April 3, 2024

Meet Kira Noodleman, Partner at Bee Partners

Samantha Huang
Principal at BMW i Ventures

Kira Noodleman is a Partner at Bee Partners, a pre-seed DeepTech venture capital firm. Growing up in the Bay Area, Kira always knew her calling was in the tech ecosystem. When she graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2008, in the midst of the Great Recession, she started her career in product at the software startup Exigen Insurance Solutions. The job required Kira to travel extensively. First it was two months in Johannesburg, South Africa, and then alternating months in between Sao Paulo, Brazil, and home in San Francisco. Eventually all the miles and time spent on the plane caught up with Kira, who was then in her mid twenties. She wanted to settle in one home. Fluent in Portuguese and Spanish, she began exploring jobs in South America. The one that she ultimately landed was a product position in Buenos Aires at Globant, which was then considered the Google of South America. She stayed at Globant for two years until returning to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley for her MBA. At grad school, Kira approached the future with an open mind. She was interested in innovation and potentially becoming an entrepreneur. She had not seriously considered venture capital until she landed an internship at Bee Partners during the summer between semesters. Curious by nature, Kira used the opportunity to soak up as much information and experience as she could. Bee offered her a full-time role to return post-college, and after a semester of internal deliberation, Kira accepted the role. She had a stellar rise, starting off as Senior Associate and ascending to Partner less than four years later. 

Kira’s energy is electric. Growing up, she was that fearless kid, the type of rambunctious daredevil who excelled at sports and refused to believe in the limitations of her physicality. A broken jaw and fractured wrist were some of her many injuries that sent her parents, both doctors, into fits of worry when she was younger. Kira is more grounded nowadays, but she hasn’t lost her taste for adventure. She is an internationalist in spirit, a lover of people. On nine separate occasions, she can count herself as one of the tens of thousands of Burning Man festival goers who descend each year upon the middle of Nevada's Black Rock Desert in celebration of art, music, and life. One of her most transformational experiences was a teacher training program she took in Bali the summer after her MBA program. She leveraged those learnings to hold yoga classes for VCs and founders, forging her own path for building community across the tech ecosystem. Kira loves her role as a venture capitalist, how it satisfies her intellectual curiosity and fondness for people. Her remarkable quality is that she can see the bigger picture and understand the complexity of life in all its terrifying splendor. It’s that trait that makes Kira not just a participant of the world but an active shaper of it.

Sam: You worked in product for nearly seven years before forging your path into venture capital. How did you make that transition?

After seven years in product roles and living abroad for some time in Buenos Aires when I worked at Globant, I ultimately came back to the Bay Area to attend UC Berkeley for business school. I wanted to do something in product but was also very curious about entrepreneurship. I contemplated starting a company. I admit that I didn’t really have a bull’s eye on venture capital at that point. I knew that I was just interested in the innovation space. During the summer, I interned at Bee Partners. It was the first year they ever did an internship. They had hired one intern and decided at the last minute to take a chance and hire another intern, which turned out to be me. I guess I had kind of squeaked in. I had applied to other VC firms but ended up taking the role with Bee. They started the summer saying that there was no job post-internship, but I didn’t really mind because I was so excited to learn, and I wasn’t at that point really sure that I wanted to get into VC formally. I had an amazing summer experience at Bee. I fell in love with what I was doing. I loved the team, the fund’s thesis. Everything just seemed to line up. The last day of summer, I got a job offer. I took the whole semester deciding if I should accept it. I ultimately did and started off as a senior associate following graduation. I was promoted to principal in two years and got the bump to partner two years after that.

One thing that was pivotal for me as part of my transition into venture capital was when I took a yoga teacher training program in Bali for a couple of months before starting my role at Bee. It was key for me to be authentically myself and learn to build community when entering a new industry as an outsider. Following the teacher training, I held yoga classes for VCs and founders at Dolores Park and other parts of San Francisco. I called it #dealflowyoga. I used to do it more before the pandemic, and I’ve done it a few times digitally since then. Learning how to build community through yoga allowed me to foster my connections across VCs and founders, which ultimately translated into my growth at Bee Partners.

Sam: What key learnings from across your VC career would you share to the next generation of emerging VCs?

Kira: I would say one piece of advice is to try to learn as much as you can through osmosis. This is especially relevant in a post-COVID time frame where there’s a lot more hybrid and remote work. It really is invaluable to immerse yourself with others you can learn from, such as your team. Venture capital is after all an apprenticeship model. 

Another big lesson for me was learning how to manage all the different workstreams. In venture, there are so many workstreams, and no one’s good at everything. You should try to do and learn as many things as you can, but you also need to be compassionate and forgiving of yourself that you’re going to face failure many times. When tackling something new that you’re not familiar with, I would approach it with the angle of “what can I learn from this new task or activity?” versus overthinking it or beating yourself up over the situation if the results don’t go your way.

Sam: What is your favorite part of being a VC?

Kira: I’m just a really curious person, so I love that venture capital affords me the opportunity to learn something new every day. My absolute favorite part of the role is that I’m a people person, and the role allows me to talk to some of the smartest people out there. Every single day, I get to learn from them--what they think, what’s the cutting-edge of deeptech. I also get to bring my own expertise and experiences in building companies from the inception stage, marrying my knowledge and capabilities with the skillsets of others. 

Sam: What was your first job ever?

Kira: In undergrad, during the summers in between school, I worked at a summer camp. I had two different jobs there. I had a position called lodge director, where I was running the burger shack and was in charge of three persons under me. My responsibility was heading all the operations, which included things like running the cash register and making sure we had all the necessary supplies like burgers and hot dogs. My other role was as a summer camp counselor for the kids. I would take the kids at the camp on what we call party boats or supervise them at the lake or on hikes. 

Sam: What do you view as the hard part of VC?

Kira: I think the politics of VC can be very hard, especially as you grow to a higher level. When I started, I felt that I knew the founder game very well; that is where I spent all my energy. The challenging part as I grew in my career was figuring out how exactly to manage VC relationships. When I was in a junior role and before partner-level, it was always hard to meet a person who is in a higher rung of seniority versus someone who is at a more equal level. How do you make sure that a more senior person takes your call? Or that they would even look at a deal you send them? On the VC side, managing VC relationships is like an art. But that’s also something that I think you just learn as you go. It’s less challenging for me now, but I remember it was definitely a hard thing to navigate in the beginning.

One of the other hard things is interacting with LPs during fundraising. VCs are a lot like founders in that regard. Fundraising for my own firm has given me a lot of compassion for founders and their fundraising journeys. Fundraising also takes a different skill set than traditional venture work. However, if you want to grow as a VC, fundraising is a critical skill to learn. 

Sam: Where do you see yourself and a decade or two from now?

Kira: I love this job. I view it more than just a job. It’s my calling. I also love the pre-seed stage where I invest. I love the tech, the people, my team. It’s kind of an easy answer, but I really feel like I will be doing very similar things to what I’m doing today. I’m not incentivized per se by money. I just hope to still be in a place where I would still work because I love the work and not just because I have to.