Why I’m Joining Obvious Ventures
The world’s greatest entrepreneurs and change agents are driven by a profound sense of purpose. In relentless pursuit of a better way, they’re always building a future they want to live in. Their entrepreneurial dreams can transform a million, even a billion, realities — and sometimes do.
When I met with the co-founder of Twitter, Medium, and Obvious Ventures for a WIRED essay I was writing on profit and purpose, it quickly became clear that Ev Williams was one of those entrepreneurs. In Ev, I found a kindred spirit who shared my long held belief that purpose and profit are natural partners, force multipliers, and the highest expression of free market capitalism.
Soon after meeting Ev’s co-founders and partners at Obvious Ventures, James Joaquin, Vishal Vasishth, Andrew Beebe, and Nan Li, I realized that I had (finally) met a venture capital firm that not only talked the talk on backing mission-driven founders and businesses, but was actually walking that walk with their investments. The firm was founded on the simple belief that the most valuable companies of our time will be the ones solving humanity’s biggest problems. They’ve been been investing in #worldpositive enterprises since. It’s their raison d’etre, and why I’m delighted to join them as Venture Partner.
I respect and admire their willingness to think differently and make the obvious choices for our planet, even when it means parting ways with the conventional choices of traditional Silicon Valley VCs. For example, Obvious Ventures helps portfolio companies codify their values and commitment to inclusion, sustainability, and giving back through the World Positive Term Sheet.
As fellow entrepreneurs and operators, my partners at Obvious understand that being clear and explicit on why a business exists, what it does, how it treats people and our ecology is vital to its health and longevity. When founders have this kind of clarity, it helps shape everything from culture and value system, to ethical product design, to distribution and business models. Over time, this becomes the compass and guardrails by which a company makes day-to-day decisions and navigates the inevitable twists and turns without becoming twisted itself.
Over time, this becomes the compass and guardrails by which a company makes day-to-day decisions and navigates the inevitable twists and turns without becoming twisted itself.
That philosophy has long guided my own work in founding, building, and leading technology companies from startup to scale-up. First, as an entrepreneur and operator at five B2B and B2C venture-backed companies, then as an advisor, board member, and investor at transformative companies like (Google) X, Mozilla, Kiva, Lyft, and Lending Club. Collectively, these companies have democratized access to information, communication, collaboration, transportation, work, and capital on a mass global scale, reaching hundreds of millions of people.
Harnessing the democratizing power of the technology to enable fair access — to reach the many, not just the few — is the long-running purpose and red thread in my work. This includes fair access to the entrepreneurial path no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you’re from, because talent and dreams are universal, but opportunity is not.
I witnessed this time and again during my tenure as Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship under Obama, where I had the fortune to meet and mentor thousands of entrepreneurs in the U.S. and abroad. Now I am witnessing it at Obvious Ventures, where 20% of our portfolio founders are female. While this stands in positive contrast to the percent of VC funded female founders overall, I’m eager to help Obvious and our industry meaningfully increase the portion of venture capital going to all underrepresented founders.
The science fiction writer William Gibson said “the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” I dream of a future where businesses compete on being best for the world and where that’s precisely what makes them the best in the world. I dream of a future that understands that the most profound act of venture capital is investing in entrepreneurs that have the moral courage and conviction to pioneer that better world. Most of all, I dream of a future #worldpositive form of capitalism that’s in service to our highest nature.
Obvious Ventures is investing in that future, today. Co-creating and distributing it more evenly is the honor and a privilege of a lifetime.