top of page

From Intern to Principal | A Story of Remarkable Personal and Company Growth

In this episode, we welcome Mickey Jiang, a Principal at Shore Capital, who has been with the firm since joining as an Intern over 10 years ago. He shares candid stories from Shore's early days, highlighting the blend of humor, hard work, and mentorship that shaped both his career and Shore’s culture. Mickey also talks about the firm's evolution as it has grown and the lessons he has learned in his journey from Intern to Principal. 

Transcript

Introduction

Michael Burcham: Welcome to Microcap Moments, a podcast from Shore Capital Partners that highlights the stories of founders, investors, and leaders who have taken on the challenge of transforming ideas and small companies into high growth organizations.

The journey of building and scaling a business takes one down many unexpected pathways. It's a journey where we learn from our mistakes, fall down often, but have the entrepreneurial grit to pick ourselves up and persevere. Within this series, we will share these stories of success and failure, of the challenges and the rewards faced by those who dare to dream big. And through their lessons learned, we hope to inspire others who are on a similar journey of becoming, growing, and leading.

I'm especially excited to share today's Microcap Moments episode with Mickey Jiang. Mickey began as an intern at Shore Capital while finishing his undergraduate degree. Over the past decade, he has grown from intern, to analyst, to associate, to vice president, and now serves as a principal here at Shore Capital.

He officially joined the Shore team following his internship in 2013. Today, his responsibilities include sourcing, evaluating, and enabling the growth of Shore investments in the Business Services industry. Outside the office Mickey serves on the auxiliary boards for the Art Institute of Chicago, Rush University Medical Center and Launch U. Mickey received dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in mathematical methods in the Social Sciences and in Economics from Northwestern University.

Anderson Williams: Mickey, will you just introduce yourself and tell us what you do here at Shore Capital?

Mickey Jiang: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Anderson. My name is Mickey Jiang. I'm a principal here at Shore, predominantly focused on the Business Services vertical.

And my responsibilities range from identifying new investment sectors to building boards, completing partnerships, and supporting my management teams to achieve our collective visions for success. And appreciate you having me too, Michael.

Starting Small

Michael Burcham: We're glad to have you with us Mickey. You have a really unique perspective in that you started in the very earliest days with Shore as an analyst and you've elevated all the way to principal.

 

In other words, as Shore has grown, so have you. Would you talk about that journey and some of the highlights and milestones along the way?

Mickey Jiang: I remember my first assignment was stocking this snack shelf with full size candy bars and boxes of Fig Newtons. So, I think we've definitely come a long way when it comes to healthy alternatives.

 

Back then, it was remarkable how quickly I felt like I could earn really stimulating and exciting work even as an intern. By the end of my internship, I'd built a roadmap outlining our thesis into a neo healthcare sector, supported new site selection for our urgent care platform, and reconstructed a commissions dashboard for our pathology business.

I like to think about one of Justin's favorite stories about JFK meeting NASA's janitor. And when the president asked him, what he said he did, he said he was helping put a man on the moon. And I like to think back and it felt like even when I was stacking candy bars, it was meaningful to me because I believed so much in Shore's vision and more importantly, our founding partners so much.

When it comes to my personal journey, I'm not sure any particular milestones or highlights stand out. I think about this quote I read by an actor the other day, and I really connected with it. He said that his approach to his job in life, and I hope I don't butcher this, was that everything he'd do was the most important thing he did. He said he was ambitious with his job and not his career, because if that were the case, everything would just be a steppingstone to something else.

Steppingstones to a goal you might never reach. But if you made everything important in work, eventually it becomes a career. So, the big or small efforts that we all push forward can often be hard to discern sometimes. But at least in the moment, everything is important. So, that old adage, I'm not sure how it goes, I think it's, how you do anything is how you do everything. That was my approach to my career here and work here at Shore. So, doing my best at everything I could face and moving on I think, maybe I suppose I lucked into falling upwards. But yes, it's better to be lucky than good.

Michael Burcham: So, Mickey, can you tell us a few of the more memorable milestones during your early days here at Shore Capital?

Mickey Jiang: If you ask me about milestones for Shore, then there are too many to recount. I remember when we raised our first Institutional Fund in 2014, after all the founders fought so hard to make every one of our early investments, not only a shot on net, but a goal. I remember closing the first deal out of the fund in Southern Veterinary Partners and the remarkable journey they've taken, seeing that team grow from where they were to 300 times its scale today in less than 10 years, expanding into our first new industry vertical, and then another, and then another.

