New Beginnings, New Challenges

Hello? Hello? Is this thing on?

How do you know when it’s time to take your foot of one base and reach out to steal the next?

How do you thank someone for changing the course of your career, while at the same time breaking the news that you need to move on to tackle new challenges?

— — —

I never planned on being a journalist. In fact, I’ve told anyone who’s asked over the last three years that it’s been the most fortunate and serendipitous accident of my life and career to find myself working for PandoDaily. It’s an opportunity that arose out of a cold email to Sarah Lacy in early 2012 imploring her to focus at least a portion of her then fledgling media venture on the blossoming LA startup ecosystem.

What she saw in me at the time — a reformed merchant banker with an addiction to reading tech blogs — only she can explain. Somehow, that brief email resulted in an invitation to contribute a few unpaid guest posts, which later blossomed into a weekly column, and eventually into a full-time role covering first the LA tech community and later the global phenomenon of startups and venture capital.

Spending three years helping build the PandoDaily brand, exploring the stories that make this industry the most fascinating of our time, and, ultimately, producing more than 1,500 blog posts (est. >1.35 million words, wow!) has been nothing short of life altering. I cannot overstate the profound impact working with Sarah and the incredible team she’s assembled has had on my thinking about business and technology, my respect for and relationships with the people who drive this industry, and my appreciation of what it means to be a part of a team — no, a family — building something you believe in to your core.

Which is why it is with a mix of both great sadness and profound gratitude that I decided to leave Pando to take on a new set of challenges.

Upfront Ventures, whose rapidly growing partnership I could not respect more, has offered me a role in helping them grow what I believe has become the preeminent venture firm in Southern California. I’m humbled by the opportunity and excited by the challenge. (Thanks Sarah and Mark for the kind words.)

My role at Upfront will be a new one that will see me dividing my time between the investment team — helping identify and back the best companies of the next generation — and the operations team, helping build out a platform worthy of supporting a world class portfolio. The mix between these two functions will be dynamic, a fact that I’m very much looking forward to.

Despite the new role, I won’t be leaving Pando completely. I will continue to be a regular contributor to the site and look forward to supporting Sarah and the rest of our incredible team as they build out what I believe can be the defining media company of its era. On that note, after three years of seeing for the first time how the media sausage is made, I believe more strongly than ever in the power of an objective and critical voice to introduce accountability and transparency in this and other industries. I could not be more proud to have been an early part of helping build upon that vision and I have no doubt that Pando has a long and influential life ahead.

I am thankful for everyone who has challenged and helped me develop my thinking over the last three years, and to those who have read and shared my work. Thank you to my PandoDaily family, both current and former, for being wonderful teammates and great friends. I’m going to miss being in the trenches with you all.

Most of all, thank you to Sarah for your unending support and encouragement. Thanks to you and Paul for always having my back and those of all our reporters. And thank you both for believing that the truth, no matter how ugly or how unpopular, should be the north star by which we navigate this ship. I would not be half the professional or the person I am today without my time at Pando.

And yet… the next adventure calls.

As I begin this next chapter, I am more confident than ever in the future of the Los Angeles startup ecosystem and in the positive role that technology more broadly will play in shaping the future of our world. Crossing the table, to borrow Mark’s turn of phrase, and helping to nurture and guide emerging companies is something that always I thought I’d do…eventually. The timing of this transition, however, comes as a (pleasant) surprise to even me. Sometimes when a rocket ship passes you by, all you can to is jump aboard and hold on for dear life.

I have always believed there’s a lot of good that can be accomplished by thoughtful, ethical investors, and I hope in my career — may it be long and successful — I will manage to fall more often on that side of the line than not. This is something that I’m confident my time at Pando in particular, as well as the guidance and example of my new mentors at Upfront will make far more likely.

On that note, I expect to encounter plenty of thoughts both positive and negative on the idea of journalists becoming VCs. (Not that I personally merit the attention, but it’s a topic that has been explored before and that tends to incite a lot of passion on both sides of the issue). With conflicting data points throughout history, there are no black and white answers. But through these examples and some introspection, I believe there’s a good case to be made for valuable similarities that tie the two roles together and differences that make entering VC with a background in journalism advantageous, relative to other paths, both for the individual investor, and for firms and portfolio companies more generally. I’ll likely share some more thoughts on this in the near future.

For now, I’m feeling grateful for the time I’ve spent at Pando and for the opportunity to test myself in a new proving ground. Thank you and here’s to the next chapter. #onward #LongLA #pandoforlife

(This post originally appeared on Pando.com)

(Image via Pat Cegan)