The Law degree you didn’t know you needed: venture capitalist credits his success to legal education
Avi Naidu (LLB `07) joins Acting Law Dean, Professor Andrew Lynch over a digital lunch to discuss his career journey as a venture capitalist and explores the transferable skills from his Law degree which have helped him succeed.
Avi started his career with time spent in prestigious investment banks and with King & Wood Mallesons advising on mergers, acquisitions and funds management. Now, he runs his own global investment company, Taronga Ventures, and credits his UNSW legal education as a contributor to business success.
“So why study law?” asked Professor Lynch.
“I noticed that while many of the successful senior leaders I met that were working in investment banking did not all have business degrees, most had Law degrees,” Avi recalled.
“And once I started working, it was obvious to me that the skills and knowledge gained during legal training were a huge advantage in investment banking. Law gives you balanced judgement and the skills to argue your point of view confidently. Ultimately in business, what we’re trying to achieve is to have someone understand a point of view or value proposition as efficiently as possible. Persuasive communication is the most important skill that a law degree taught me,” says Avi.
Avi mentions that Law exposes you to a wide range of industries, stakeholders, and sectors of the community. His advice to students is, “participate in as wide a range of activities as possible during your studies”. As he looks back, Avi wishes he had taken even more diverse opportunities whilst studying, “these extracurricular activities can become as relevant to your career success as the content that you learn in class,” he says.
“Mentoring and network access is an example of something UNSW offers that’s a great way to diversify your thinking and gain broader knowledge and experience,” says Avi. “Both being a mentor, and receiving mentoring, are opportunities to leverage someone else’s experience and knowledge towards making fewer mistakes yourself. I didn’t always see the value, but now I know mentors and access to a diverse group of thought leaders can really accelerate your professional progress."
Similarly, Avi recognises that international students bring different cultural perspectives, and are extremely important in an increasingly interconnected world. His company, Taronga Ventures, actively seeks out candidates with international exposure, people from diverse backgrounds, those with second languages and people who have the ability to adapt. Smart businesses truly value diversity.
“As an investment advisor and, now investor, first-hand experience in various industries and geographies gives you wisdom. Studying Law as a second degree or with a prior unrelated career is especially valuable,” Avi says. “Because you bring to it life experience from other sectors and gain more from your legal education as a result. The same applies to experience from different cultures – international diversity is increasingly prevalent in selection criteria for jobs in business and law.”
Acknowledging that everything in business changes so rapidly; Avi recognises that obtaining varied exposure is hugely important.
“I’m not only making investment decisions, I need to be inside the businesses, understanding their customers, their teams, the opportunities and their risks. A lot of our time involves working closely with founders, coaching on different aspects, be it customers, financial, operational, their teams and, importantly, resilience for themselves. I can’t assist them if I can’t relate to their experience.”
Avi emphasises the value of legal knowledge to boards and management committees. “The balanced judgement of risks that the law gives you is hugely valuable in commercial environments,” he says.
“The value of a lawyer in this changing world with AI is not in their ability to put a contract together it’s their ability to have real world judgement and that comes through a wide breadth of experience – good judgment are most important.”
Asked whether he has a habit or routine that’s been integral to his success, Avi replied, “I think a lot about habits I would like to cultivate, to drive my personal growth”.
Avi wakes up very early, usually 4:00 am, and gets a jump start on the day. He says this is when he has a clear mind and no interruptions, so can work at a different pace. He uses this time to think deeply, more creatively, and to write. He then typically spends the rest of the day with his team, meeting portfolio companies and spending time with investors.
Avi’s other habit is reading widely, he says “it’s so important to form multiple points of view on matters of importance – reading things by people you don’t necessarily agree with allows you to gain perspective.”
“I enjoy the stimulation of different thought processes. In a chaotic world, successful businesses will constantly reflect and reinvent.”