I’m terrifically excited to announce that I’m joining NFX as a Managing Partner alongside James Currier and Gigi Levy-Weiss and want to use this post to share my thoughts and give some background on NFX , why it’s a great fit for me and how I see the venture and start-up community evolving.
First a little bit of background
NFX has a vision to use software and network effects to build a new type of early stage Investment Company. It’s an invite-only Guild for startups looking to accelerate growth and enhance defensibility. It runs a three-month program in the Bay Area twice a year that I’ve discovered gives elite Founders an unfair advantage in their next company.
The founding Partners of the NFX are James Currier, Gigi Levy-Weiss and Stan Chudnovsky. These Founders have a long history of building, investing in and mentoring high growth technology companies. The capital they have been investing comes from themselves, and from some of Silicon Valley’s top VCs, CRV, Greylock, Shasta and Mayfield.
I have found that top Founders know the value of NFX . Many of the founders in the program are second timers. Recent founders have come from their own successful startups that have been acquired for hundreds of millions of dollars, or IPO’d. They have come from top companies like Facebook and Google and from leading schools like Stanford and Harvard.
Top investors in the Bay Area also seem to know the reputation of the Guild, as many of them are Scouts, sending vetted teams to apply to the invitation-only program.
So why NFX for me?
Over the last year or so since the merger of Trulia with Zillow, I’ve been in the fortunate position to take a mid-career break. I’ve spent most of my time working with early stage start-ups and the venture community in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It’s been incredibly stimulating to step out of an intense operating role in one vertical to see the frenetic pace of innovation and the explosion of opportunity when talent and passion meet capital across a range of industries and technologies.
My contribution has been investing and advising dozens of start-ups and helping top venture firms evaluate and scale some of their investments. While I’ve looked at a range of companies and industries, I have been consistently drawn to helping founders start and scale technology businesses that are using network effects to scale and disrupt their markets. This is part of the reason why NFX was intriguing to me in the first place (NFX stands for Network Effects).
It’s also been a time of reflection to think through where the venture industry is evolving and how I can add the most value and impact and follow my passions. I’ve been very fortunate to be part of the founding team of two start-ups in different continents and industries that have scaled from a business plan to $1BN+ exits. I want to make sure that whatever I do next is going to make the most of my skills and experience to have an even bigger impact on the ecosystem and help many of the top entrepreneurs.
Out of this come a number of observations that led me to join NFX:
I believe who you work with is the most important factor in deciding where to place your life’s energies. James, Gigi and Stan are a rare gathering of the kind of people with whom I want to build something. They are each entrepreneurs and leaders in their own right, and they are each highly sought-after by startup founders for their insights, advice and mentoring.
They are truly passionate about the entrepreneurial journey. They are each great product designers, and they have an eye for promising businesses and teams. They have an optimism to see not what it is, but what it can be. They have the integrity to do the right thing.
James co-founded and was CEO of four successful venture-backed companies. He is both one of the top product minds and one of the growth experts in the industry, and — together with Stan — invented much of what we think of as “Growth Hacking” today. James has been doing the heavy lifting of designing and launching NFX these last two years, including developing and teaching much of the curriculum.
Gigi spends his time between Israel and the Bay Area. Last year he was named Israel’s #1 Angel investor. He has unique experience as a Founder, CEO, and investor and is a fantastic teacher and coach. You have to see him in action.
Stan co-founded four companies with James, and is the rare combination of scary high IQ combined with a similar EQ. He is universally loved, and sought after for his advice and creative insight. Like James, he is a product and growth expert. Stan’s full time job is the Head of Product at Facebook Messenger — one of the most important digital products in the world today. He serves NFX as a Limited Partner, mostly spending time coaching the teams during session.
In short, it’s rare to find a team like this.
2) NFX appears to be creating more value in a shorter period of time than anything else.
As part of my own diligence process to join NFX, I’ve spoken to dozens of exceptional entrepreneurs who have worked with early stage funds and participated in different start-up programs or accelerators.
What I heard consistently time and time again from these incredible individuals was that participating in NFX created more value in a shorter period of time than any single other organization out there. Period.
To me that was completely remarkable given that many of these entrepreneurs had received investment from storied funds and/or already participated in top accelerator programs. These founder testimonials were so important for me.
3) NFX delivers the need for speed and growth
It is clear to all that the pace of change is accelerating as technology becomes more powerful and more pervasive. In an environment where competition is more intense than ever, successful start-ups are achieving scale faster than they have ever before. WhatsApp achieved 1BN Monthly active users in seven years, Messenger achieved this in 4 years and Pokémon Go became the fastest growing app in history in 2016 becoming bigger than Twitter in just a few weeks. Growth records are being beaten every single year. The trend is set to continue and the need for entrepreneurs to find growth from the outset is more important and valuable than ever. NFX’s intense focus on speed and building sustainable growth is the right way to make impact.
