Jordan Nof is the managing partner and co founder of Tusk Venture Partners.
Tusk Venture Partners is a New York City-based venture capital firm that invests in early stage technology companies operating in highly regulated markets or creating new verticals where no regulatory framework currently exists. Our unique backgrounds allow us to understand regulatory risk better than any other fund and offer a platform that helps our portfolio companies execute against those risks like no other venture capital firm can.
Founded in 2016, Tusk Venture Partners manages over $100 million from a global group of institutional investors and remains the first and only venture capital firm positioned at the nexus of technology, politics and regulation. Our portfolio includes some of the most transformative consumer technology companies across sectors that include fintech, transportation, and digital health.
After lots of cold emailing, I'm thrilled to have JCal on this week's episode of the podcast.
We spend a significant amount of time talking about media/podcasting which I think is incredibly applicable for the following reason: digital appearance is important in today's market. I've learned a ton so far about different ways to stand out in a seemingly crowded space even though I'm just getting started. Hearing Jason talk about this truly accelerated my understanding in just an hour recording session.
Besides media we also spend some time chatting about how poker compares to angel investing, evaluating early stage founders, and the hot topic of education. See links below for more on Jason and his work:
- JCal on Twitter
- This Week in Startups
- The All-In Podcast
- Other fun links via LinkTree
Allie Esch (Dundee VC) joins me on today's episode.
We kick this one off by chatting about Allie's journey from intern to full time investor at the fund. Later we touch on a host of subtopics surrounding early stage investing within the middle of the country and why fintech is of high interest, specifically within this region.
- More on Allie
- More on Dundee
- Mighty Middle report
- Zoro Card
This week, a massive welcome and congratulations to Primary Ventures' newest partner, Jason Shuman.
Jason and I travel way back to kick things off, chatting about how driving for Uber and sourcing deals for NYC investors led to his first VC gig at Corigin Ventures (now Alpaca). We also take a look at where the NYC seed market is at and why deal size/valuations are on the rise. In the later half of this episode, Jason and I take a look at his investment in Latch. Another episode with close to perfect timing, as Latch went public just before our recording date.
Here's what we reference:
- Primary Ventures
- Alpaca Ventures
- Primary's NYC Q4 Seed Report
- Latch goes public via SPAC
That's all. Enjoy,
Andrew Lee (partner at Initialized) joins me today on the show to chat about his investment in Routefusion, an API working to solve the inefficiencies within cross border payments.
For some context, Routefusion's API enables neo-banks, payroll providers, platforms, and marketplaces to begin offering cross-border payments to their customers in days. When you compare this to existing solutions, where the timeline ranges from 6-12 months, the difference is massive.
In addition to breaking down why the deal went down we also chat about things like Andrew's background and authenticity within the world of content.
For more on Andrew and Routefusion, check below!
- Andrew's medium
- Details on the Routefusion investment
That's all. Enjoy,
Welcome back to another episode of the pod. Today I'm sharing a conversation I had with Lindel Eakman, partner at Foundry Group.
I reached out to Lindel after reading a piece on TechCrunch about how he joined the team to institutionalize their LP investments. Because of what he's built with Foundry Group Next, 80% of their early stage deals come from their partner funds. In this one, we'll spend some time chatting about Foundry's mesh network: how it works and why it's so effective. Towards the end, Lindel and I chat about his recent investment in Ludlow Venture's 4th fund.
As always, here's what we reference (if I miss anything, feel free to bug me about it :))
- How Foundry Group expands its network by backing emerging managers
- Sequoia's scout program
- Hip-Hop Managing Money
- Lindel's blog
- Ludlow Ventures
- Venture Deals
- Foundry Group's partner funds
That's all. Enjoy,
Long time coming with this one. Today I'm joined by Jackson Bubala.
Jackson is an investor at Motivate VC, where he just joined after some time at Founder Equity (both in the Chicago ecosystem). Jackson also writes a fantastic newsletter, Stealing Signs, which baseball fans will especially appreciate.
In this one we'll chat about Jackson's investment in a new SKU data API, leveraging structural opportunity in venture, and how asset fragmentation is making seed rounds more competitive. When we mention the investment, we'll call it "stealth co." until it's publicly announced.
For more info on some of the stuff we reference, check the links below:
- Structural Opportunity
- What is SKU Data?
- Tastytrade exit: a midwest unicorn
- Episode with Lisa Cuesta
- Episode with Jeff Morris
- Episode with Shane Mac
That's all. Enjoy,
P.S. - want to reach out? Best way is a message via Twitter.
Today's guest, Mike Duda, is taking on both traditional marketing agencies and venture funds with Bullish.
