As a partnership evolves, you begin to formulate some basic rules and philosophies (whether formally or informally) to help guide long-term and short-term decision-making. It has been over four years since I’ve joined Version One, and just like any company, Boris and I need to continually take a step back and ask ourselves why we do what we do. It’s essential that our firm, our investors, our portfolio companies and our greater network are all aligned.
To that end, we sat down to think about the core values that drive our culture and decisions. You may have noticed over the past month that we’ve been quietly updating our website. Most importantly, we re-worked our investment philosophy. You can read more about our core beliefs on the website, but here’s a summary:
1) Technology has the power to transform the world.
We believe in technology’s ability to solve problems and be a source of opportunity and hope. To be able to invest in companies that create meaningful value is what inspires each of us to get up in the morning. We are driven to helping today’s innovators make a difference in the world – whether it’s by improving service delivery, democratizing access to resources, simplifying collaboration, or tackling other social challenges.
2) Network effects lay the groundwork for lasting innovation.
From the start, we have said that we invest in network effects at the seed level. We believe that network effects are key to ensuring lasting adoption and continued product value.
The first wave of network effects connected people through marketplaces and social platforms – and we invested in companies like Shippo and Figure 1 in Fund I. The second wave of network effects are driven by AI/machine learning applications (and we’ve invested in companies like Ada and Trim). Now, we’re beginning to see enormous potential for network effects within decentralized crypto-platforms (and we’ve invested in Coinbase, Blockstack, and Citizen Hex) as well as genomics and biosciences (and we’ve invested in Gencove).
3) You can build a large company in any location.
Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in four key geographies: Toronto (nine investments), San Francisco (15 investments), New York City (five investments), and Seattle (four investments). These are important hubs where we have a strong network and the critical mass that are helpful for a growing startup.
4) Every entrepreneur deserves a fast, open and respectful process.
Every minute spent fundraising is one less minute spent on building a business. That’s why we work hard to provide a turnaround of just a few days. And we also try to give thoughtful feedback every time.
5) We can make the greatest impact as a seed investor.
We like betting on founders very early when the product is very raw. The seed stage is the most formative time for a startup and often, where you need the most support. As former operators, we welcome the opportunity to get our hands dirty with strategy, hiring, data, and more.
6) An investor should be your biggest cheerleader and most trusted partner.
In working closely with our founders, we are able to build a strong relationship of trust. We often synch with our seed companies once a week. And with this trust, we hope to not only be our founders’ biggest advocates (we always champion our portfolio companies around others), but we also want to be the trusted friend who can dish out constructive criticism when it’s necessary.
7) We never stop learning.
Just as we push our founders to grow, we are constantly challenging ourselves to improve as a partnership. We strive to learn about new technologies (like blockchain and genomics) before they get too mainstream. And, we always seek out, appreciate, and learn from the feedback of entrepreneurs (like our NPS survey).
We hope these words will provide a greater sense of why we fund what we fund. So far, we have invested in over 50 companies. If you have a deep domain knowledge and are looking to not only level the playing field but augment every player in the field, we’d love to talk to you.