Anyone can tell you why something isn’t going to work. It’s our job to figure out why something just might.
The most transformative experience in my career was driven completely by luck. At the age of 18—as an undergrad student—I met a partner at General Catalyst and parlayed that meeting into an internship and then into a full time role where I saw the firm grow from $600m of capital to over $3B. It was my first experience with technology, and totally changed the course of my career—which later included opening their west coast office and going on to found my own company, NatureBox.
When I decided to join M13, my experiences at NatureBox were at the forefront of my mind. As a founder, you’re pitching all the time. You talk to VC, after VC, after VC, and no one will straight up tell you “no.”
There’s this culture of lip service that can really grind you down as a founder. If you aren’t getting feedback, how can you grow?
At M13, we’re trying to change that paradigm and bring transparency back to the process. Entrepreneurs deserve it, and it’s rewarding to be able to deliver on that promise—whether it’s in the form of two-way feedback to help us work better together, or just a simple, “it won’t work for us right now, and here’s why.”
For me, the most exceptional founders are Missionaries rather than Mercenaries—opportunity obsessed.
“You’re down but you’re not out.” I remember one of my advisors saying this to me and it’s stuck with me ever since. At the time, my company had nearly run out of cash, our existing investors refused to fund the company further, our creditor put the company in default and we had millions of dollars of accounts payable that needed to be paid. Adding to that, I was about to get married. It was the most stressful time in my life but as it turns out, I was down, but I wasn’t out. We learned how to operate the business on the cash we had and we saved the company. I learned just how resilient people and companies are.
Don’t panic. That’s the most important thing I learned as a founder, and it applies to investors, too. So many people get spooked at the first sign of trouble. I think that sets us apart at M13. Since so many of us have been a part of starting businesses, we’ve got the nerve to support you through the downs, not just the ups.
A good VC partner is someone who’s checked in, no matter what. When you’re down, they’re your company’s biggest cheerleader, in the trenches with you. And when you’re up, they’re the cautious optimist. It’s easy to wear the rose-colored glasses, but what you really need is someone to say, “yeah, things are going well, but have you thought about this?”
I love the drive, hustle, and ambition of entrepreneurs of all kinds. It doesn’t matter if you own an ice cream truck or are building the next Amazon, that drive is contagious. That’s one of the reasons I spend my free time mentoring entrepreneurs and serving on the board of my alma mater, Babson College.