When we were fundraising for NextView I, a successful entrepreneur we were seeking advice from asked our team about what our “favorite future” was for our fund.
We really liked that phrase – it gets you thinking aspirationally about the future, but also put some specifics to that future. We use it often at NextView when we talk about a founder’s intentions for their life and company.
This past Monday, we had our firm’s summer offsite. One of the segments we spent time on what talking about our favorite futures for our firm and our personal lives. We looked pretty far out – all the way to 2025. It was great to reflect on that personally, and to also hear about the aspirations of my partners including and beyond our professional ambitions.
Personally, I realized a few things from this exercise.
1. My favorite future professionally involves helping entrepreneurs solve problems that really matter. I won’t share exactly what the metric was that I used to describe what my favorite future would look like in this regard. But it had to do with being involved in a number of extraordinary companies that I feel solved meaningful problems. What it interestingly did NOT include was helping to lead the most well known venture capital firm on the planet, enriching myself as much as possible, or even creating a firm that is set to live on for several generations of partners. Some of these things may be a bi-product of our efforts, but ultimately, my favorite future was about being involved with amazing companies, and finding the best way possible to make that happen.
2. I also realized that the future creeps up on you quickly. And sometimes, you want to look long term and work backwards. Obviously, it’s hard to really predict the future, but if you have a sense for what your favorite future might be in 15 years, some of those outcomes might require some investment (or at least experimentation) today. It was also surprising that for each of us, we had a decent sense of what we wanted our futures to look like in 2025, and had a very good idea of what we wanted things to look like in 2015. We had a harder time articulating what we wanted 2020 to look like. I was kind of surprised by this… not exactly sure what that says.
3. Long-term alignment is a pretty wonderful thing in a partnership. Although we spend 90% of our time thinking tactically about what we need to achieve in the relatively short term, my partners and I have always been pretty good about being open and honest about our motivations and ambitions for the future. We know what we are hoping to get out of our lives in the best case scenario, and we also know what we are willing to live with or sacrifice in a not so great scenario. It creates a lot of freedom in the way we operate as a firm and it has helped create a lot of coherence in our own messaging and firm strategy.
4. Before talking through this exercise with my partners, I also talked things through with my wife. After all, we intend to be a part of our favorite futures. It made me realize how little we actually talk about this stuff as things have gotten busy with kids and two pretty demanding careers. It was nice – and it was also a great reminder of how lucky I am to be married to her!