I feel like the janitor who was invited to take a seat on the space shuttle.

Early Days and Funny Tales

Michael Burcham: In this next segment, I asked Mickey to share a story or two from the early days of Shore Capital that best summarizes what life was like in those formative years of launching the firm. Now, my favorite is the bathroom key story that he shares, although the Halloween costume story is pretty funny as well.

Mickey, is there a particular story or two that summarizes what life was like at Shore as an analyst in the very early days?

Mickey Jiang: Oh gosh. I will cheat a little and give a few stories from when I was an intern and a part time analyst while I was finishing up school. One of my favorites was that we used to have one bathroom in our old office building.

We were working out of this 1,500 square foot workman's closet of an office, and that bathroom was locked all day, all night, and you needed a key to get in. So naturally, folks would forget the key in their pockets, leave, and then the Shore team would be locked out of the bathroom for the remainder of the day until you got a super to come and fix it and open it, and that often would take hours, sometimes the entire day.

So, at some point, someone far cleverer than myself thought to attach the key to something no one could take home. So, they looked around the office and the only thing that they could find was a crowbar. So, the partners would be trying to recruit all these high-powered board members, who'd then go home and tell their wives or husbands that they had to use a crowbar to use the bathroom at this little firm called Shore.

 

So, I was just recounting this story to one of our long-time board members who was laughing with me and it reminded me of another story back then when he was getting recruited. So, he was well sought out by some really large scale mega cap funds, very well known, who would offer him to fly out to Whistling Straights or Pebble Beach to go golfing with them.

And we were taking him to the nine-hole community course where you were as liable to step on a broken syringe as you were to find your ball. So, it was no frills, all utilitarian. And I think a huge testament to how our founders carried themselves.

They worked really hard. They were super genuine in all of their dealings, and it's really remarkable for me to see where we came from to where we are now.

Michael Burcham: So, Mickey, our founders also had a bit of a sense of humor. I think there's one particular story about you in a costume that our listeners might thoroughly enjoy that would reflect that not only was the crowbar a clever invention for a bathroom key, but they also knew how to give a good prank to a young intern or analyst.

Uh, can you share that story for us, please?

Mickey Jiang: Oh, I was really hoping you weren't going to ask me this question. So, this is the story of how I was hired, at least the way I like to think about it. Not sure the partners would agree, but I think speaks to a big part of our culture, which is how we celebrate together.

So, I was an intern. We had just sold the company. It was Halloween or it was a Friday night Halloween. And we had sold the company in the middle of the day. And back then, it was a major milestone for us to exit any of our partner companies. And it was a great result. So, I remember Justin coming into the middle of the office, didn't have to speak all too loudly because we were so packed in together.

And he announced that we had finally closed. Everybody was to take the rest of the day off. And then we were going to reconvene somewhere downtown to have drinks and celebrate Halloween and this great result for the whole team. As he was wrapping up that speech, he came over to this little intern corner and he led on to me that we were invited, we're part of the team, and because it was Halloween, it was going to be a costume party.

So of course I took that at face value. I'm 21 years old, everything he says is gospel to me, and I was up in Evanston at the time at Northwestern, rushed back home. I was not planning on going out for Halloween, I did not have a costume. It's the day of Halloween, and I couldn't pass up an opportunity to spend more time with people I really respected and liked. They were just really good people, and it was exciting to have an opportunity to celebrate with them.

And I get back, I go to the Spirit Store, nothing is available. There are no costumes for me, you know, short of a big banana costume or something else. And so, I find what I think is the most sensible costume. And to me, sensibility was a Chip's uniform with the short shorts, the boots and a fake mustache and a big helmet.

And so, I figure, you know, this is probably the best I can do. Mickey the cop, the highway patrol man. And I get all dressed up, I take the train down back into the city, and it's Halloween night, there are folks dressed up, I feel good, I feel natural, and I want to be on time, I arrive early. And to my horror, not only is no one dressed up at Shore, no one at the bar is dressed up, I'm the only one in costume. It looks like I rode in on my patrol car, to arrest somebody at this, at this party.

