Patrick Lahue is the Head of Platform at Struck Capital in Los Angeles, CA. Prior to Struck Capital, Patrick spent many years as a strategy consultant advising large corporations and earlier stage companies on growth strategy at Monitor Group and Monitor Deloitte. After consulting, Patrick moved to TrialSpark as a Director of Client Growth. TrialSpark is a health-tech startup backed by Sequoia Capital, Spark Capital, Thrive Capital, and Felicis Ventures. Patrick graduated with honors from Harvard University, where he received a B.A. in Psychology and Spanish. He also received an M.B.A. from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management with majors in Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as Marketing.
What did the first steps of your career look like?
After finishing my undergrad at Harvard I went into management consulting to get my feet wet in business and get exposed to a wide array of industries. I thought of consulting as the perfect way to not only learn about business, but to figure out what I really wanted to do in the business world. I kicked things off at a global management and strategy firm, Monitor Group, based out of the New York office where I focused primarily on customer-focused marketing strategy. Naturally, I started out as the lowest rung on the ladder, running models, doing research, consolidating findings and recommendations and beyond. I worked hard and stuck with it though, soon rising through the ranks and finding myself managing large teams complex strategy projects just a couple years out of undergrad. I learned a lot in those early years as a consultant, from problem solving and critical thinking to leadership and relationship building. It was the perfect crash course in learning about the business world.
I made some lifelong friends in those years as well — two of my coworkers actually were in my wedding party, and one of them officiated the ceremony! I also got completely spoiled by the amazing view from our New York office which I will never forget. It was a pretty epic view to have every day for my first job out of college!
After these first steps, what brought you to business school?
I learned a lot on the ground in consulting — obviously, you learn a lot in a trial by fire! — but I had never really had formal coursework in business. I thought it was time to take an accounting course once and for all, for example, and just really solidify a lot of what I had learned on the job, while also testing some of the ways I had learned to do business in an academic setting. I knew business school would be a great opportunity to expose myself to a broader set of career paths as well, and of course expand my network with talented, ambitious people from all walks of life. I’ll admit, the social aspects that make business school so fun were a big draw too! Kellogg checked the box on a ton of what I was looking for, including being the top program in the world for marketing.
What ultimately brought you from the world of consulting and MBAs to the world of startups and Venture Capital?
After business school I actually went back into consulting for a few more years, this time on the West Coast in Los Angeles, with a focus on really building out my leadership and client management skills. It was still very interesting work, but eventually it was time to leave given I did not aspire to be a consulting partner. I had been really eager to try out working in a growth-stage startup, and decided to do that for my next step. I wanted to get in early enough at a startup where it would still really feel like a startup, so I targeted Series A and B companies. Realizing startups at those stages don’t usually hire general strategists, I decided to focus on an industry where I had some real industry knowledge from consulting — the life sciences.
Eventually I found myself at a New York-based healthtech startup called TrialSpark that focuses on innovating around the way that pharmaceutical products are tested and come to market. It’s a seriously broken industry and I was super passionate about the company’s mission to bring new therapies to patients faster and more efficiently. I joined as a Director of Client Growth, focused on building out the company’s West Coast relationships with biotechs and pharmaceutical companies, based out of Los Angeles.
While I enjoyed my time at TrialSpark, spending time at a venture backed startup stoked an interest in me to be on the other side of the table as an investor, as I saw the power investors have to coach their founders and work with them to really set them up for success. I realized that being at a VC is not just about identifying the next big company and cutting a check, but rather there is a ton of work an investor can and should do to help their portfolio companies succeed. Getting into early stage venture capital would allow me to be in the trenches with founders, make an impact on their business, and really leverage the full set of skills I had built in consulting and in my time in the startup world.
Platform seemed like it could be the perfect home for me, and timing worked out that as I was considering this move into VC, Struck Capital was looking for a new Head of Platform. I jumped on the opportunity to join the team.
What attracted you to Struck Capital?
What attracted me so much to Struck Capital was the people. I met Adam and Greg and really clicked with their passion and authenticity — I immediately felt like these were people I could work with and hopefully become good friends with. When I was interviewing, I remember the team said something along the lines of “we work really hard, but it doesn’t even feel like work…it’s actually fun.” That’s been 100% true — we do work hard on behalf of our portfolio companies, but it’s a very collaborative approach and it is really rewarding to make a meaningful impact on our portfolio companies. It really is fun to come to each work today and do everything we can to support our founders.
Beyond that, I could sense that the firm, while already very successful, was just in the early innings of achieving everything it could. I felt like this was an opportunity to build something great with the team and make a big mark in the VC world. I just couldn’t pass up the chance to be a part of the journey. Needless to say, I worked as hard as I could to put my best foot forward and try to get an offer!
What is your vision for Struck Capital?
In line with what drew me to the firm, I still very much feel there is a very palpable sense of “this is just the very start of everything”, and I can just tell that we’re on the cusp of greatness. We can become the premier early stage venture firm of LA, and honestly far beyond that. I think Struck Capital will play a meaningful role in building the next generation of transformative companies across a wide array of industries. You can already see that happening with some of our Fund I companies like Sendoso and Mythical Games.
With that big vision in mind, everything we’re doing today will pay dividends. I really see that there is a powerful snowball effect: you work hard for your portfolio companies and interact well with other funds, and it creates a wonderful, virtuous cycle. I think the more that we keep our heads down and do this good work, all these other things will continue coming together. We’re going to get smarter and smarter about the pattern recognition of what we have to do to help these companies be successful, and with that we’ll continue to develop a track record as the people that are built to get you from Seed to Series A in the most effective and efficient manner possible. I want us to be on the shortlist of top Seed stage VCs in the country, and I am so excited to play a role in helping us achieve that.
What have your initial thoughts and reflections on Platform in Venture Capital been?
I think I’ve learned that founders really do appreciate the work that you do on their behalf, and the work that you do in partnership with them. There’s a real appreciation for it when you’re acting as a true extension of their team. I’ve also learned that a lot of VCs talk about Platform and value creation, but not too many are really doing it. So sometimes when you start working with a founder and you actually follow through on something you said you were going to do (which is just the standard expectation here at Struck Capital), there’s almost a level of shock! I’ve heard that kind of reaction more than a few times now when we’ve referred major customers or brought in talented candidates for major roles. You start to add that tangible value, and it becomes a really collaborative relationship that’s much less transactional than I imagine many founder to investor relationships are.
With that, there are just so many different initiatives a Platform team can roll out, and some of the big firms have unlimited resources to do so. We’re a smaller leaner team though, so I’ve learned to focus on what is really going to move the needle for our companies. Try ideas out, fail fast, and then scale up and productize those initiatives that are really going to make a big impact across our portfolio.
Getting to know you more personally, how did you meet your husband Pedro?
We actually met in business school at Kellogg! Pedro was one class ahead of me. We were both in the business school musical together (yes, that’s actually a thing!). We had gotten to know each other throughout the school year, and I knew I really liked him, but it wasn’t really until the last couple weeks of school that I said “I really can’t let him graduate without seeing if there might be something here.” So, partly due to that urgency, our first date actually was actually to my 5-year college reunion at Harvard. I bought him a ticket and flew him out to Boston! We haven’t really looked back since then. I moved out to Santa Monica after I graduated to join Pedro, we got engaged a few years later in Rome, and then got married in Lisbon, Portugal (where Pedro is from) in 2019. So, all in all, I definitely feel like going to Kellogg was the right choice.