Like many of you, for the last few days I have spent the majority of the time reading Tim Ferriss' new book, Tools of Titans. As 2016 comes to a close one element struck me from the book and it is the foreword by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold says, 'I am not a self-made man, I stood on the shoulders of giants to get to where I am.' This resonated with me when I look back at the incredible year that has been 2016 for me and I wanted to take a moment to thank those in particular who have helped me immensely over the past 12 months. I call them my venture family.
1.) The Older Brother:
John Henderson, Partner @ Airtree in Australia has undoubtedly been the single most instrumental person to my success so far. From our first meeting in a small cafe in Shoreditch over 18 months ago he has been a constant source of advice and guidance to me. Despite his move to Australia (caused me more tears than a marathon weekend of Titanic replays), I still speak to him on a weekly basis and could not be more grateful to have John as my older brother in venture.
Biggest takeaway: You will always overestimate what you can do in 1 year and underestimate what you can do in 10.
2.) Who Is The Daddy?!
Fred Destin, Partner @ Accel, actually introduced to me by John Henderson, Fred has been the no BS always straight talking guiding influence over the past year. Every discussion with Fred is a learning experience, his experience and vision from founder interactions to managing venture partnerships is an inspiration for me to witness. On top of that, I have simply never seen anyone dance with so much skill and enthusiasm after so many mojitos as Papa Destin!!
Biggest Takeaway: Publicity is cool for you but this is just the start, this is where the work begins.
The Godfather of SaaS
Having the chance to work with Jason Lemkin on The Official SaaStr Podcast has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. Jason's ability to run the world's most popular SaaS content platform, alongside a $70m SaaS fund and now a SaaStr Co-Selling space is astounding to me. His teaching of the basic principles of SaaS investing and benchmarking have been invaluable. In a similar vein to Fred, every conversation is a lesson and I look so forward to many more conversations.
Again introduced by John Henderson, few people have been as instrumental to my career as Shak. To be honest, his ability to cut through all the noise and tell me how it is, always provides me with a fresh perspective and a new way of thinking and approaching problems. I am forever grateful for having a friend and mentor like Shak and look forward to having the chance to repay him for all he has done for me! Dinner at Saloos on me next time! ;)
Biggest Takeaway: You have to transition from being nice to have to being needed.
3.) Mumma Beezer:
I first met Beezer Clarkson following intros from Jason Lemkin and Christian Hernandez who both recommended her for The Twenty Minute VC. After about 15 seconds of speaking on Skype it was blatantly apparent to me that Beezer and I would be firm friends. Our obvious love of venture and assessing emerging managers was not the only thing we had in common. It became clear we both shared common attributes such as being workaholics, a common fondness for all products of the grape variety and a fundamental dislike of email! Hence our conversations on Whatsapp!
Biggest Takeaway: Be prepared. Beezer is meticulously diligent in preparing for interviews and her desire to be the best at all times is exemplary to me moving forward.
4.) Uncle Feld
Despite me having the appearance of a fully grown independent man, there are few decisions I take without passing them through Brad Feld. For example, it was only last week when I messaged Brad, 'Brad, I have shin splints, what do you suggest'. Despite the trivial nature of this question, Brad has always been there for me. Despite all his time and travel commitments he has always put himself out to help and advise me. It is people like Brad that make me immensely excited to be working in the tech and VC industry.
Biggest Takeaway: You are never too busy to do something. As I said, Brad is one of the busiest men in venture yet he always finds the time to prioritise and do the things he wants to, whether it be running or making hilarious Foundry videos (must watch).
5.) The Importance of Sisters (I am lucky to have 3)
Laura Behrens Wu, Founder @ Shippo: I was lucky enough to have Laura on The Official SaaStr Podcast several months ago. Since, the show has since gone on to become one of our most downloaded episodes and nominated for Podcast Episode of the Year on ProductHunt. My big takeaway from Laura is tenacity and hard work. As a developing VC I look to accumulate differing data sources from founders and develop pattern recognition as to which is the best. Laura has taught me what makes great founders. From emailing her on Boxing Day and getting a response in 10 minutes to her continued and unwavering desire to add value in a non-transactional way, I feel lucky and excited to have a front row seat in watching Laura and Shippo sky rocket.
Arielle Zuckerberg, Partner @ Kleiner Perkins: I have to thank the team at ProductHunt for this one as it was during a PH AMA where I first met Arielle and asked if she would come on 20VC (luckily she said yes!) In a similar way to Beezer, Arielle and I hit it off from the beginning (listen to our episode to see). Her support in everything from answering which job to take to which La Croix is the best has been invaluable to me in my on boarding process into venture. Arielle, I look forward to many a mojito session in the future.
Carmen Alfonso Rico, Investor @ Felix Capital: The first time I met Carmen I did not actually recognise her. I had seen her Twitter profile pic before but was not fully prepared for the spanish beauty that stood in front of me. Following this encounter we went for an extensive mojito session that quite frankly would have caused global mint shortages had it been allowed to continue passed the closing of the bar.
Big Takeaway: In business as in life, people like to see character, personality and confidence, do not hide it. Be who you are.
There is one final person I would like to address in this piece, however, as he is my new boss, I felt it slightly colloquial to include as venture family! ;)
Mattias Ljungman, Partner @ Atomico: Since first meeting Mattias I have been in awe of his unwavering commitment and passion to show the world the technical talent that Europe has to offer. His commitment has taught me that VCs and Founders really are no different. The best both have vision, hunger and the right people around them to make this vision reality.
2016 has been one of the best years of my life. The Twenty Minute VC has become the world's most downloaded venture capital podcast. SaaStr is now the world's most popular SaaS podcast. Finally, I get to continue both of the above and do what I really love, investing in great founders, with the fantastic team at Atomico.