And so, I had a decision. I could have turned tail and gone back up to campus. But everyone made me feel so welcome. Justin actually made me in charge of ordering drinks for the rest of the team the rest of the night. And so, all I could do was drink and be merry and try to make the best of my situation.

And they were admittedly, they had good fun at my expense, but I was able to laugh with them. Never felt like they were laughing. No, they were certainly laughing at me now that I think about it. But I remember at some point, I think at the end of the night, Justin had pulled aside one of my associates and asked, 'Hey, is this guy any good at his job'?

And the associate had said, 'Yeah, he's, he's pretty good at his job'. And Justin, the way he would recount it to me said, 'If he's any good at his job, he's great for our culture. So, let's get a way to get them on the team'. So, I like to tell people I was hired as the longest running joke here in Shore history, and I'm really lucky and grateful that it's continued to run on.

Michael Burcham: You know, culture is so much storytelling and, uh, I'm sure, you know, Justin continues to tell that story. Even today, Mickey.

Mickey Jiang: Yeah. I really wish he wouldn't.

Michael Burcham: Thank you. That was daring and I appreciate you sharing it with us.

Mickey Jiang: Thank you.

Mentorship and Culture

Michael Burcham: In the following segment, we talk about the value of mentorship. Because he was one of the very first team members to join Shore's founding partners, Mickey had the rare opportunity to spend concentrated time with each of the four founders.

This apprenticeship experience has helped shape Mickey's insights as well as his rapid career advancement. He speaks to being made to feel like a peer and the outsized effort the team invested in his learning. We also talked about how that apprenticeship model works today as Shore Capital has grown.

 

When you joined Shore, the four founding partners were still very young men, learning their craft while you're trying to learn from them. Talk about that mentorship dynamic because I think you're one of the lucky few that actually got to be in a front row seat. Working directly with each partner as they develop their own way of investing.

No one gets to do that anymore. So, would you share a little bit about that part of your journey too?

 

Mickey Jiang: Absolutely. I suppose if I were forced to pick out a personal highlight, it'd be that, in that the mentorship I received from all the founding partners is so precious to me.

It's an apprenticeship business and typically for a private equity professional, you only have an opportunity to apprentice under one or two partners. And I had a chance to apprentice under five. And I think even at their young age, what was highly apparent was their work ethic, how caring they were, which is a unique thing to say perhaps about folks in our field.

Michael Burcham: Especially private equity, right?

Mickey Jiang: Especially private equity. And they made me feel like a peer. And you could tell even back then, even at their age then, that they were five of the most charismatic and cerebral people working in this world that I had ever had the good fortune to come across. So, they put what felt like an outsized amount of effort in teaching me why things were important. How they were going to be used in driving our business forward and treating me truly as a peer and not just another gear in the machine. And so, when it comes to individual investing styles, they each have very unique manners and profiles of how they connect with people.

And by working so closely with all of them, I've had a chance to pick and choose the aspects of how they approach their craft and mold them into who I am personally to develop my own voice and methodology and style of investing and interfacing with people.

Anderson Williams: If I can add just another question there, Mickey, now that you're in the Principal seat, how do you think about the younger generation coming up behind you to carry on that sort of access and learning and mentorship that you got, now that Shore is quite a bit bigger and now that you're in a leadership position?

Mickey Jiang: That's a great question. I think the firm as an institution has done a really nice job recruiting and nurturing people at the VP, Principal level, the senior level to carry forward their legacy in terms of mentorship and guidance. So uniquely, we started up an analyst program, I think a little earlier than some of our peers.

And at every stage, we try to enact a similar structure and model to mentorship to education. We have a program that helps educate analysts and interns early on in their career. There are ongoing meetings, office hours that folks hold for junior team members to step in and ask questions that they're uncomfortable with.

And I'm really proud in particular of the junior team members who have been able to elevate to those senior positions. And I get to see it in action every day, the way that they care for their other associates and analysts, how they raise their hands in the bullpen and support one another, even when it's not on a project that they're working on.

And so, I think that culture that, that way of going about building a business is probably the most sustainable way I can think of. And it's been great to see the education and the rise in a lot of our junior professionals and senior professionals.

Anderson Williams: It's remarkable that early experience and culture that the founders were building with you, how you guys have so intentionally scaled, not just strategically the learning, but the culture of accessibility and investment in the team and so forth.

I think that's really remarkable part of Shore.

