The next chapter at IA Ventures
IA Ventures has been on my mind almost nonstop since Q2 2009. What started as the germ of an idea blossomed into a full fledged plan for a firm later that year. It was in Q4 of that year that I met Jeff Green, the CEO and founder of The Trade Desk (NASDAQ: TTD, one of IA’s best-performing investments), and around that time met my partner and friend Brad Gillespie. Quite honestly, that seems like decades ago. My children were 12 and 9, having had daddy working from home since leaving Wall Street in Q3 2004. My kids are now 24 and 21, no longer boys but young men on their way in this world. My wife has a passel of personal achievements, engagements and personal growth to her credit. Less than two years after founding we had the great fortune of meeting a then 22-year old Jesse Beyroutey, and that changed the firm as we knew it. These have been 12 of the most formative, exciting, scary, enjoyable, stressful, and impactful years of my life. It’s hard to believe it was ever any other way.
If you’ve done the math, I’ve been doing seed stage venture investing for 17 years — five off of my personal balance sheet and 12 through IA Ventures. As I’ve said on many occasions I feel and have always felt like the “accidental VC” — I didn’t come to the business in a traditional way, didn’t get tutored at a venerable firm and pretty much catalyzed a different approach to thinking about seed stage investing: the importance of bet sizing; follow on strategy; risk management; portfolio construction; and the relentless pursuit of the holy grail, the mis-priced call option. This wasn’t done in a vacuum — it was done in collaboration with my partners, two of the smartest and best people I know. Our symbiotic relationship, grounded in safety, trust, truth-telling and the relentless quest for improvement created the dynamic tension necessary to succeed at a high level. Couple this with the support of the best group of LPs imaginable and we captured lighting in a bottle. We codified a strategy. We built a brand and a reputation. We supported some of the most interesting and visionary founders of this generation to achieve their potential from earliest days. And we generated returns for our LPs that went to an array of terrific institutions and causes. I am very, very proud of what we’ve built and the manner in which we’ve built it, where integrity, transparency, honesty and trust have been front and center in all of our founder, co-investor and LP relationships.
The past 18 months have been extraordinarily hard for everyone, me no exception. Elderly parents whom I couldn’t see, kiss or hug. Friends who are family who weren’t comfortable being together in almost any capacity for many months. A child whose college career was severely disrupted and forced to cope as best he could. And the death of my mother earlier this year. All of this, in conjunction with turning 55 and feeling mortality more acutely than I have before caused me to reassess how I want to spend the next 20+ years of my life. I have the good fortune of being healthy, loving and living with my best friend (who happens to be my wife), having a large group of close friends and family and a wide range of interests and involvements that excite me. While I love the venture business and helping founders build companies, I don’t need it to give my life purpose. And I certainly don’t need the external validation of being a VC; for me, it has always been the respect of my partners, our founders and how I feel about my efforts that has mattered the most. So when I really thought about it, and allowed these hard feelings to come in, the melancholy I had been feeling made sense. I needed a life change. I needed to sweep the decks of deep responsibility to figure out my future with a clear mind and a full heart.
This has led to my decision to step back in my role at IA Ventures to create the space to identify and pursue new passions.
I will no longer be making investments in new companies at IA, and I will be paring back most of my board responsibilities. Brad and Jesse will carry on the work we’ve been doing for the past 12 years, and I will continue to support them to build the future of IA the way they want.
This is the hardest business decision that I’ve ever had to make, but I promised to myself that if the day ever came that I wasn’t 110% passionate about my work, that I would make space and not be a tax on future generations. Now Brad and Jesse have the chance to build the future the way they want and to carry on the work we’ve been doing for the past 12 years. And this makes me happy. I am a massive LP in IA funds and look forward to my continued participation in the years to come. Because there are no two people I’ve worked with who are as smart, ethical, creative, committed, or caring as my partners Brad and Jesse. The future is bright.