Origin Story: In a couple sentences, how would you describe your path to becoming an investor?
I’ve been a seed-stage angel investor since 2010, focused on helping early-stage companies in the consumer, marketplace, and “transformation by interface” space (which covers quite a few enterprise companies as well). I am a product design and consumer-behavior obsessive, following a career as an entrepreneur (Behance, 99U), executive (Adobe), and a quick stint as a traditional VC (Benchmark). Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work with over 80 founders and teams at companies like Pinterest, Uber, Periscope, Flexport, Carta, sweetgreen, Cheddar, Airtable, HyperScience, Warby Parker, Ro, and many others in the early stages of their journey. I aspire to contribute as much as I learn from these remarkable teams.
Investment Approach: What are the key factors you consider when evaluating a founding team?
I support mission-driven teams that value design, exceptional product experiences, and are solving a problem by connecting and empowering people. I have an affinity for teams that aren't set on defying a likely outcome, but rather want to make it happen in a better way. The best teams I come across are parlaying forces already underway to their favor. They are remarkably imaginative yet grounded by the present. They are driven by empathy for those suffering the problem rather than passion for one particular solution. They are optimistic about the future but pessimistic enough about execution. And they are never ever satisfied with the current state of their product.
What's your style and approach when it comes to working with founders post-investment? What are the characteristics of founders you've worked well with?
Key areas I focus on with teams in my portfolio:
Product - specifically crafting the first mile, structuring a design-driven product team, blending copy and UX, optimizing the defaults, considering ego analytics, and other fun stuff.
Go-To-Market - determining the right beta audiences, iterating sales/growth initiatives, priming network effects, and building the right KPIs/analytics.
Narrative - positioning is as important for the team’s perspective of their own product as it is for external marketing. A product’s story matters.
Building Teams - helping build teams (most often on the design, engineering, and business development fronts). I admire teams that value initiative over experience. I also enjoy the challenge of scaling operations without compromising what differentiates a business and culture. After all, the science of business is the things that scale, the art of business is the things that don’t. I help teams find their way through THE MESSY MIDDLE.
Execution - helping leaders develop (and destroy) process to foster a culture with a bias-towards-action. Much of success simply boils down to capturing everything actionable and executing (and the years I spent researching MAKING IDEAS HAPPEN made this abundantly clear).
If I'm coming to pitch to you or your firm, what's the one piece of advice you'd give me?
Start with product and problem being solved.
How would you describe your own personal mission and values, and how do they impact the way you invest?
What do you like best about investing in NYC, and what’s your outlook on the future of NYC tech?
NYC, where concrete dreams are made of.