Back To The Early Days

While the starts and finishes of a venture get all the headlines, the journey in-between is largely undocumented. It’s mostly a struggle with anonymity, uncertainty, and self-doubt, but there are moments that make it all worth it.

  • Seeing your customer’s problem solved with the work you’ve done and the sacrifices your team has made.
  • The rush from reaching a solution that is suddenly “obvious” after enduring the constant processing of uncertainty (perhaps the greatest cost of being an entrepreneur, but worth it).
  • The sensation of seeing your team’s DNA in your product.
  • Watching people you hired evolve — from eager and inexperienced to committed and masterful.
  • Observing a culture organically take shape from the stories, the personalities, the idiosyncrasies, and the shared values of folks who circumstantially came together, yet feel predestined to work together.

Whether you’re building a team from scratch or partnering and investing at the seed stage, you feel these sensations regularly. I miss it.
Supporting start-ups, as a seed investor over the years, has been less about the traction and milestones of these companies and more about the building blocks. My interest has always been in the founder’s product vision and values, approach to design, the team, their capacity to iterate, a cohesive strategy, and their empathy for the customer’s problem. Perhaps the approach as an angel investor is similar to that of a founder/ceo: allocate resources towards the factors that drive the potential for traction and, if/when you find traction, spend all energy capitalizing on it.
Over the past ten years, my obsession has been building products, teams, and the “journey in-between” (the endless optimization and endurance required to make ideas happen). As a founder, I applied these interests to building Behance and then to building new products and teams at Adobe after our acquisition. As a seed investor, I have been able to work with some remarkable entrepreneurs crafting their products. Earlier this year, faced with the opportunity to join a remarkable VC firm, I took the leap.
Six months later I have learned a ton at Benchmark. There is no better team to learn from — the deep level of analysis in every decision is remarkable. The experience has enriched me as an investor and enabled me to introduce some great teams to the firm including a team I co-founded and am thrilled about. But I can’t see myself as a VC for the next ten years — at least not in the traditional sense. I miss being entrenched with an entrepreneurial team — and all of the anxieties, aspirations, and perspiration of building a product. I miss the seed stage and aspire to focus on fewer things for a longer time.
Over the next month or so, I’ll evolve my role at Benchmark to that of a Venture Partner, allowing me to focus on earlier-stage projects. I’ll focus on a still-pre-launch company I co-founded that Benchmark led the Series A for (excited to share more on that soon and represent our firm on the board). I’ll continue working with some of our other Benchmark-backed companies and serving on the board of sweetgreen — a team and mission I have come to admire over the years. I’ll be able to spend more time with entrepreneurs in NYC. And I’ll shift my focus to earlier stage teams building new products. 
One of the things I enjoy most at Benchmark is working alongside a group of incredibly talented people. I’m excited to continue to do so as a Venture Partner and independently as a seed investor — partnering with extraordinary entrepreneurs through their excruciating, yet deeply fulfilling, journeys in-between. // @scottbelsky