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Why We Added “Hunger” Into Our VC Firm’s Ethos
As many of you may know, we sprinkle some of the core tenets of our firm’s ethos on the NextView website, and they often come up in conversations offline. My partners and I have blogged about some of these individual beliefs over the years, but one that we haven’t really discussed until now is HUNGRY.
Investors often use words like “hungry” to describe founders. Often, they use phrases that are a bit more violent 🙂 — kind of like “force of nature,” “killer,” “will run through walls,” or “has a chip on her shoulder.” Similarly, investors often talk about their desire to back founders that were recent immigrants because they will do whatever it takes and push harder and be scrappier in getting shit done. (Among others, we’ve backed Fred Shilmover of InsightSquared and Hardi Meybaum of GrabCAD — both from immigrant families. Both amazing entrepreneurs.)
Unfortunately, these hunger-related attributes are often not what you think of when you think of VC investors. Instead, VCs are thought of as folks who have “made it” and are enjoying the spoils of their earlier labors. Some take the summers off, don’t love to travel for work, and don’t really like being put in situations where they need to grind or put something on the line themselves. This definitely isn’t true for everyone, and there are quite a few investors that are unbelievably hungry, but the general opinion exists for a reason.
As a team, we like to distinguish ourselves in the market because we are all in our prime years, and it is our intent to have the most important impact that we will make in our professional lives through NextView. We’ve all had success in the past, but this is hopefully going to be our lives’ best work.
Because of this, we try to approach NextView with the same hunger that the founders we work with exhibit in their own life’s work. In the very beginning, this meant some very practical sacrifices when we founded NextView. Before we officially started working together, we all had frank discussions with our wives and each other and agreed that we were all prepared to take no salary for 2+ years (and way below market salaries after that) while we got the firm off the ground.
In addition to that, we took a big chunk of our own savings and started investing them into companies as a team for the first 9 months. This allowed us to show full commitment to each other and to our prospective investors. This also allowed us to hone our strategy and process on our own dime, essentially trying to prove product-market fit before committing to being stewards of other people’s money. This wasn’t easy. We travelled a bunch during that time (and still do), taking the Megabus and flying red eyes, while sleeping on friends’ couches became the norm.
Over time, being hungry has meant doing the extra things to build our business differently from others, including how we attract founders, how we process potential investments, and how we work with companies post investment. It also means delivering real value to our portfolio companies that is timely and practical (even if doing so is inconvenient to us). We are not perfect by any means, but we try to grind it out every day. We sometimes say that all VCs have a pretty good air game, but we try to focus on having a good ground game.
This is also one of the core attributes we looked for in adding new members to the team. If you’ve met either Jay or Tim, you’ll know that in addition to being smart and trustworthy guys, they both have an inner hunger and willingness to get their hands dirty to do what it takes to make the biggest impact in their respective roles. That’s what founders look for in their own team members, and we think we serve them best by being a team that stands shoulder to shoulder with them grinding it out each day.
In the end, we founded NextView to solve a problem we identified in the market on the east coast and in the seed stage. Our ethos statements have helped guide us — at times, in ways that are easy (not compromising our values). But other times, in ways that are hard. We want to always have a great ground game, always build this firm to be our best work yet, and always stay hungry. We ask that of our founders. We have to constantly ask that of ourselves.