Bullish has been labeled as 'America's most dangerous agency' by AdWeek and continues to push the limit in building some of the most disruptive consumer brands out there. Some of their investments include Casper, Harry's, Hu, Peloton, Warby Parker, Nom Nom, and Care/of.
We talk about what Bullish does and how they're challenging existing models in the first part of this. Some of the other things we riff on are Mike's investment in Harry's, focussing on NPS over TAM, the value of storefronts, becoming obsessed with your customer, and what makes a great brand.
If you want to learn more about Mike, Bullish, or some of the other things we chat about... explore the links below:
- What is NPS?
- Hu's exit
- More context on Bullish
That's all. Enjoy,
Josh Ephraim on the show today and I couldn't be more excited to have him be TheArtof.VC's first Thursday episode.
Josh joined Dorm Room Fund during graduate school at Berkeley which gave him amazing exposure to a unique demographic of founders that hadn't completed college degrees. He's now an attorney at Gunderson Dettmer representing early stage startup companies. In this one we chat about things like underrated legal terms for founders, identifying early talent, Josh's experience at Dorm Room Fund, and why DRF uses SAFEs.
I'll throw the links we reference below:
- Dorm Room Fund
- Jonathan Goodwin episode
- Josh's piece on Berkeley helping founders
- Josh's piece on SAFE's
That's all. Enjoy,
Welcome back and a couple updates: 1) the intro is different, 2) I'm bumping the episode frequency up so new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday. Let me know what you think: send a message on Twitter @ConorRobbins3.
Today's conversation is with Danielle Strachman, founder and GP of 1517 Fund. Prior to 1517, Danielle helped build the Thiel Fellowship where she worked on operations and design. Before that, Danielle founded and directed Innovations Academy, a K-8 charter school focussing on student-led project based learning and other alternative programs.
We spent a lot of time on the inefficiencies of the education system we've adopted and how both 1517 and the Thiel Foundation are contributing towards alternative paths. In the later half of this one, we spend a bunch of time on Danielle's investment in Luminar which just hit an $11 Billion market cap. I'll throw all of the links we mention below:
- Longevity Fund by Laura Demming
- Thiel Fellowship
- What makes Mormons so successful?
- Ben & Jerry's How I Built This episode
- What's the Dough Boy afraid of?
- Luminar IPO
That's all. Enjoy,
Nina Stepanov joins me today!
Nina is currently running platform at Contrary Capital, which puts an interesting spin on community based venture platforms. Prior to Contrary, Nina spent some time investing at Acceleprise. Before that, in her pre-venture days, here were a few career highlights:
- leading growth @ ViewPoint (acquired by OpenGov)
- working on special projects under Dharmesh Shah @ HubSpot
- improving internal operations @ Intuit
For this conversation, we spend some time chatting about the increasing importance of platform strength in VC, alternative strategies to building massive companies, and the changing world of value-add platforms. There are also some awesome gems regarding education and building an amazing career.
Also, check out Contrary's 2020 University Report for more info on some of the things we highlight around higher Ed.
That's all. Enjoy.
This week I'm thrilled to welcome Lisa Cuesta from NextGen Venture Partners!
Lisa started in tech back during her undergrad where she worked on a startup in the college textbooks space. After working at Google in the Bay Area and then completing her MBA at HBS, Lisa knew that NGVP was the next move fore her because of the differentiated approach to community based platforms.
During this one we chat about her background, why NGVP is so ahead of the curve, where they're looking next, and Lisa's investment in Maven Clinic. For more info on Lisa and NGVP, check out the links below!
Lisa's TED Talk
Welcome back and Happy New Year!
I'm super excited to welcome Shane Mac to the show today who is investing in the future of remote work at Logos Labs. Shane is easily one of the most real people I've ever spoken to and has phenomenal insights when it comes to building meaningful relationships and leveraging strong networks.
Over the course of this one, Shane and I jump around to discuss topics like his goals for Logos Labs, the future of remote work, the future of GP value add platforms, and the new disconnect between emerging fund managers and LPs. Below I'll link some of the things we reference. If you haven't heard of Shane's 'ask.' dinner series and podcast, I highly recommend checking it out.
And 3 of my absolute favorite pieces Shane has written:
Let's get real about company perks
The truth you don't hear about raising seed rounds
A bottle of Pellegrino and the one lesson I'll never forget that Seth Godin taught me - (this one is my absolute favorite... details matter)
That's all. Enjoy.
First off... happy holidays to everyone!
I'm super excited to welcome Laura Thompson to the stage this week. Laura is a limited partner in the venture ecosystem at Sapphire Ventures. I'm extremely interested in the value add platform Sapphire has built into their investments as LPs as I truly believe this will be the way LPs trend in the VC asset class.