4) NFX combines my passions for investing, mentoring, operating and community
After the multi-billion dollar merger of Trulia with Zillow in 2015, my initial reaction was to go into “Traditional” venture. I spent a little time back in 2004 at Battery Ventures and almost joined a VC back then, but decided to start Trulia instead, which was a very good idea.
I enjoy the venture investing process, and I’ve been an active angel investor, but back then and today, I felt that something was missing for me. While fortunate to have received around a dozen incredible opportunities at great VCs and teams, I just couldn’t quite see the fit until I spent time with the team at NFX . The model combines my interests, skills and passions of: community, operating, mentoring, and investing in elite entrepreneurs. Breaking this down further:
Community: I’ve seen first hand that the NFX community is real and there is deep connectivity between the portfolio companies that is unlike anything else that I’ve seen in other venture firms. The NFX Alumni network is passionate and active. One of the explicit goals of James, Gigi and Stan has been to create a cohesive and powerful group of alumni to last decades. In other words, a real Guild.
Connecting with other founders and friends to share learnings isn’t just fun, I’ve found it to be the best way to learn and excel. NFX is thoughtfully bringing that formerly random activity to a whole new level, and I wish I had had it earlier in my career. The Guild’s calendar and Alumni network design systematically provides CEO’s with the ability to connect with trusted peers and experts in a context of honesty and confidentiality. It’s a many year program to help the Guild Members sustain the pressures and challenges of scaling a large business in a hyper competitive environment. It’s a massive unfair advantage to these Founders.
Operating: NFX is building a platform for elite entrepreneurs to help them build the biggest and best companies. It’s more like a company than a venture firm. We’re developing software, processes, and staff like a startup does. We’re tracking metrics, getting customer feedback, and building a network effect. I’m eager to build more software products, both internal tools and outward facing tools, to streamline our workflow and amplify our impact.
Mentoring: After spending most of the last 20 years operating hyper-growth consumer Internet business across the globe, I’ve learnt many lessons and hope that I can help others avoid my mistakes. It was precisely because of the advice that I received early on that I was able to be successful. At NFX, I’ll be holding regular Office Hours with each portfolio company helping them navigate and think through their business challenges.
Investing: NFX is an early stage fund that is now supported by some of the best venture investors in the world: Greylock, CRV, Shasta and Mayfield. Their support is amazing and indicates the high quality of the people and program at NFX.
5) The most formative time in a start-up’s journey is the very early stage
In my experience the chemistry and alchemy of building a billion dollar company is often determined in the first few years, but is often only visible much later. While companies change and evolve dramatically over time, it’s often an early unique insight about a customer, the industry or product, or the special working dynamic between the founders or early employees that enables them to execute on the opportunity ahead. I’ve seen time and time again, it’s those early days that are so crucial and formative to a company’s long term success and where charting the right course is so critical. It feels that is even more true today than before as the pace of change accelerates and industries become hyper competitive giving start-ups less room for error as they scale. It’s hard to distil and there is no formula, but companies that get the early stage right either through skill, luck or mentorship have dramatically better chances of success.
6) Building a portfolio of multiple billion dollar businesses
NFX is a platform where the Partners are focused on helping dozens of companies in a year achieve their ambitions. It’s is a unique platform for me to maximize my impact in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The intensity and efficiency built into the fund and platform enables this. I’ve been fortunate to have played a key role in two significant exits and it’s my intention to help to build dozens more billion dollar plus exits in the future.
While I’ve focused most of my operating careers on building marketplaces in the travel and real estate industries, my interests have always been broader than these. While I expect continued innovation in these industries, I’m focused on a much broader range of areas including: how AI/ML will disrupt traditional industries and their Internet 1.0 or 2.0 competitors; a broad range of fintech and transactional start-ups; AR/VR applications; a number of other areas.
So, I’m excited about my next chapter and working with a terrific team at NFX and scale the platform, portfolio and community. Given that becoming an NFX company is an invite-only process I’m looking out for intros from my network to great founders and early stage companies, please get in touch. Also if you want to keep track of NFX news, sign-up for their email newsletter here.
Pete Flint is an entrepreneur, investor and advisor based in San Francisco and is a Managing Partner at NFX. You can follow him at: https://twitter.com/peteflint & https://www.linkedin.com/in/peteflint . Pete is the Founder and former CEO of Trulia, the online real estate service, and founding team member of lastminute.com the leading online travel service.