The story so far
I moved around a lot growing up - different states, different countries – so that meant I was always meeting new people, learning about new cultures and adapting to new environments. As the perennial new kid, I got pretty good at sizing up new situations and seeing the big picture, traits that have served me well. For me, each investment is a like a new city that I have moved to and a journey that I’m about to embark upon.
I always knew that I wanted to go into business but I didn’t really know what that meant. That’s why my early career was all about getting exposed to as many industries as possible and learning as many aspects of running a business as possible – hence, your stereotypical Econ major (Wharton/Penn), MBA (Harvard) and consulting background (Kearney). But my real formative years occurred during the dotcom days and the decade thereafter. I joined AOL when it was the king of the Internet (dial-up, disks anyone?) and then I jumped to a Kleiner Perkins venture-backed start-up that did the whole stealth thing, raised too much money and imploded during the crash. That was a trip! Somehow, I managed to find my way into venture capital during the carnage of the dot bomb era joining Atlas Venture, then a trans-Atlantic venture fund with $2B AUM. I cut my teeth with them in Boston and seeing first hand the differences between East Coast and West Coast tech. My two lovely children were born in Boston but we repatriated back to the Bay Area and I caught the tail end of Yahoo!’s glory days as a VP/GM of a series of business units. That was fun. In fact, I’m not going to lie – it was the best job I’ve ever had as nothing beats a unified, high performance team just killing it. But alas, there was too much peanut butter being spread there and I jumped back into the venture game for my second stint. I joined Comcast Ventures during the Global Financial crisis and what was a mutual experiment to open their west coast office became a near-decade long run. Comcast Ventures gave me the privilege to write my own checks, learn from my mistakes and find my style of investing. I chose to invest in more emergent areas such as Healthtech, Internet of Things, VR/AR, Ecommerce, and Drones/Autonomy. When OMERS Ventures came calling about expanding to the States, I thought it was a dream come true – an opportunity to build something from scratch for an esteemed Canadian financial services leader. With almost 5 quarters under our belt, we were building a head of steam for OV in the US before the pandemic hit. The rest of is recent history and you know what happened since.
What should founders know about you?
I have historically backed first-time founders. I need to get to know my founders, because for me, faith in the a company is impossible without a solid belief in the founder running it. Bonding is critical and I’m old school in wanting to spend time to get to know people. The founder/investor relationship is going to go through many highs and lows, and we need to have a solid foundation in place to make that work. I need transparency and give it back in return. My team at OV knows that I’m a bit of a Tiger Dad to them and that will sometimes carry over to my founder relationships with more kid gloves. I’d like to think it comes from the right place but you’ll have to judge for yourself.
What makes you a good partner? What do you look for in a deal?
If you’ve been in the game for as long as I have, you’ve seen most everything and that helps prepare you for whatever comes next. I have also had the benefit of learning from many other investors over the years (former partners, colleagues, co-investors) and continue to try to improve myself by taking a specific quality from the ones that I most admire. Venture is truly about lifelong learning and it’s a humbling business so I come to every founder-relationship prepared to learn something new, jointly. My MO is pretty simple – be prepared, be flexible, stay calm and keep it real. In terms of what I look for in a deal, working for OMERS Ventures has heightened my sense of duty and doing the right thing. Knowing that your investment decisions can impact the pocketbooks of pensioners drives direct accountability and keeps you asking the tough questions on every deal and hustling for the best deals. Reputation is also important to me. I want to work for people who respect the mission that we at OV have signed up for. There are many sources of capital out there and I want to work with founders who get us and what we stand for.
What do you do when you’re not working?
My wife and I recently became empty nesters so it’s a brand new world for us. With three offices to support, I find myself on the road now more than ever which is both exhilarating and exhausting. I’m a pretty hardcore soccer (football) fanatic. I watch Premier League matches on the weekend and play pick-up every Sunday. I was an overzealous youth coach and often find myself thinking of managing business teams with sports management metaphors. Beyond that obsession, I do exhibit recreational tendencies that are rather central casting VC (sorry) – I ski on the Epic Pass every winter, I love scuba diving and clearing my head with the fishes, and I’ve recently taken up pickleball because I’m too frustrated with my deprecated tennis skills. On a more personal level, I love seeing the world through the eyes of my college kids – it’s both nostalgic (as I don’t like to think I’m that old and can still hang on campus) yet fascinating to know they have their lives in front of them.