to Arboretum.
For current students who are pursuing careers in venture capital, McCreadie’s biggest advice is to be patient. He noted the path to VC is not always straightforward, but maintaining the longer term perspective is key.
“I tell students at Ross, you’re not going to make a wrong step,” he said. “There are a lot of different skills and expertise that a person can bring, whether it’s finance, consulting, engineering, or something else. And all of those experiences have value ultimately if you want to be an investor.”
Experience becomes especially valuable if it is in the particular industry that students or alumni would pursue as an investor. McCreadie, who has an engineering background, worked in the automotive industry before pivoting to healthcare with Arboretum. A focus on medical technology in his early career as an engineer would prove valuable to him now.
“If I could go back, I would approach my early career much differently because I’m so excited by early stage companies where you have some really passionate founders who are just trying to make things happen,” McCreadie said. “What I find most interesting about venture capital is the ability to surround yourself with people like that.”
Venture creation and venture investment alike are often filled with setbacks and disappointment. It’s how entrepreneurs and investors handle those disappointments that helps them move forward.
“In venture capital you always have the temptation of looking in the rear view mirror and saying what you could have done or should have done differently. It’s good to learn like that, but you have to always remember that you didn’t have all that information, nor could you ever possibly have all that information, when you were looking at it,” McCreadie said. “It’s the venture capitalist’s job to be able to deal with that uncertainty and make a call.”
McCreadie serves as an advisor for the student-led Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, and said he believes in the programming led by the institute.
“To think in 2003 that I would have been asked to come back and be a person who has something of importance to share, I find it really rewarding,” McCreadie said. “There aren’t that many organizations that have the history or longevity of the funds like Ross does.”
McCreadie continues to find entrepreneurs truly inspiring noting, “my role has given me the opportunity to work with really remarkable and talented people.”