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2021 New Venture Competition Judge

WMY47 Conference

Mercedes Bent


Lightspeed Venture Partners


Mercedes’ path to VC is a true convergence of her life experiences — a childhood surrounded by inventors, studies at Harvard and Stanford, finance roles at the Federal Reserve and Goldman, and managing P&L at startups in VR and EdTech, and her long-term goal of empowering communities she cares about. She began her venture capital career at Owl Ventures before joining Lightspeed’s consumer investing team in 2019.

Born in North Carolina and raised in California, Mercedes’ parents introduced her to web development at a young age and dinner table conversations were centered around the next invention by the family. So it’s no surprise that Mercedes found herself working at startups in her early career as a Product Manager and later as a General Manager. She loved the feeling of seeing something she helped build make an impact in the world. During her startup career, she served in almost every functional role – she had roles spanning operations, customer service, talent and recruiting, product management, design, sales, marketing, strategy, and general management.

A few years ago, Mercedes bootstrapped a consulting VR business. By experiencing first-hand how much work goes into launching a business, she gained even more respect for founders. She also realized around the same time that she could actually be the agent of change she wanted to see in startup culture – specifically for underrepresented founders and ideas . “I didn’t have to wait on the sidelines and keep hoping more women and Black and Hispanic founders got funded,” said Mercedes. “I realized I could go and be part of the solution. As an African-American of Bermudian, Grenadian, and Colombian heritage with southern roots, seeing progress hits very close to home."

She’s also a champion of education. Not just as a sector for investment, but as a competitive edge for helping founders. “I want to help founders unearth how their learning approaches can help them address any business problem or personal goal –from getting up to speed on a new sector to fundraising to making the most of a social network,” said Mercedes. "The only constant in startups is change and adapting to this requires constant re-skilling – particularly at the founder level.”

A member of Lightspeed’s consumer investing team, Mercedes is primarily focused on investing in edtech/future of work, mobility/cartech, and consumer products. She has a MBA and Masters in Education from Stanford University and an AB from Harvard University. Outside of work, she mentors founders as part of the Stanford Latino Internship Initiative, serves as a board member for the non-profit Birthright AFRICA, enjoys walks longer than 20 NYC blocks and off-roading in her Jeep. She also loves to deal playing cards very, very fast.

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