Connecting with people has always been my core competency — in business and in life — and I love that my work lets me blend the two. I get to partner with people I like to work with, support entrepreneurs who inspire me, and help them find the people and resources they need to go the distance. As such, my favorite moments on the job tend to have had less to do with just the financial returns, and more to do with the people involved and the relationships we build. One of my favorite measures of success are the number of First Round founders who choose to come back to work with us on their next company.
I came to First Round through a series of connections myself. I had met Josh and Howard through the TED conference over 20 years ago, then worked with Josh at Half.com for years before running various groups at eBay and then business development at del.icio.us. I kept an eye on the the newly-formed First Round as it developed it’s creative approach to venture capital, and when they needed help and I had a chance to join, I jumped on it. We don’t say it often, but we’ve always thought that building First Round is building like a startup. In that way I feel like we’re all working on disrupting an industry and serving our customers – the entrepreneurs – with the best product in the seed stage venture business.
I spent my early career in Sales and Business Development at technology companies in the personal computer field, then in companies and startups focused on software and the Internet. Throughout most of my career, I’ve been attending the TED Conference— and I’ve shared some thoughts on How to work a conference based on that and other extensive field research. In early 2006 I helped them launch their video series TEDTalks, which have now been viewed over 4 billion times, and TEDTalks were part of the inspiration behind launching the First Round Review where we share tactical, actionable advice.
Since joining First Round over a decade ago, I’ve worked with dozens of companies – some have failed, some have scaled, some were acquired, some are now public – and they’ve all given me perspectives on how to be most helpful to entrepreneurs and and how to build business relationships over time. I’ve been fortunate to partner with companies that range from physical products like Ring and Warby Parker and Ringly to advertising and marketing tech like Invite Media and Flurry and Percolate. I have a particular interest in gaming and VR, which led to our investment in companies like ROBLOX.
For me, the most important characteristic of the best founders, the most successful sales or business development executives, or any relationship is empathy — making the effort to understand the experience of the other side. Related to that, I’ve observed that the best founders don’t want to be told only what they want to hear. Most everyone in a board room wants radical candor, so I try to provide the perspective other’s won’t when it’s needed. That’s also why the ability to balance conviction with learning/reacting is the number one quality I look for in founders. They believe in what they’re doing so deeply, but they’ll also seek out the opinions and feedback they need.
I’ve had the benefit of living and working through major technological shifts. In my college computer course freshman year they had us work with punched cards, and soon after I was teaching myself how to work with some of the earliest personal computers on the market, then selling IBM and Apple hardware in my first job. Later my career took me to software, databases, early online services, then the Internet, to Web 2.0 and Social, to Mobile and beyond. I feel lucky to have been a part of it so I can connect the dots on how technology survives and thrives today and into the future.
I have an odd hobby – I keep a fairly extensive computer museum in my home office – recent additions were a “wicked fast” Macintosh IIfx as my 10 year First Round anniversary gift, and other favorites include an Altair 8800 and a 20th Anniversary Macintosh. Part of what I like to consider about these old products is “what was visible but not yet seen” at the time – and how that applies to what we’re excited about today. Again, it comes down to perspective – I keep this 1977 quote from DEC founder Ken Olsen displayed: “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.”
In my spare time I like to read and sometime write about the best business books, or VR, or how to make introductions, and I also enjoy running, playing tennis, skiing and mostly spending time with my amazing family.