venturing out

© Philiot Philsen — Landefläche Berlin-Tempelhof

A friend asked me recently,

“What makes you think you can decide which ideas are good and which aren’t?”

It wasn’t exactly an innocuous question. I didn’t have an answer for her.

Since then I’ve had time to reflect. I’ve realized that in my new life investing with Balderton I’ll often have to thread a fine line between having the confidence to make the decision and being humble enough to hear challenging opinions, and accept that I’m not always (or even often) right.

I began my new job one month ago yesterday. As many of us do, I tend to equate my work with my identity. But my hope is that the work I do reflects who I am, and not the other way around. While it’s still early days, I know that my job will require the best me. I will need to be honest but measured, understanding but perceptive, empathetic but definitive.

It’s also a job that I would not do well alone. I’m very lucky in that respect to be working with people that frankly, often make me feel stupid. They have a broad array of backgrounds and experiences, of successes and failures. My teammates (Anna Boffetta, Sam Myers, nicolas debock, Rob Moffat, James Wise, Suranga Chandratillake, Bernard Liautaud, Daniel Waterhouse, Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen, Tim Bunting) have brought me into their thinking process since day one. It’s intimidating and invigorating.

I will also call upon everything I’ve learned from prior stages in life both in and outside of work. In a prior life I worked on big Chinese internet IPOs like Qunar and Most recently I was at SoundCloud, where from Berlin I ventured out into frontier markets like Indonesia, Egypt and Brazil to help grow and monetize that wonderful playground of sound that Alex, Eric, and that whole team have brought to the world. I called Berlin home for more than two years. I’m excited to continue spending lots of time there, helping to grow companies that can leverage the tremendous creative energy of Warschauer Straße, the diversity of Maybachufer, the design of the Bauhaus, and the famed precision and execution of German entrepreneurs.

Calling the Bay Area home has also taught me that there is no idea too hair-brained, no purpose too ambitious. I graduated from high school in Oakland, a city with an incredible tolerance for diverse approaches. Before that, as a boy in Jakarta and Hong Kong I witnessed the tremendous opportunity and potential of Asia. Each time I return I see how rapidly the region is changing, how quickly economies there are growing (an economy growing 7% per year will double itself every decade). More than half of the world’s 2 billion+ smartphones are in Asia, and I’m excited about backing mobile-first businesses like SoundCloud that will build software that will capture the attention of users worldwide.

I joined Balderton to be able to take my myriad experiences and be helpful to singularly-focused entrepreneurs. While it wasn’t an easy choice, I’m very lucky to be working somewhere where everyday I speak to people who are chasing their dreams.

Lastly, I’m very excited to continue to build and deepen my experience working here in Europe. In a mobile-driven world global businesses can and will be built from any nook and cranny. Brexit notwithstanding, Europe continues to be the most diverse and fundamentally open nook and cranny I have had the fortune to call home.

In the end, what I should have told my friend was,

“I don’t have the power to decide whether an idea is good or bad. The quality of the idea is decided only by what the entrepreneur makes of it. I’m just figuring out whether we should hop on for the ride!”

Here’s to the journey.