Jason Mozingo


Jason Mozingo

Jason Mozingo faced the same decision many prospective UCLA students face: enroll at Berkeley or go to school in Westwood. But for Jason, whose parents had gone to UCLA, the decision to become a Bruin wasn’t just an easy one, it was a rewarding one. At UCLA, his bread and butter was economics. Jason took difficult econ classes, including one with Jack Hirshleifer, a long-time professor and well-known economist. However, he also got the opportunity to take classes in other disciplines and meet students from a variety of backgrounds, an experience which he considers one of the best aspects of being a Bruin. Although Jason knew he wanted to pursue a career in finance post-graduation, he was less certain about which sub-sector would most interest him. For students not sure where to start their career (or for those graduating in a tough economy), Jason says do not worry too much about finding the “perfect” job after graduation since building a career is a process, not a single event. Furthermore, that process often includes graduate school or switching industries.

Despite graduating in a recession (early 1990s), Jason started his career in sales and trading at Merrill Lynch’s Los Angeles office. At Merrill he decided investment banking and eventually a career in investing would be a better long-term fit. He also knew he wanted to pursue an MBA. In the interim, Jason decided to join a boutique L.A. based investment banking advisory firm and complete the three-year CFA program. Upon receiving his CFA designation and reviewing his graduate school options, he decided to move to the East Coast and enroll at Harvard Business School. His transition between jobs was catapulted by his HBS experience, which thrusted him into a forum for recruiters from Wall Street’s best firms. He found his calling in private equity during the summer of his M.B.A. program at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, one of the top investment banks at the time. Jason had the fortunate opportunity to work on a live control private equity deal within the merchant banking (private equity) division that closed before he left back for HBS. Working on that transaction confirmed his interest in the field and convinced him to return to the firm’s private equity division for a full-time role after graduation. Moving from sales and trading to investment banking and then to private equity is generally difficult, but for Jason, the connections and experience he earned at Harvard enabled him to make the transition.

After a number of years working in his ideal job, he realized the private equity industry was changing. Witnessing billion dollar leveraged buyouts, acquisitions financed with a significant amount of debt, Jason saw potential for these acquisitions to fail and for the debt used in them to become distressed. Jason knew opportunities in distressed investing would rise and many traditional private equity firms would be unable to profitably invest in distressed debt. Jason identified one newly formed firm that would capitalize on these trends: Centerbridge Partners. Their focus on these two themes with a hybrid private equity and distressed investing model struck a chord with Jason and convinced him to make the difficult decision to leave his firm and join Centerbridge. His story shows another reason to not worry about landing the perfect job right out of college: opportunities and interests change over time.

After eleven years at Centerbridge where he was a Partner leading investments in consumer-related businesses and cumulatively two decades of investing experience on Wall Street focused on large and mature companies, Jason decided he wanted to pursue an entrepreneurial venture and start his own firm. That firm, Passkey Investors, LLC is a family office that invests in earlier-stage growth companies in the consumer and consumer-technology space. In addition to running Passkey Investors, Jason also serves on UCLA’s Department of Economics Board of Visitors, helping the department understand the market demand for different types of data and finance training.

Jason is a passionate UCLA alumnus and advocate of giving back to the school that means so much to every Bruin. UCLA is fortunate to have a wide array of accomplished alumni and he suggests undergraduates reach out to them to gain invaluable insight into potential career paths. UCLA is also no stranger to corporate recruiting events, and he also recommends young Bruins to take advantage of company forums on campus to gauge potential fit after graduation. But as he’s stressed, finding the perfect job out of college might not come right away, and that’s ok. After all, a successful career isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.

Written by Chris Lane.

Barry Eggers

Barry Eggers (’85) is a founding partner at Lightspeed Ventures, a venture capitalist firm which focuses largely on IT and Technology start-ups (If that name rings a bell, it is because a few years ago they seed funded a little known company called Snapchat). What most don’t know is that his journey, which led him to Silicon Valley, started in Westwood.

Barry Eggers

At UCLA, Eggers majored in Economics Business and loved the subject. An athlete at heart, Eggers was a part of the NCAA Men’s Water Polo team, fondly recalling their experiences competing against other PAC 10 schools. Aside from this, he was a passionate UCLA football fan and a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, where he cultivated his social circles. As such, he often found himself working with small, dedicated teams since his college days.

After graduating from Stanford Business School, he joined Cisco. Cisco, at the time, had recently gone public and was still in its infancy. He watched as Cisco grew from 400 to 12,000 employees, and loved working in different roles as the company grew; it felt like he had a new job every year. However, as Cisco grew larger, Eggers missed the intimacy and excitement of working in a smaller and dynamic environment. The venture capital world was, quite literally, calling.

After leaving Cisco, he founded Lightspeed Ventures and began working with small start-ups. He loved the feeling of discovering a company and watching the journey it made. These were risky ventures and no one knew where a company would go. However, this was really exciting for him, because he never knew where the next great journey would come from.

Rather conveniently, he discovered Snapchat in his home when he saw his daughter using the app with her friends. This sparked Barry’s interest, and he talked to his partner Jeremy Liew. After Jeremy tracked down Evan Spiegel, Lightspeed became Snap’s first investor. Since then,  Barry has watched Evan Spiegel grow from an aspiring 21-year old entrepreneur at Stanford to the CEO of an emerging social media powerhouse.

Eggers recalled that something like this was virtually impossible when he was still in school: the word “entrepreneurship” did not exist. He describes how back in his time, you would graduate college, get a job, and climb the corporate ladder. Now, the opportunities are limitless, and he is actively trying to bring these opportunities to UCLA students. Lightspeed Ventures sponsors StartUp UCLA. Eggers himself endowed an annual seed fund prize for UCLA teams, and is a driving force of the entrepreneurship minor.

He believes that college is a great place to learn interpersonal skills, that in order to succeed in Silicon Valley you must get familiar with the ecosystem. The VCs, angel investors, consumers and directors present in Silicon Valley act as catalysts for success to anyone who can adapt to the system. UCLA, much like Silicon Valley, is an ecosystem ripe with opportunities. Anyone who takes advantage of these opportunities will walk out with a set of interpersonal skills and experiences that will help him or her succeed anywhere in the world.

His parting advice would be that you never know where life will take you and where you will end up. He never thought he would be working as a VC. However, if you work at a growing company that you are passionate about, you are sure to move forward and end up somewhere you like. You never know, but one fine day, you could discover the next Snapchat.

Written by Harsh Gupta

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