Excellence in Action

Kareem Aly ’14

Kareem Aly ’14 is an investor at Thomvest Ventures, a $250m early- to growth-stage venture fund based in the Bay Area and founded by Peter Thomson of the Thomson Reuters family. At Thomvest, Kareem focuses on evaluating new investment opportunities, conducting financial & business due diligence, and supporting existing portfolio companies. He spends most of his time in the cybersecurity sector but enjoys looking at all types of technology, from autonomous driving to machine learning. Prior to joining Thomvest Ventures, Kareem worked in the Technology Investment Banking group at Deutsche Bank, where he advised corporate clients in the internet, software and hardware sectors on equity and debt financings as well as M&A transactions. His most notable accomplishment while at Deutsche Bank was serving as Joint M&A Advisor and Bookrunner to Dell on its $67B merger with EMC, the largest technology M&A deal in history. Originally from SoCal, Kareem earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Economics from UCLA in 2014, where he graduated cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.

How has your UCLA experience helped shape your success?

Being lucky enough to attend UCLA and take so many different classes – from Chemistry to Philosophy, Economics to Physics – provided me with an education that I will always be thankful for. The extracurricular activities, groups and clubs that I was involved in also had an extremely positive influence on me and really allowed me to make life-long friends and connections, while also growing as an individual.

Why did you choose to pursue a degree in Business Economics at UCLA?

It’s funny – my dad is a retired Chemist, so I basically grew up with a periodic table by my side at all times. Engrossed by my father’s passion, I quickly began to love chemistry and the sciences myself and decided to start off my college career at UCLA as a pre-med student. About halfway through my sophomore year, I had finished almost all of the pre-med prerequisites and was interning at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, but something just didn’t feel quite right. I talked to my parents a bit and reflected on the classes that I enjoyed growing up, and the one that continued to call my name was AP Economics from back in high school. I remember just being so fascinated by supply and demand curves, and the math and analytics behind it all. So on a whim, I decided to take my first undergraduate Economics course – Econ 1 with Professor Sproul. I absolutely loved it, switched my major to Business Economics, and never looked back.

What was your favorite course at UCLA, and why?

Without a doubt, I have to say Econ 187: Value Investing with Professor Bill Simon. Just being in the presence of a man who’s had such an illustrious career was an incredible experience. I enjoyed analyzing companies on a deeper level and reading about the thought processes of legends like Ben Graham and Charlie Munger. Bill was able to connect with the class in a way that not many other professors can, and so I will always appreciate the time I spent with him.

What is your favorite UCLA memory?

I still laugh about it to this day and probably will for the rest of my life. Transport back to 2010. My course load consists of Physics 6B, Life Sciences 3 and Organic Chemistry 14C – undoubtedly the toughest quarter of my life. I’m pulling an all-nighter for my Physics 6B final, which is supposed to take place at 8 a.m. the following morning. Around 6 a.m., I finally feel ready, and something tells me that getting an hour of sleep before the final would be a good idea. Boy, was I wrong… I head home, set my alarm, and fall asleep on the couch. A couple hours later, I wake up. My initial thoughts – wait, why is my alarm clock not going off? Oh, that‘s right – it went off WITHOUT ME HEARING IT and now reads 8:45 a.m., 45 minutes after my final was set to begin! I sprint as fast as I can to class, barge through the double doors at 9 a.m., and try to quietly tell the TA what has happened (of course, with everyone staring at me). The TA whispers back, “Don’t worry. You can finish in two hours.” So I find a desk, rush through the questions as quickly as I can, and take the final in two hours rather than the three that everyone else was given. I hand in my completed final right at the 11 a.m. stop time. A week later, I check my grade online – I received an A! It was one of the craziest experiences of my life, but I definitely learned my lesson with that one. Two rules of advice for you youngsters out there:

  • Don’t pull all-nighters.
  • If you fail Rule #1 (it happens to the best of us) and your final is in two hours, stay awake.

How do you support and participate in the UCLA community now?

I’m constantly talking to prominent individuals in the UCLA community about ways to further expand our alumni reach, particularly in the bay area where I now reside. I also recently joined UCLA ONE in hopes of mentoring and guiding UCLA students. And I’m involved with the Sharpe Fellows Internship Program, where I help bring together top employers with some of UCLA’s brightest students. I also hope to teach part-time at UCLA some day, in an effort to further enrich the future generations of Bruins

What advice would you give to UCLA students and alumni interested in your industry?

Work hard, and don’t stop hustling. Interviewers can see how much energy and curiosity you have – those two things are invaluable. And when you do get that dream job offer, keep the energy pumping! It’s fun being a high-performing, productive individual! You’ll get in a groove, you’ll feel more accomplished, you’ll be in a good mood, and your bosses will notice and appreciate the effort that you put in every day.

How have you utilized the UCLA alumni network to help advance your own or other’s career?

I previously interned and then later worked at Deutsche Bank in their Technology Investment Banking group. Many of my colleagues at Deutsche Bank were UCLA alumni, so it was hugely beneficial in allowing me to receive a full-time job offer after my internship. Additionally, the Managing Director at my current firm, Thomvest Ventures, is also a UCLA alumnus. Needless to say, the UCLA network has been crucial in helping me advance my career thus far.

Furthermore, I have helped several UCLA students get summer internships and jobs in Deutsche Bank’s Investment Banking group, and I’ve also been influential in getting a UCLA student an internship at my current firm this summer. No one from UCLA has ever had the opportunity to interview at Thomvest for a summer internship before, so I’m proud to say that I was able to successfully open a few doors there and pay it forward.

What makes you proudest to be a Bruin?

Coming from Southern California, it was a lifelong dream of mine to go to UCLA. The prestige, the quality of education, the real-world recognition, the cutting edge research that takes place there every day – being a Bruin will resonate strongly with me forever. Seeing how happy my parents were on graduation day, after immigrating to the US in hopes of giving my sister and I the opportunities that they never had, is something I will always hold dear to my heart.

What’s next?

I really enjoy where I’m at with my current career path at Thomvest Ventures. I love venture capital and investing in cool companies. I love talking to entrepreneurs and learning about the problems that they’re trying to solve. And I love doing everything I can to help my startups grow. There are a few different routes I can take from here, whether it’s staying in venture, going to business school, or even gaining more operational experience in tech. I’m not entirely sure which path I will be taking, but I’m pretty happy here at Thomvest, and my parents always taught me that nothing is more important than your happiness.

Interviewed by Stephen Mendoza, Business Economics student (exp. ’18)