Recently a gentlemen was introduced to me as someone who would be very interested in joining our MergeLane investor and mentor network. He seemed like a perfect fit -- a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company with startup operating experience and a history of investing in startups. Given our conflicting schedules, it took us six months, 18 emails and three rescheduled meetings to find a time to meet. When we finally met, he was delightful -- inspiring, articulate and pursuing extraordinary things to make the world a better place. After about an hour, he shared that he had recently decided to make a complete 180 and focus all of his time and capital to support a philanthropic cause. He asked me to donate my time and capital to support his efforts. His new focus is a noble and worthy mission, but it is not at all aligned with what I’ve deemed to be my “leadership purpose”. While I genuinely enjoyed speaking with him, I don’t think the time we spent scheduling and actually doing the meeting was the best use of either of our time. It distracted us both from our true north and the good stuff we are doing in the world. I felt really badly about this. This is my attempt to prevent moments like this in the future.
In my recent post about when giving first gets to be too much, I mentioned that I’m trying to focus my time on opportunities to operate in my zone of genius and a few select priority areas in line with my passions and in which I feel I can make the most impact, aka my true north. To help all of us stay the course, I thought it might be helpful to share those priorities.
My overarching priority is to prove that investing in women is a powerful investment thesis. I do this through my role as a general partner for the MergeLane venture fund for high-potential startups and select VC funds with at least one woman in leadership. I am most interested in connecting to startups and VC funds that meet our investment criteria. In addition to investing capital in these entrepreneurs and VCs, we also connect them to mentors and investors to accelerate their businesses. I am also interested in connecting with potential MergeLane mentors, angel investors and fellow venture capitalists. I love to meet startups through our QuickPitch sessions, inviting fellow venture capitalists to join my Fund81 VC forums (see below), and meeting angel investors, startup mentors and venture capitalists in person if they happen to be in my neck of the woods in Boulder or Vail, or during one of my trips to the Bay Area. You can read more about the ways I like to connect [here].
I also focus time on three synergistic initiatives: Fund81, Vail Women Elect and the Vail Investment Group.
1981, the year I was born and the birth of the millennial generation, Fund81 is a resource for the rising stars in venture capital. Fund81 answers common questions asked by emerging venture fund managers through its podcast, blog and monthly VC managers forum. The Fund81 podcast is a pragmatic, topic-specific podcast for VCs. Each episode is centered around one nagging question I have had on my journey as an up-and-coming VC. The Fund81 VC Managers Forum is an invite-only group of emerging venture capitalists designed to facilitate deal flow and information sharing. Each month, Fund81 invites a veteran venture capitalist or subject matter expert to speak to the Forum. Forum members invest from Seed to Series A, across a variety of industries. Forums are held virtually, as our managers are located across the globe, and quarterly in-person events are held in the Bay Area and in Colorado. I welcome connections to potential Forum members and experienced VCs interested in speaking to our group.
Vail Women Elect
Vail Women Elect is the Vail chapter of a national network of local giving groups working to increase the number of women elected to public office. Each year, we choose at least two high-potential female candidates primarily running for Governor or the US Senate to support. Members commit to financially support at least two candidates per year. Members meet two times a year to choose these candidates. I am the membership chair. In order to stay focused, I do not accept requests to meet with political candidates seeking financial support from the group.
The Vail Investment Group (VIG):
The Vail Investment Group is a community of investors who meet monthly to review private investments and funds across various industries in technology, real estate and alternative assets. The group is a chapter of a larger organization called the Boulder Investment Group (BIG), with over 250 members and combined investable assets of over $4 billion. Investors must meet SEC accreditation standards and have a reasonable likelihood of investing in at least one opportunity per year. I facilitate the meetings and help promote the group. I do not select or meet with presenting investment opportunities, as that is handled by the Boulder Investment Group.
As I mentioned, I’m trying to give first by focusing my time. I’ve chosen these four priorities because they leverage my strengths, are in line with my interests, enhance our MergeLane network of investors and mentors, and help me achieve my overarching priority of proving that investing in women is a powerful investment thesis. I welcome connections in line with these priorities. To make scheduling easier, it might be helpful to read this.
Thanks for reading. I hope my candor helps us all do less to achieve more.
At MergeLane, we’ve been thinking about how changing market conditions may affect our fund in the future. I know many of our listeners are asking themselves that question as well. Our guest, Liza Benson, thrived as a VC through both the dot-com crash in 2000 and the 2008 financial crisis.
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As an entrepreneur and startup investor, I have had many moments of feeling like I am pushing water uphill with a rake. Sometimes, I have kept pushing and have succeeded out of sheer grit. Sometimes, it was time to admit defeat. Two years ago, I had one of those moments.
Elizabeth Yin, co-founder and general partner at the Hustle Fund, shared her thoughts on how to assess a startup’s ability to “hustle”. Her thoughts are applicable to venture capitalists, startups and anyone who wants to work with hustlers.
Nearly every email I receive starts with “Sorry for the delay.” Our always-on culture has set an unwritten expectation that an email should be responded to within 24 hours. To prevent the perpetuation of this cultural expectation, I would like to make my thoughts clear.
We asked our Fund81 forum for venture capitalists to nominate portfolio companies to participate in a startup showcase. We received over 50 nominations. Four of those startups are featured in this episode.
Jocelyn Goldfein from Zetta Venture Partners joined the Fund81 podcast to share her approach to investing in artificial intelligence (AI). With the cost of creating software continuing to decline, Zetta believes the companies of the future will need to build more than just great software to thrive.
I love being active, but I also have high professional aspirations. I’ve spent the last 16 years trying to find a productive balance between the two. In this episode, Nicole DeBoom, pro triathlete turned CEO of Skirt Sports, and I share our thoughts on how to fit fitness into a startup schedule.
Fundraising doesn’t come naturally to David Cohen, founder and co-CEO of Techstars, but he’s learned how to leverage his strengths and team to successfully raise the funds that power the Techstars network. In this episode, he shares his honest and authentic reflections from this experience.
I practice the principles of Conscious Leadership, a methodology and toolkit that accelerates self-awareness. It’s being taught at companies like Yahoo, Goldman Sachs and Ebay and has forever changed every aspect of my life. I estimate that it has bought me about five hours of extra time each day.