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Crunchbase Spotlight: Megan Holston-Alexander, Unusual Ventures

Crunchbase Spotlight is a series that celebrates diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and tech by profiling people of color, women, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

Megan Holston-Alexander Crunchbase Spotlight

How does one go from pursuing an academic career to becoming a venture capitalist? You remember the inequalities entrepreneurial-minded people in your hometown face on a daily basis.

Meet Megan Holston-Alexander, a Venture Capitalist at Unusual Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in consumer and enterprise startups.

From Montgomery, Alabama to Silicon Valley

Born and raised in Montgomery, Alabama, Holston-Alexander’s life goal was to have an academic career where she would teach full-time, do research, and climb the ladder to becoming a Dean and then President of a college.

A year into her Ph.D. program, however, Holston-Alexander realized something: despite many years pursuing higher education – Bachelors to Masters to Ph.D. – academia wasn’t her calling. It wasn’t something she wanted to do for the rest of her career.

That realization led her to eventually drop out of the Ph.D. program and move to Silicon Valley with her husband, originally from San Jose.

Now, smack dab in the tech capital of the world, Holston-Alexander found herself leveraging her academic background to help various organizations with research before deciding to enroll in Stanford’s business school. This is where she experienced her “ah-ha” moment.

At business school, Holston-Alexander explored many different areas of interest. Venture capital, in particular, resonated most as it hit close to home (literally) and addressed a crystal clear problem that she had seen with her own two eyes.

It’s Not Always About the Benjamins

Montgomery, Alabama is a city that has seen its fair share of hard times and has a rich civil rights history – it’s the primary location for the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a city where unemployment has historically been high in comparison to the national average, with very few job opportunities.

However, what Montgomery lacked in employment opportunities residents made up for with sheer hustle. As Holston-Alexander shared, “I was constantly surrounded by entrepreneurship. People hustled to make ends meet. When there were no jobs, people created them. They would create their own businesses. There wasn’t any venture capital.”

The reality is, very little venture capital dollars flow through the Midwest or southern parts of the U.S. in comparison to western and eastern states. Places like Silicon Valley, New York, Seattle, and Boston dominate the headlines when it comes to where venture capitalists are investing their money and where companies are establishing their headquarters.

Holston-Alexander’s experience seeing little to no funding go to ambitious entrepreneurs in her own backyard sparked her to dive into venture capital as a full-time profession. Hungry to learn the ins and outs of the profession, she started with four internships at venture firms while at Stanford, which eventually led to Unusual Ventures. This was her opportunity to help the people who didn’t have access to the same pool of capital as their peers in Silicon Valley and other tech hubs.

As Holston-Alexander stated, “There are people creating really great things that don’t have access to capital. People that I know. People from back home. I wanted to figure out how to support them.”

While venture capital is ultimately about making a return on investment, sometimes a person gets into the profession not for the money but for the impact.