In addition to investing in funds, Laura is a contributor to OpenLP which is aiming to help foster a greater understanding in the entrepreneur-to-LP tech ecosystem. I'll link to a few of her pieces below:
What Makes a Good Annual Meeting? An LP's Point of View
Virtual Annual Meetings are Here to Stay: Best Practices for Re-Imagining the AGM for our Remote World
Diversity in VC: Learnings from an LP Audit and how we can make this better together
Another note: for those who are interested in digging deeper on the LP value add front, I'll add some more information below:
A while back, David Teten came up with the TOPSCAN model which basically goes through the 7 levers of value creation VCs can provide their portfolio companies. Philipp von dem Knesebeck of Blue Future Partners wrote a recreation of this model in 2016 from the perspective of LP value add platforms. I'll link that piece here.
A lot of the emerging GPs are most likely not going to struggle as much with deal flow given most of them are prior founders and have great founder networks. However, some of the levers to keep an eye on from an LP standpoint include operations, perspective, analysis, and network.
That's all. Peace.
Alright… this week’s episode is with Jeff Clavier, founder at Uncork Capital. I think the timing on this one is perfect given the parallels between Jeff’s career as an original micro fund and the trend with operator/rolling funds. We’ll draw out some of these parallels, chat about Jeff’s background, and then move into discussion around his investment in SendGrid.
For a bit more context on Jeff… he’s a pioneer in the world of MicroVC with others like Josh Kopelman and Mike Maples. Some of his notable investments (though this is just scraping the surface) include Postmates (cheers to that recent acquisition), SendGrid (discussed in this episode), Bleacher Report, Mint, Fitbit, and Eventbrite.
This was by far one of the hardest episodes to prepare for because there were so many questions I wanted to ask Jeff that we didn’t get to.
I’ll share some more info on Jeff as well as Uncork below:
- Uncork’s thoughts
- About Jeff
- Foundry Group’s piece on the SendGrid investment
For the last couple months, I've been extremely interested in syndications and SPVs - I find it so awesome that the VC asset class has become much more accessible for people to build a track record with these new forms of deployment vehicles. While I was interested in the impact that these SPVs and rolling funds were having on the venture ecosystem, I still found myself scratching my head as to how they actually worked. I reached out to Jonathan after digging in deeper and am super fortunate to welcome him on the show today.
Jonathan Goodwin isn't a hard name to find if you're doing research in the fund formation space. He has recently closed funds for notable venture capital firms such as Jerusalem Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital. In this one we'll chat about the structure and lifecycle of an SPV, the GP fundraising process, how emerging GPs should think about LPs on their cap tables, and the future of SV.
For more information on what Jonathan is doing, head to the bottom of his bio to check out where he's been featured. He also has his email listed there.
If you want a more in depth resource that explains the anatomy of an SPV - I'll link to a piece by Assure here.
When I first started this podcast (or rather rebranded to narrow in on venture) Jeff was one of the first people I was interested in having on. As someone still in college, I've been hyper focused on how to optimize my education to gain a diverse perspective as opposed to just being there for the degree. While Jeff didn't initially plan on being in tech, his education in film and English add to the way he looks at investment opportunities at Chapter One Ventures.
In the first half of this episode we chat about Jeff's background and investment thesis - a significant portion of which we focus on how his film background adds to his role as an investor and PD/PM (s/o to Steve Gowa for this being top of mind and the Steve Jobs example). The second half leads us into discussion about his investment in Roam Research. Here were my 3 biggest takeaways:
1. Look for emotional hooks in a pitch/landing page similar to a movie poster
2. Standing out goes a long way
3. Talk to everyone you can when looking at a product - investors that passed/got in, current users, early adopters
Here are my 3 favorite Medium posts from Jeff:
Investing in Roam Research
10 Product Predictions for 2019
What Nike and Michael Jordan Taught Me About Building Products
Welcome back! Aaron has a super interesting background so we spend a while talking about his investment strategy and thoughts on investment dynamics at the pre seed/seed levels. He's a former operator (PathSource) so has a deep understanding of the mindset of founders and all of the qualitative KPIs that help investors make great decisions. Aaron is now a partner at 1984 Ventures based in San Francisco. Here are 3 things we spoke about that I found super interesting:
1. Why Aaron doesn't take board seats and his thoughts on investment vehicles in early stage rounds
2. Being a "therapeutic" VC and getting the 2am calls from founders
3. Qualitative KPIs that help Aaron identify when a team is able to quickly pivot/show strong potential for enterprise sales
Aaron also shares a bit on how he sourced Fairmarkit and how he identified strengths within the founding team.
