Terri Burns (CAS ’16) Invests in Tomorrow
January 15, 2024
A keen eye for early-stage opportunities, a passion for giving back, and an unwavering drive to create are just some of the things that define the multifaceted career and journey of venture capital investor—and NYU trustee and NYU alumni Association board member—Terri Burns (CAS ’16).
The term “trailblazer” falls short of capturing Terri’s remarkable accomplishments. Within just five years of her graduation from NYU, she earned a coveted spot on the Forbes “30 Under 30” list; at age 27, Terri was elected as a young alumni trustee at NYU, reflecting her exceptional commitment to the University community. And, her professional trajectory includes roles at some of the world’s foremost technology companies, culminating in her becoming the youngest-ever partner at Google Ventures.
Beyond her role as a venture capital investor, Terri has recently embarked on a new venture—her own podcast, providing a unique blend of personal and professional insights. Additionally, she holds the position of lead career and leadership coach at the Coaching Corner. Shedding light on some of the motivation, Terri expresses, “I love meeting individuals or teams that are seeking to level up, acclimate to a changing environment, or solve communication challenges. As a people person, it’s really fulfilling.”
Read on to discover how Terri tracks industry trends, explores her recent work and projects, connects deeply to NYU, nurtures her curiosity and understanding of technology through her education, and much more.
Can you share some highlights from your time as a student at NYU and how it shaped your career path? What led you to venture capital and tech?
I had a lot going on at NYU! I was a computer science major, an RA in Carlyle Court, and president of the on-campus student organization Tech@NYU. I also held various work-study positions, studied abroad in London, and was selected as one of NYU’s ‘most influential’ students my senior year!
My entire NYU experience—from what I studied, how I worked, and who I spent time with—was absolutely instrumental in kicking off my career in tech. I knew by the time I graduated that I’d be working in technology full-time because I completely fell in love with it after taking my first computer science class sophomore year. After working as a product manager at Twitter for my first job after graduation, I got recruited by Google Ventures, where I eventually made partner as the youngest ever in the firm’s history. Since then, I’ve continued investing full-time.
In this rapidly changing path you are following, what are some things you do to network and stay up to date with industry trends?
I do the usual things: I subscribe to newsletters, spend a lot of time meeting with investors and founders, and try to read interesting and relevant materials. I also attend a decent amount of industry events which are great ways to get to know smart people. For example, I help co-chair Fortune magazine’s annual Brainstorm Tech Conference every year; getting to spend time on stage with amazing business leaders like the CEO of YouTube, presidential candidates, and leaders at some of the biggest companies in the world is a great way to keep me on my toes.
Could you provide us with insights into your current endeavors and ventures, shedding light on some of your most recent projects?
My primary focus is as an early-stage technology investor, these days primarily as an angel investor. I recently shared some of my thoughts about digital consumer investing (where I focus a lot of my time), the state of the market in 2024, and how I approach deal making.
On the side, I have a few different projects I’m working on:
- My podcast, where I talk about my personal and professional life (listen on Spotify or Apple).
- My leadership and career coaching business, the Coaching Corner, where I connect individuals and businesses with excellent leadership, career, and executive coaches. We also facilitate workshops for teams on leadership development.
- And of course, my work at NYU as a Trustee and Alumni Association board member.
You have started a podcast, which dives into a diverse array of subjects including personal finances, the nuances of remote work, and the pivotal decision of when to make a career shift. Can you elaborate on the inspiration behind launching this podcast and the key takeaways you envision for your audience?
My podcast, the Tcburning Pod, really started just as a way for me to share my constant stream of consciousness with the world in a manner that felt intuitive and (hopefully) interesting. I try to focus my ‘free’ time on being a creator versus endlessly scrolling (we’re all guilty of it!), and the podcast is an outlet for me to do that. I hope that through discussing some of the topics I address on the podcast, folks can walk away having learned something new for themselves, as well as about me.
As a career and leadership coach, what inspired you to take on these roles, and what do you find most rewarding about helping others in their professional journeys?
I worked with a coach many years back, and it was transformational for me. While I’m primarily known for my work as an investor, most people don’t realize that while I was getting promoted to partner at Google Ventures, I was spending nights and weekends getting my career coaching certification, because I was so captivated by the practice.
Despite your numerous roles you hold, you still find time to give back to NYU serving as a trustee and alumni leader. Can you share the motivations or values that drive your active involvement in this capacity?
NYU was where I learned how to be a technologist. Studying computer science at Courant—though it was really difficult—helped instill a sense of curiosity and understanding of how software is built, which have been instrumental in my life. The least I can do is give back to the place that shaped me so greatly.
Are there key lessons or principles that have guided your own career journey that you would like to share?
My biggest piece of advice to myself and to others is this: “Just go for it.” Whatever your interest, curiosity, or hope is for yourself and your future, big or small… you’ll learn 10 times more from giving it a go than spending endless hours Googling how to do it. Having the courage to give something a try is one of the most powerful things you can do.
So that our global community can get to know you a bit better, we have a quick lightning round for you:
Do you have a go-to weekday meal? Baked salmon and brussels sprouts! My go-to healthy meal. Brussels sprouts are the only vegetable that I like.
Something fellow alumni would be surprised to know about you? My freshman year I started off as a global liberal studies major, and then environmental studies major, before landing in computer science! Sometimes it takes a little exploration to find the right fit :)
Describe your style in one word. Chic.
Can you share a favorite day off activity? Oh, something boring, like a beach day with a good book.
What is your dream vacation? I’ve been dreaming of a cozy winter getaway in St. Moritz. Or the total opposite: lazy beach days in St. Thomas.
What is a song you would want to enter a room to? “Let You Go” by A$AP Ferg
What is your favorite place on NYU’s campus? The Leslie e-Lab!