The Road Less Traveled: How Simeon Iheagwam Charted His Own Path to Becoming a Venture Capitalist

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Simeon Iheagwam, Crunchbase SpotlightVenture capital isn’t an easy profession to break into.

There’s no one path to follow, blueprint to emulate, or curriculum to study that will put you on a fast-track.

Some venture capitalists are former founders who made millions taking a company public or selling one. Others cut their teeth in the financial world before settling into startup investing.

And then there are some venture capitalists who take unconventional paths. They buck conventional norms and follow uncommon routes.

Simeon Iheagwam, Founder and Managing Partner of Noemis Ventures, is one such example. Iheagwam became a venture capitalist by tossing out the rule book and taking matters into his own hands.

From Brooklyn to Charlotte

Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised by parents who immigrated from Nigeria, Iheagwam’s road to venture capital started at Brooklyn College where he studied finance.

After graduating, he began his career in banking at JP Morgan where he spent six years focused on corporate finance and market risk.

With a growing interest in investment banking, Iheagwam went on to get his MBA at Cornell University before making the move to Charlotte, North Carolina to work for Wells Fargo where he focused on leveraged finance.

During his time at JP Morgan and Wells Fargo, Iheagwam developed a deep passion for portfolio management and venture capital. His passion for the two led to his next act, pursuing a career in venture.

But there was a problem. Without prior venture capital experience, it would be difficult to convince investors to allow him to invest in startups using their money.

There was only one option: Iheagwam had to prove himself.

The Road Less Traveled

There’s a typical story you hear in venture capital that goes something like this: Start a company, scale it, go public or get acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars, and then become a venture capitalist.

What if you don’t want to start a company and just want to launch a career in venture capital?

In Iheagwam’s case, he bet on himself to do just that.

While his peers encouraged him to work at a startup and then transition to venture capital down the road. Iheagwam set a different plan in motion. He decided to build a track record as an investor by investing his life savings in companies he had strong conviction about – no risk, no reward as the old saying goes.

Iheagwam’s strategy to break into venture capital only began with angel investing. Through the creation of a brand, Noemis Ventures, he created an investment vehicle with reach that extended way beyond his name.

Iheagwam’s theory was that if the startups he backed with his own money raised follow on rounds or got acquired, he would have an easier time convincing people that he could manage their money without formal experience at a venture capital firm. This was the opportunity he needed to prove his capabilities as an investor.

The Pay Off

Iheagwam’s decision to invest his own money paid off.

In three years, he has invested in 10 companies through Noemis Ventures at the pre-seed and seed stages.

Remarkably, seven out of the 10 companies have gone through a liquidity event. Two of the companies were acquired (Trigger and Gitlinks) and five received follow on rounds at higher valuations. Of the five companies who raised additional funding, one closed their Series A round, two closed their Series B, one closed a Series C, and another raised additional Seed capital.

With 70 percent of his investments raising additional capital or getting acquired, Iheagwam has proven that his thesis and framework are sound. His pilot fund of 10 companies has achieved an internal rate of return (IRR) of 40% and multiple of invested capital (MOIC) of 3.0x.

As a result of his track record as an investor, Noemis Ventures is capitalizing on Iheagwam’s early success and started the next phase in building out a full-service venture capital fund.

There’s More Than One Way

What Iheagwam has proven is that you don’t have to have a traditional background in venture capital to break into the profession and be successful.

If you’re passionate about helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses, there’s more than one way to become a venture capitalist.

Ultimately, what Iheagwam’s story shows is that with hard work, a strong belief in yourself, and humility, anything is possible.

  • Originally published March 16, 2020, updated May 5, 2023