I came back to work (in the dark) after a spoiling sunny holiday in the southern hemisphere with an acute case of post-holiday blues. They feel stronger than ever now I have 4 kids because holidays are such a breath (literally & metaphorically) of fresh air from the urban school routine which is frantic in the hours I’m involved morning and evening.
I was talking with my wife about how I felt during a countryside walk with our newborn in sling. I had a revelation when she talked about the role of service (i.e. serving others) in her life . I suddenly thought about my work investing in startups in terms of service, specifically in terms of serving entrepreneurs. My post-holiday blues disappeared in that instant. It always amazes me that a simple change in mindset can so quickly have a material impact on how I feel.
Obviously this insight isn’t rocket science as of course a lot of our work has to do with serving entrepreneurs, but there is subtlety in exactly what that means and how one prioritises it.
As a Director of numerous companies I have a legal duty to do what’s best for the company (i.e. the shareholders). As a General Partner of Episode 1 Ventures I have a duty to steward our investors money responsibly and generate as high a return as possible for them. As venture capitalist I have a desire to help entrepreneurs thrive and succeed.
A few days before the walk with my wife I listened to a Reeboot.io podcast interview with Brad Feld and Fred Wilson discussing their experiences as VCs and Board Members and it resonated with me especially around this point of serving entrepreneurs. It’s well worth a listen.
When we wear the multiple hats as an investor described above we get to choose, within the limits of the law of course, which to prioritise.
My goal is to consciously (as opposed to subconsciously as previously) prioritise our entrepreneurs when I can make the choice. This is principally for two reasons. Firstly I am confident it will help me enjoy my work even more than I already do – I’ll be serving a great group of people. And secondly I believe it will lead to better results over the longer term for Episode 1.
To expand on what this means in practical terms: there are moments when we, as institutional investors with preferred shares in companies and a seat on the Board, can flex our muscles and exercise rights that will benefit our investors to the detriment of the entrepreneur. I do not want to exercise these rights unless I absolutely feel I have to. And examples of when we feel the absolute need to will be the topic of a later blog. Sometimes we feel we have to exercise these rights for the benefit of the company…