Jumping in as Innovation Endeavors’ Newest Partner

Looking for those crazy enough to try the impossible

By: Sam Smith-Eppsteiner

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Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux from Curiosty Camp

We live in a time when standards of living are increasing globally — people are living longer, healthier, more connected lives. Problems that previously seemed insurmountable are now being solved by teams tackling them in a new way, with technology. But we also have a lot of work to do on new and persistent issues, from climate change to economic immobility.

I’m thrilled to return to Innovation Endeavors as a Partner because I get to help teams solve these big, gnarly problems. The companies we invest in don’t always comply with traditional definitions of “tech” but they use cutting-edge technical innovation to take on existing surgical techniques, planning and decision-making in shipping, and how we get fresh, nutritional produce on our plates. I feel lucky to work with founders to push the boundaries of what is possible. If — after a lot of sweat and grit — an idea works, the team will change an industry in a meaningful way.

From my previous experience on the investment team at Innovation Endeavors, I know it is a place where I know I will be both supported and challenged by my partners but not constrained to existing assumptions of what is possible. Our partnership is made up of individuals who have long investing track-records and those who are recent operators. The power of this diversity is harnessed in our collaborative style: we often work side-by-side to help support a company, bringing the most relevant experience to bear and accelerating our collective learning.

When it comes to investing, I’ll initially look toward solutions that improve real-world infrastructure: transportation, supply chain and logistics, and housing and construction. I am also interested in climate resilience, food, and agriculture. My interests are diverse and far-ranging but are anchored in a belief that building a sound, growing business is an effective way to scale impact. I hope to partner with entrepreneurs who alleviate society and industry’s most pressing challenges by leveraging growing datasets and accelerating learning cycles. I love to see founding teams who bring experimentation and hustle, who strive to build a strong culture, and who have the right combo of industry experience and technical chops. I have already had the privilege of working with such companies at Innovation Endeavors — Plenty, ClearMetal, Citrine, CommonSense Robotics, Canvas, and Vicarious Surgical — and I look forward to bringing more into the fold.

From grocery to semiconductors to agriculture, and product development to sales strategy, my experience thus far has touched varied industries and functions. I have been a management consultant at Bain & Co. and worked with an education non-profit in Afghanistan. I have worked as Product Manager at an autonomous vehicle company and helped build strategy for the future of work in Missouri.

While I value my broad experiences across functions and types of organizations, I also enjoy rolling up my sleeves and digging in deep. When I wanted to understand the social enterprise model and how impact-focused capital could make change, I went and worked at a mushroom company in Rwanda for six months. When I wanted to understand the culinary industry and become a better cook, I pitched in as a line cook in restaurants in Paris and Copenhagen. And, most recently, I helped build strategy for the newly combined Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development in an attempt to better understand government and public service as well as the future of work.

It is this combination of diversity of experience and eagerness to dive in that enables me to help founders navigate finding product-market fit, accelerating customer adoption, and building effective teams. I’m excited to meet the next wave of changemakers. And to push the boundaries of what is possible together.

Innovation Endeavors

Investing in visionary founders, transformational…

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