It seems reasonable to start with a post about why I’m doing this in the first place: how I became interested in startups, and why I want to continue exploring that interest. Here’s the short version.
A Bit of Background
I started my career at Deloitte Consulting in their Strategy & Operations division. It seemed like a great vantage point from which I could see a broad spectrum of industries, companies, and roles, and I figured I’d find something that would entice me to go build a career around it. I ultimately found it wasn’t a company’s industry that excited me, but the pace. I wanted to be somewhere that moved fast (breaking things notwithstanding). I wanted to be at a startup.
What followed was a series of roles at different startups, each in a different stage and with different funding sources. I helped get UberEATS up and running in the Midwest, joined a seed-stage last-mile delivery logistics company, and brought a growth-stage eCommerce business spun out of one of Chicago’s oldest companies to launch. By the time I started at Booth, I was a trained consultant with demonstrated interest in building new things.
Explaining the Itch
There’s a lot to love about startups, but my passion ultimately boils down to three things:
- The impact. On a planet where we’ve already mapped out everything not on the ocean floor, technology is the new frontier. Even tech giants that employ some of the greatest problem solvers in the world rely on startups to stay on the progressive edge, as evidenced by a constant stream of acquisitions. The structural advantages of startups give them the comparative advantage in taking risks. Small wonder that they are responsible for nearly all of net job creation.
- The energy. Anyone who has worked in both startups and more established companies knows that there’s a palpable difference in energy levels. This isn’t to say that all companies beyond a certain threshold are sleepy, tired dinosaurs. But if you’re at a brand-new company and the pace doesn’t feel uncomfortably fast, it’s probably not going to last. You’re on a time budget imposed by an actual budget, and it’s a frenetic race against the competition (and your burn rate). This might sound stressful, but it makes everything so damn meaningful. You’re motivated to realize the vision – to do right by the crazy dedicated people you’re in the trenches with. And when you celebrate, you know you’ve earned it.
- The agency. Startups give their employees incredible agency to get things done. They have to, or else risk folding under the weight of bureaucracy. Employees are expected to add value from the start, and trusted that they have solid judgment in determining how to do so. People see problems and point them out. Discussions become action. Actions produce solutions.
For these reasons, I can’t imagine a career where I’m not involved in startups. So why not join one? Why am I more interested in venture capital?
Inch Deep, Mile Wide
You should know that I am professionally attention deficit. Consequently, I need a career that provides a constant stream of new questions, themes, people, and problems. It’s one of the reasons I went into consulting in the first place. The variety of clients and projects was immensely appealing, and the same applies with VC.
I love being engaged on multiple fronts. Contorting my brain to wrestle down a problem and then redirecting that energy to a completely different one is invigorating. Even moreso when one problem somehow inspires a solution to another. I could say this is about building multidisciplinary mental models à la Charlie Munger, but the simple truth is that it’s more interesting. It keeps things fresh and makes it easier to push myself.
I can spend hours researching some technology buzzword I haven’t heard of. If it’s still taking shape and there’s wild speculation about how it will manifest in markets, even better. But even if in that moment it’s the single coolest thing I know of, my creative side will hunger for variety and crave whatever’s at the other end of the spectrum. At least for a little bit.
I’ve been told Venture Capital is an exercise in going an inch deep and a mile wide. Many firms specialize within specific verticals or technologies, but even then, the startups and founders they encounter vary greatly. That variety is the keystone of what I want in a career.
On top of that, I love noodling on complex questions with motivated people. I love considering the bigger picture. I love wondering what the future could look like, and I love making that future a reality. I hope to spend my career doing that.