My husband is an investor. Here’s how he has helped me become a better founder.
This post is in response to Steve Schlafman’s recent post named ‘My wife is a founder. Here’s how she has helped me become a better investor.’
I am a founder. I started Huckletree because I am passionate about surrounding myself with interesting people: it gives me a strangely unparalleled sense of fulfilment and accomplishment. My husband Antoine is a Founding Member of Felix Capital. The Felix portfolio includes Deliveroo, Farfetch, Business of Fashion, Goop and Rad; notable brands that sit at the intersection of technology and creativity.
When I walk into our flat at the end of each day, my role morphs from founder to mother and from mother to wife — and then back to founder again after dinner. The work is never over, it is only subject to the occasional, loving interruption. Once Jack is sound asleep and both Antoine and Shy the dog have been fed, it’s my turn to listen and learn.
Because night after night, Antoine unknowingly transmits free and impartial teachings to me. And I, the innocent eavesdropper, lap them up hungrily.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
A good investor genuinely cares; not only about his investments, but about the teams behind them. Their success is his success, and it’s not an ego play. He does his own continual research on the markets his portfolio companies operate in and he never relies purely on what the founders tell him or coincidental hearsay. He takes his role extremely seriously. He is not just an investor, he is a mentor — and as such he makes certain that every single suggestion, each and every word he utters, adds value. I learned that this was the kind of investor we should all hope for.
On the importance of the founders
When Antoine writes an investment memo, he deep dives into the quality of the founding team. Their chemistry, passion, ambition and (most of all) ability to scale the business are second to no other factor with regards to whether or not the investment will be made. The founders that Felix invest in are passionate role-models, and I’ve come to understand the relationship that these two words enjoy. You are unlikely to be a good role model for a product you lack passion for, and conversely it doesn’t matter how much you believe in what you’re doing if you are unable to convey that passion to others.
We had weeks of rehearsals at the Felix offices before Andrew and I embarked on our very first pitch meeting. Interestingly, the most important take-away I learnt was how crucial it is not to lose sight of the running of the business. At the end of the day, your economics are going to be your success or failure — and no investor will turn a blind eye to a period of poor metrics because you were too busy fundraising to hold ship.
Separately, I live by the motto that there is no neutral: if someone doesn’t add then by nature they must subtract. My husband taught me that nowhere is this truer than in financing meetings — and just how crucial it is not to bring a team member along to a financing meeting if he or she doesn’t add to the energy level. (I must throw in here that this doesn’t apply to us; I would not be half as able to articulate our vision without my cofounder Andrew, and we have been known finish each other’s sentences quite frequently).
So how has being married to a VC made me a better founder? Primarily, it serves me with a daily reminder of the level of competition I’m up against — which ensures that the stakes are permanently sky-high. I’ve met some good founders and some great founders, but all of the founders I’ve met through Antoine have been the best example of what founders should look like. “The creative agents of change,” as the Felix website puts it.
There are various highs and lows associated to working so closely with your partner. Expectations are personal in a way that expectations of other portfolio companies aren’t. This can sometimes lead to conflict, and disappointment. But I wouldn’t change this for all the money in the world. Because Antoine demonstrates to me on a daily basis that good investors are the truest — and best — allies to have; and the respect I have for him in return is second to none.