How Silvio Memme went from Ferrari and Alfa Romeo to venture capital

  • Former engineer Silvio Memme had an untraditional background in venture capital.
  • Before investing in startups, he lived in Italy designing engines for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo.
  • Memme says her technical experience as an engineer has been very useful for her work as a VC.

It was 2017 and Silvio Memme felt like something was missing in his career.

Memme excelled as a mechanical engineer, designing engines for Italian luxury car company Alfa Romeo.

In fact, he had always thought of himself as a mechanical engineer, graduating at the top of his engineering class at the University of Toronto, then landing his first job at Ferrari as soon as he graduated from graduate school.

But as Memme spent more time as an engineer, he began to feel there was something else he could pursue.

“I loved what I did,” Memme said. “I was also hoping to be able to think a little more strategically, and maybe not just focus on one specific product, but have the opportunity to impact a lot of different technologies.”

Additionally, he was tired of constantly having to travel between Italy and Detroit, Michigan, the home of Alfa Romeo’s parent company, Fiat Chrysler. He missed being in Toronto, his hometown.

But as he searched for new jobs back home, he couldn’t find any in the automotive industry that interested him. So he called one of his mentors from Alfa Romeo, who suggested studying the MBA programs.

For Memme, it seemed like the perfect way to find a new career path. He had always excelled in school, so it was no surprise when he received his acceptance letter to Harvard Business School.

After graduating from Harvard, he was accepted into a work-study program at OMERS Ventures, the venture capital arm of the Canadian pension fund. There was no guarantee of employment afterwards, but Memme took the scholarship anyway, eager to try her hand at investing.

He turned out to be a natural. Memme has been involved in special investment projects related to climate technology, energy, artificial intelligence and, of course, transportation, and has found all of her expert knowledge transferred seamlessly to the role.

“As an engineer, you usually analyze data, you try to dissect problems and break them down into small pieces to find the root cause of things,” he said. “I think this thought process is transferable to dissecting problems within companies or opportunities within companies. Also, being able to speak the same language as the people developing these technologies is turned out to be very useful.”

After a few months of project-by-project work at OMERS Ventures, Memme was able to “convince enough team members” that he knew what he was doing and landed a full-time investor position last November.

So far, he has found that the combination of his technical expertise and willingness to learn new things has been key to his success in venture capital.

His only advice for aspiring VCs who don’t come from a finance background: “I think over time you start to realize that even if you’re a generalist, being a bit more strategic in terms of sourcing deals and who you talk to matters,” he said.

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