Shore’s Evolution

Michael Burcham: In this next segment, Anderson asks Mickey to talk about what has changed and what has stayed the same as Shore has grown. Mickey shares his thoughts on the evolution of Shore. He describes the growth of the organization through four distinct phases, and how each phase brought new resources to our partner organizations and began to define the Shore Capital way of working.

He also talks about the firm's ability to hire great people, immersing them in a culture of collaboration.

 

Anderson Williams: What are the biggest differences for you between those early days at Shore and where you are today? And maybe in addition to this approach to mentorship and learning, what are some things that have stayed the same?

Mickey Jiang: Well, I think more things have stayed the same than have changed. But if I had to think about differences, I'd like to think about Professor Boris Groysberg from Harvard Business School. So, someone we've had a chance to work with really closely over the years and we greatly respect. One of my favorite frameworks from him is the four stages of organizational growth, which I think goes from discovery to direction to structure to culture.

And when I think of differences, I think about how our team has evolved from being generalists at every level. For one example, investment professionals were building, managing, and distributing every single company dashboard. And for another example, serving as fractional CEOs or CFOs for our companies to the second stage in turning our team members into specialists.

So, another example would be our Resource Team in our Internal Sourcing Team. So more front-end deal sourcing and onboarding was better supported. So, our investment team could focus more on working at the top of their license, building new investment ideas and executing on key strategic initiatives. And then that next stage, ultimately developing and hiring experts as we founded our Centers of Excellence with functional leaders in technology or business development or revenue optimization.

Those changes and that evolution at Shore has very much mirrored how we support the growth of our platforms. We practice what we preach and I think it's been an invaluable connection we've been able to make with entrepreneurs and founders we partner with because we used to be in their shoes. On things that have never changed, I think the standout has to be the firm's ability to recruit and elevate good people.

Going back to your old question, and at their core, everybody at Shore has a nature of collaboration and hunger for bettering themselves and learning. So, I've never felt anybody deliver sharp elbows here. And each member of the team has always been eager to lean in on any problem they feel like they can add value on, even if it's not their bailiwick.

I've never found another place that has such a regular cadence of mentor check ins from when I was an intern, even through today. That's never changed. And I feel like I continue to learn something new and meaningful every year. Which I feel pretty strongly in is a sentiment that's shared broadly across the firm.

Learning From Mistakes

Michael Burcham: One of the unique learning elements of the Shore Capital culture is the process known as WWL or What We Learned. I asked Mickey to comment on this process and how it helps everyone inside Shore Capital improve, by documenting our mistakes and sharing what we learn from the experience. This willingness to share our imperfections with one another really fosters an incredible culture of collaboration.

In sharing his own lessons learned, Mickey talks about empathy, the value of self-examination, and avoiding self-deception.

Mickey, in thinking about what you just shared, another aspect of Shore I'd love you to speak to from your vantage point is the process of what we call WWL or What We Learned. Can you talk about that process and how it really helps us share insights and avoid repeating mistakes perhaps?

Mickey Jiang: Absolutely, Michael. That's one of my favorite processes. We have a mantra that I'm positive we stole from somewhere else, where we like to say it's great to learn from mistakes, but better to learn from someone else's mistakes. And I'd tell you, we've learned playing from our own mistakes. So, this process we called the What We Learned is an ongoing cumulative repository across every platform that we've invested in, on things after the fact that we wish we could have approached a different way.

We approached it in a certain way and made a mistake. And as a part of that process, as new team members are ramping on, as we're closing new investments into new areas, we are, I'd hesitate to say forced, but I would say we're encouraged to go back and read through every single one of those mistakes, those learnings in the WWL.

It helps us avoid making mistakes twice, so I think it's one of the best things we do to reduce cycles, to make smarter decisions faster, and I think it's an incredible learning experience for every team member. I still go through the WWL today because I don't work on every platform, and I find myself learning ways to avoid problems I didn't even know about in a more efficient way.

Anderson Williams: Is there an example, Mickey? I think it's a powerful message, this idea of learning and mentorship that you're talking about. When you think about all of the growth and change that's happened at Shore in your time here and with yourself. Are there a few standout lessons learned that you could just give as an example that you learned about investment, you learned about a portfolio company, you learned about yourself? Any of those areas, it's such a deliberate process. I'm just curious if there are highlights that come to mind.

