Startup Grind
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Startup Grind

VC Corner Q&A: David Pakman of Venrock

As a Partner at Venrock in New York, David focuses on early stage venture investing in consumer and enterprise tech companies with a recent focus on robotics, crypto and consumer products. His active investments include Dstillery, Smartling, YouNow, Misty Robotics, Amino Apps and Dapper Labs. He led both the Series A and Series B rounds in Dollar Shave Club and sat on the board until that company was acquired by Unilever for $1B in July of 2016. In April 2017, he was named the 55th top venture capitalist in the world by CB Insights.

Previously, Pakman was the CEO of eMusic, the world’s leading digital retailer of independent music, second only to iTunes in number of downloads sold. Pakman is a graduate of and a former member of the Board of Overseers at University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science with a degree in Computer Science Engineering and is an avid musician and songwriter. He testified in front of Congress regarding internet music streaming in 2012, 2016 and 2017.

— What is Venrock’s mission?

To support the most ambitious entrepreneurs tackling some of the world’s hardest problems.

— What’s one thing you are excited about right now?

Crypto collectibles!

— Who is one founder you think we should watch?

Roham Gharegozlou, CEO of Dapper Labs

— What are 3 top qualities of every great leader?

  1. Comfort with contrarian viewpoints
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Evidence-based approach to measuring success

— What was your very first investment? What struck you about them?

I invested in Dstillery (then called Media6Degrees) in 2009. They were utilizing social data and machine learning to make predictions about a brand’s best prospective customers. This was novel at the time.

— What’s one question you ask yourself before investing in a company?

Is the founder extraordinarily ambitious?

— What’s one thing every founder should ask themselves before walking into a meeting with a potential investor?

Do I want to achieve the same outcome as this investor?

— What do you think should be in a CEO’s top 3 company priorities?

Recruit the very best people, relentlessly and repeatedly, into all key positions, and be comfortable upleveling those folks with more experienced hires as needed.

— Favorite business book, blog or podcast?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. It shows how relentless a founder must be at every stage of a company in order to build something that really matters.

— What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?

An engaging meal with my family, get lost in music, or grind it out on the tennis court.

— Who is one leader you admire?

John Foley at Peloton — he has created an incredible company and defined an entirely new category, against all odds.

— What’s one interesting thing most people won’t know about you?

I’ve been avidly playing drums for more than 40 years.

— What’s one piece of advice you’d give every founder?

Be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Ready to make a pitch? Startups looking for an opportunity to pitch Venrock can apply here!

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