I’ve been singing a song in my head for the last few weeks — if you’re an old-school Beastie Boys fan like me you might recognize it…
“What’s gonna set you free?
Look inside and you’ll see
When you’ve got so much to say
It’s called gratitude, and that’s right”
– Beastie Boys, “Gratitude”, Check Your Head (1992)
Last Friday, Andy and I announced the official close of Founders Co-op II, our second fund as “professional” early-stage investors. With the close of this new fund, we now have a fresh $8 million in capital to do what we love best: scouting out the most talented and ambitious software entrepreneurs in the Pacific Northwest and helping them make a dent in the universe.
I have so much in life to be grateful for, but right now I’m full of gratitude for…
Our portfolio company founders and team members
Money is the least part of entrepreneurial success. Talent is the limiting reagent in the innovation business — crazy-smart teams with huge product vision, mad coding chops, design genius, marketing hustle, and buckets of raw grit + determination.
Every time an entrepreneur agrees to work with us, we get another chance to help an insanely talented team make a difference in the world. We do everything we can to honor those relationships every day.
Our Limited Partners
These are the 64 people (66 counting Andy and myself) whose money is behind every check we write. The investors in Founders Co-op are our secret weapon — 64 successful innovators and business leaders who believe so passionately in the power of entrepreneurship that they put their money (and often their time) where their mouth is by joining our community.
Without them, Founders Co-op wouldn’t exist. With them, we can move mountains on behalf of our growing family of portfolio companies.
$8 million is a drop in the ocean when it comes to building big, disruptive technology businesses. As John Cook noted in his article on our raise, we hope to be “catalysts” for software innovation, but as our portfolio companies grow we inevitably wind up in a supporting role and count on bigger firms with the capital and strategic leverage needed to make success possible.
Over the past four years Andy and I have had a chance to work with — and learn from — some of the best investors in the business. First among these is Brad Feld at Foundry Group. Brad was an investor and board member in Andy’s and my last business (we lost his money), and is now a key investor with us on both Big Door and (with his partner Jason Mendelson) Urban Airship.
Among many other great co-investors, the partners at First Round Capital, True Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and Ignition Partners have also helped us learn the ropes and help turn our early-stage bets into bigger + more aggressive insurgents in their respective industries.
Founders Co-op — along with the entire Seattle early-stage community — has benefited hugely from the support of David Cohen’s TechStars accelerator program. My partner Andy is the Executive Director for the Seattle program, and we host the 10 companies in each year’s class in our South Lake Union office.
TechStars Seattle has become the essential “glue” that binds together many of the most influential players in the local startup ecosystem — every major venture firm has committed both capital and partner-level advisors to the program, and over 100 experienced software execs (many of them active angel investors) have signed on as volunteer mentors to the companies selected to attend.
The Seattle Startup Community
I grew up in Seattle but spent much of my early career in the Bay Area. When I moved back in 2001 I struggled to find people who shared my passion for the pirate’s life — until I met my now-business partner Andy Sack.
Over the past 10 years we have witnessed — and made our own efforts to contribute to — an incredible transformation in the culture of our city. No, we aren’t Silicon Valley, nor are we likely to ever challenge the Bay Area’s primacy as the center of global tech innovation. But what we lack in heft and global reach we more than make up for with underdog spirit.
As a community, we punch way above our weight, and I’m convinced it’s because we’re working together, celebrating each other’s successes and cheering each other on. I miss the weather and the cycling in the Bay Area, but I wouldn’t trade our culture for theirs on my worst day.
My partner, Andy Sack
It’s getting late, and this post is already way too long for anyone to read, but if you got this far then you can stick with me for a few more sentences.
I didn’t set out in life to be a venture capitalist, or even an entrepreneur — I just kept trying different kinds of work and learning what I didn’t want to do, until I figured out what I needed to be happy:
- working with insanely smart + relentlessly curious people
- pursuing ideas I’m stay-up-all-night passionate about, and
- being part of a team with an unshakable level of trust + mutual support
Andy and I didn’t start a business and find someone to do it with, we started with a partnership — and a friendship — and built a business around it.
So thank you to all the people who let me do what I love to do. I have a ton to learn about being an effective venture investor, and I won’t know for years if I’m any good at it, but I’ve never had more fun in my life, and it’s all thanks to you.