Last Sunday morning I woke up in Scranton, fresh from celebrating a friend’s wedding festivities. That same night I fell asleep on the opposite side of the country in Northern California, having leapt through multiple time zones to complete the first day of my first module as a Kauffman Fellow.
The 24th class of Kauffman Fellows is now one module in, with six more to go over the next two years. 64 people, including myself, each trying to figure out how to better support entrepreneurship through our own investing. I didn’t expect to be a part of the class, yet there I was last Sunday at noon, mainlining coffee and introducing myself to my 63 classmates, wondering how this happened.
There’s a short answer for how I got to this point: I remembered to set my phone alarms before my friend’s wedding reception. But, there’s a longer and messier answer however.
I’ve wondered these past five years on how I can clear obstacles for founders, how I can help push future technologies forward. There were more ups and downs over that time than I’ll explain here, but I know becoming a Fellow wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities others have given me, or an acceptance of struggle. In fact, the scars those struggles brought upon me may be why I have this opportunity.
This opportunity could be an inflection point, if I choose to make it one. I’m 28 years old with a number of different paths I could explore — and I have a few ideas already on which ones to take.
I want to know the next generation of venture investors. The future of venture will be much more global and diverse than the present, and this class reflects that eventuality. Though most of my classmates are from North America, 40% are based overseas. Half of my classmates are people of color. 36% are women. The next generation of venture investors won’t all look like me.
I want to improve my own frameworks for evaluating opportunities inside (and outside) of venture. In my work I live in fear of blind spots that I’m missing by definition, and interacting with this large cross-section of investors could help make them apparent to me. There’s also no reason being clear-eyed about my own decision-making shouldn’t translate beyond the venture world.
I want to better understand how effective decision-making organizations are built. There are trade-offs in decision-making between rigor and speed, and both extremes (absolute rigor or absolute speed) can lead to undesirable outcomes. However, the two don’t need to cancel each other out in some sort of zero-sum game.
I want to level up the understanding that others have of the work I do, and how I do it. For me to make an impact as an investor, people have to understand what I actually do. They have to understand the types of investments I make, why I make the decisions I make, and the limits of my influence. And, much of the burden lies on me to educate them.
Lastly, I want to better understand my own personal and professional contradictions. In trying to source potential investment ideas, I took close to 300 meetings last year. As a result I always needed to be “on”, moving conversations forward, keeping my schedule structured and our diligence processes organized. And yet in my personal life, I flip that switch off. I don’t enter most Saturdays knowing what the day will bring, but Sunday nights seem to have a habit of making me wonder how so much happened anyway. What do these contradictions mean? I don’t know yet.
So from those ups, those downs, those scars that strengthened me, I’m able to call myself a Kauffman Fellow. And, the potential learnings are many. But, there’s now just two years to explore these paths and capitalize on this inflection point. Tick tock.