“Working in search.” It’s not shorthand for search engine optimization, and it’s not about finding lost people. To work in search means launching a fund as a means to own and build a company. It means entrepreneurship through acquisition, which requires countless hours of networking, wooing investors, and securing seed money just to get started on the journey toward becoming one’s own boss. It means finding value-added partners with whom you will work for years.
It also means you’re probably a man.
According to a 2018 study by Stanford Graduate School of Business, $924 million of equity capital was invested into search funds between 1984 and 2017, generating an aggregate equity value for investors of $5.7 billion, including roughly $1.5 billion for entrepreneurs. Yet of the 325 search funds monitored in that span, only eight — or 2.5% — belonged to women.
Today about 8% of all searchers are women. What has change been so incremental? Many reasons, chief among them the cultural intransigence of a traditionally male industry — an old story, often told. A more important question is, How will the future of search be different? And that is a question Carla Larin, a second-year MBA student at Stanford GSB and a future search entrepreneur, is determined to answer.
“Entrepreneurship through acquisition is a popular job coming out of Stanford GSB, but very few women are interested,” Larin says. “I’m passionate about boosting these numbers.”
A CAREER PIVOT FOR A YOUNG CONSULTANT
Larin came to Silicon Valley after three years as a consultant for a major New York City firm, having graduated Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business in 2o15 magna cum laude with a degree in Economics and Chinese. Among her accomplishments in Hanover, New Hampshire was running The Dartmouth, the school’s student-run newspaper and the oldest college paper in the country, which she oversaw as publisher for more than a year.
Larin’s time in New York post-graduation was spent learning the ropes of consulting and retail banking and making valuable connections in both worlds. But her most valuable lesson may have been that she wanted to do something else with her life.
“I think the impetus for me coming to business school was wanting to transition away from consulting, which is more of an advisory role, and into being that operator myself,” says Larin, an Arbuckle Leadership Fellow at Stanford and co-president of the school’s Hispanic Business Student Association. “When I was back at Dartmouth, there were pretty much two options: investment banking or consulting. So I went into consulting and worked in New York for three years, pre-GSB.
“But Stanford as a school, there are a whole bunch of different career paths that you could go down. Once at the GSB, it just opened up a whole other world for me.” Last summer, “thinking maybe I’d want to drink the Kool-Aid and work in Silicon Valley,” she did a couple of internships in fintech, and something clicked. She realized her true wish was to run a fintech startup, and to be her own boss.
She was fortunate to be in one of the best places on Earth to make that dream a reality.