Commencement

First Round
Aug 5 · 3 min read

By: Phin Barnes

During my time at First Round I have learned an incredible amount, and now, after a lot of reflection, it’s time to take that learning and commence my next chapter. Choosing to leave was a difficult decision, and like any commencement, this is bitter-sweet. I will always look back at my time at First Round with gratitude and carry the friendships I formed forward into what I do next.

Making choices that optimize for learning has always led to my best work and choosing to join First Round was no exception. Over the last decade, I have grown more than I thought possible, and I find it hard to properly express my appreciation for everyone who has played a role in these lessons.

My learning came through the lens of many roles — as an apprentice, learning each term in a term sheet from Doug, the mechanics of venture capital from Jeff and following Josh around Conshohocken, PA to working with Chris and Howard to establish First Round’s presence in New York City, to joining Brett, Rob and Bill on the West Coast and the rise to equal partner leading the San Francisco office.

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Josh Kopelman and Phin Barnes at a First Round partner offsite.

Over this time, each member of our Operations, Finance and Administration team have inspired me in their service to the First Round Community, their dedication to our team and the intensity they bring to their work each day. The most meaningful lessons have come from the founders who chose to partner with me, who believed I could bring out their best and entrusted me to support their growth as leaders and to deliver unvarnished opinions and unwavering support in the most difficult moments.

Because of these people, there are many things I know today, that I did not know when I started my internship in 2008.

Today, I know that my family and I love San Francisco and that the Bay Area is home.

Today, I know that investing is my life’s work. I have found tremendous joy and endless motivation in my ability to bring out someone’s best — to see something in them that even they do not yet see, help them believe it, and support them as they prove it to the world.

Today, I have been rewarded with the choice to be in service to entrepreneurs and know that my success will be measured against the quality of these partnerships. I know how the best partnerships can be force multipliers for each member of the team and that there is no greater achievement than helping each one succeed.

With every effort, my goal is to be able to look back and say, “We built that.” From the mission to build and serve the strongest community of entrepreneurs to the current partnership, portfolio and position of the brand in the market, I am proud of my work on the experiment that Josh and Howard started in 2005. At the same time, startups are all about relentlessly pursuing the build, break, learn cycle of growth, and I need to take what I know and build again. I am not ready to share the structure this will take or the strategy I will pursue, but, I am certain that practicing the craft of venture investing on a new canvas will be the key to my best work over the next decade.

In the meantime, I’ll be figuring out what the fall looks like for my family in our continued COVID-19 reality. As we think about 4th grade, two parents working from home, and an extended group of family and friends that I owe payback on the relationship debt created over the last 10 years of extremely intense work at First Round, there is a lot to be done. I’ll also continue to serve the founders in the First Round community as a Board Partner and do some individual angel investing as a way to explore partnerships with founders at different stages of company growth, both before and beyond seed.

As always, if you are a founder and believe I could be a great partner to you, feel free to reach out. And if you want to connect with First Round, I’m happy to make the intro — I know the folks there pretty well.

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