Mickey Jiang: Wow, I'll try my best. I think when it comes to our investment thesis and style, so I think about the micro-cap space.

The biggest learning is how many great companies there are out there that have winning formulas that never get a chance to really flourish because they've hit a growth trap and feel like they need to sell out without realizing there are truly growth-oriented capital partners like us here at Shore who will help them to do more with more and not more with less.

We're very much focused on investing in those teams, supporting incumbent leaders, and growing together. On our portfolio and partners, I think the most important thing I've learned is empathy and communicating by meeting people where they're at. As someone who's had the unique opportunity to work as a part time executive at one of our companies, I think you develop a really unique appreciation for how hard it is to actually execute on big strategic goals on the front line. Where every single teammate comes from a different background, faces different challenges, and manages different personal situations. I'm a very frank person by nature, and I recognize that I can come across as overly pragmatic or sharp at times, and because of how operationally close we are with our partners and companies, it's matured me in a way that allows me to focus as much on how I communicate as what I communicate.

When it comes to myself, I think the top thing I've learned is the value of self-examination and avoiding self-deception. I tell people all the time, the biggest part of my job is recognizing all the things I don't know, which is astronomical in scale. And by knowing and communicating that I don't know, I've been able to build really authentic connections with peers, with operating partners, and with executives to build a basis for really constructive discourse around how we best achieve our mutual goals together.

The other thing I've learned is that all good things deserve patience. And I think here at Shore, we've always taken a long-term view on people, process and systems.

Looking Ahead

Michael Burcham: To wrap up our conversation, I asked Mickey to reflect on his own journey and to offer any insights or thoughts for other young professionals.

He shares that hard work and a good attitude can take you 95 percent of the way to achieving your goal. But by constantly preparing for your next moment, you'll achieve that last mile. We end the conversation by talking about what's next for Mickey.

So, Mickey, as part of your journey, you've also grown from a role where you were supporting the partners and their investments to now leading your own investments. What advice do you have for someone who's an analyst or associate today about getting where you have arrived?

Mickey Jiang: Wow. I have to think about that. My mom has this great Chinese proverb that I'm sure I'll butcher and misinterpret, but it goes something like true gold always shows its luster sooner or later.

 

And I take that to mean that if you're really talented, wherever you are, whatever you do, you'll always have a chance to show your talent. And I think there's no better or more supportive environment than Shore for that. So, I'd say to analysts and associates that hard work and a good attitude will probably take you 95 percent of the way, but in taking time to expand your own skill sets, continuing to absorb and learn, if you constantly prepare for your moment, that'll take you the rest of the way and beyond.

Michael Burcham: Thank you, very insightful.

Anderson Williams: So, Mickey, just to wrap up, we've talked a lot about the historical view of Shore and your growth to today. Will you just tell us a little bit about what you're working on now and what is on the horizon as you look forward?

Mickey Jiang: So, I'm in a unique position. Where I still help support a few of our largest healthcare investments who have definitely outgrown me. But I try my best to be a thought partner for those executives and in addition I still work on supporting the growth of one of our first platforms on the Business Services side in Strongpoint Partners.

And right now, I'm looking forward to closing another platform in short order.

Michael Burcham: Mickey, thanks for joining us today, for not only sharing your story of growth, but even some of the more fun or humorous moments of the journey. You've given us some insight to some of the early days of Shore that are uniquely something only you could have shared.

So, we appreciate you doing that.

Mickey Jiang: Thanks so much, Michael. Thank you, Anderson.

Michael Burcham: If you enjoyed this conversation, please check out other episodes of Microcap Moments at www.shorecp.university/podcasts. There, you can also find episodes from our two complimentary series, Everyday Heroes and Bigger. Stronger. Faster., each exploring the unique features of the microcap investment space.

This podcast was produced by Shore Capital Partners with story and narration by Michael Burcham. Recording and editing by Andrew Malone. Editing by Reel Audiobooks. Sound design, mixing, and mastering by Mark Galup of Reel Audiobooks.

Special thanks to Mickey Jiang and Anderson Williams who shared in the interview with me.

This podcast is the property of Shore Capital Partners, LLC. None of the content herein is investment advice, an offer of investment advisory services, nor a recommendation or offer relating to any security. See the Terms of Use page on the Shore Capital website for other important information.

bottom of page