‘I was humiliated. And he wasn’t done yet.’
In the summer of 2014, when we were raising our first Trucks venture fund, I was on a slow pace of learning and I found I couldn’t communicate well what we wanted to do and what kind of firm we wanted to build. Other than Brad Feld’s very helpful venture book, I ran into a brick wall whenever I tried to learn from and engage with older, established VCs and fund-of-funds managers. Was it that I was asking the wrong questions? Or were they like this to everyone?
In one famous example when I was pitching our new fund to a San Francisco fund-of-funds group, the manager was looking at his phone from the back of the conference room as I presented to his team. Without looking up from his email, he barked: “NEXT SLIDE” as if ordering the check from a restaurant — only in this case he wasn’t buying anything from me.
I was humiliated.
What’s worse is that he wasn’t done — we had another 30 minutes in the room where he told us why we’d fail. That we were
‘just like another VR fund’ he had seen the other day. It was the one of the low points of our fundraising.
But I had tasted blood.
I retrenched. The next day I went to a few trusted friends who were on the early parts of their venture careers and to whom I knew I could ask my deepest, darkest, most embarassing questions. One of them confirmed for me that the fund-of-funds manager had done a similar thing to another friend of his. This made me feel alive! Oh, he’s just an asshole to everyone. I can handle that now. I can do this.
From that moment, other emerging managers building their funds became some of my greatest sources of learning. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. I considered my own partners and other young VCs my most reliable resource for getting better as a manager — about coming up with systems to qualify investments, how to do risk evaluation, how to manage partnership dynamics, everything.
So that’s what this Emerging Manager project is all about. It’s learnings from emerging managers about being a little bit better. Small hinges can swing big doors. I hope you’re able to use these as ingredients for new things you build.
PS - NEXT SLIDE! Can you believe it?! 🤦🏽