Also - mentioned in the intro, The Art of VC has just launched it's website! I'll post all of our episodes, recommended reading/content, a running list of awesome VCs, and upcoming interviews. You can also sign up for the private network which gives you access to exclusive content each week (read more by following the link).
That's all. Peace.
Super excited to share this one - Michelle Killoran joins me to chat about her investment in Landed. Landed is an alternative financing option for buying a home. As you'll hear, many millennials want to buy a home but struggle with the high upfront costs associated with such a large purchase. Michelle was able to identify this gap in the market and find her way to discover what Landed was working on. Prior to her role as a principle at OMERS, Michelle worked at Deloitte in their financial advisory group and received her BComm from Queen's University. Going forward, she is actively engaged in finding solutions to the lack of tech within construction.
I'll throw a couple links below to Medium posts Michelle wrote - one touching on her interest in construction and the other focused on where founders are going after the pandemic has driven many out of cities like New York and San Francisco.
Is the construction sector really ready for disruption?
Many are fleeing cities like San Francisco and New York. Where are all the founders going?
WOW are you in for a treat. Charlie O'Donnell joins me in this one and we dive into his background, quantitative decision making, strategy for a $10 - $20 MM fund, and Charlie's investment in SinglePlatform. Charlie has an awesome background stemming from his early days at the General Motor's pension fund and then learning at Union Square Ventures as well as First Round Capital. He is currently raising and deploying his third fund at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures.
In this episode we mention Charlie's blog a lot... so I'll just link the whole thing here. It's worth checking out, but if you don't feel like sifting through, I'll link my favorite ones below (:
Why do you win?
The Uber that Never Was
The Double Standard of Female CEOs Moving Fast and Breaking Things
In all honesty, this SinglePlatform story is one of the coolest things I've heard in a while.
Jenny Friedman is a General Partner @ SupernodeVC in NYC. Prior to her role at Supernode, Jenny primarily invested in early stage, mobile first tech at Eniac Ventures. Prior to that she worked at e-commerce startup, Minibar Delivery, focusing on analytics and business development. She graduated with honors from both the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia Business School.
More info on New Age Meats: https://www.newagemeats.com/
More info on Jenny and Supernode: https://supernode.vc/team
Jenny's Medium where she shares more on the NAM investment! https://medium.com/@jenny_7157
Todd White is a serial entrepreneur, writer, speaker, and founder of Dry Farm Wines which addresses the hidden issues with the wine industry. During this episode, we'll chat about the issues Todd noticed that led to him building his business as well as other key factors that have led to their success. Find more info on Dry Farm Wines here: https://www.dryfarmwines.com/
Colin Keeley is a Chicago based early-stage investor and founder. His venture studio is currently working on Avocado (audio course platform), FinanceFuel (small business lending), and Automic (a Robotic Process Automation monitor). He is also the host of a podcast called Tech in Chicago, where he interviews Chicago's top founders and investors. The blog post we mention can be found @ https://colinkeeley.com/ . Keep up to date with what Colin is working on via Twitter @ColinKeeley
Matt McGowan is currently the director and GM at Snapchat. He is also a partner at C2 Ventures, on the board of CPA Ontario, and a mentor at Adweek. Matt started his career on Wall Street and quickly left to join the emerging tech scene. We chat about 2 notable experiences Matt had at PropertyRoom.com and Incisive Media. https://twitter.com/matt_mcgowan / firstname.lastname@example.org / Snapchat @McGowanMatt
Kimberly Steward is an American film producer known for such films as Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People. She also produced Manchester by the Sea in 2016 through her production company, K Period Media, in which she was nominated for an Academy Award. https://www.instagram.com/kperiodmedia/?hl=en -> K Period Media's Instagram. https://www.kperiodmedia.com/home -> K Period Media's website
Episode #2 of this new series... this one is with Jake Fleshner who works extremely close with David Meltzer. Jake's story of getting his role is something a lot of people should take to heart and it was great getting his insights on the matter.
Sarah Evans is the founder and CEO of Sevans Strategy and Sevans Digital PR. She has worked with brands such as SAP, PayPal, Cox Communications, Adobe, and Shorty Awards. You can follow Sarah on Twitter @prsarahevans, IG @sarahevans and her website sevanspr.com
Alex is an entrepreneur currently building Upstream, the best professional groups product. He previously founded Social Rank (acquired) and worked for Dwolla & Aviary. You can follow Alex on Twitter @ajt and Upstream @JoinUpstream... Upstream is also currently available for download on the App Store.
Martin Bryant is the founder of Big Revolution where he takes the skills he developed as a journalist into the world of helping tech and media companies with communications and strategy. Martin and I chat about how he does this and where the value in being a good writer is in the startup space. You can find Martin on Twitter @MartinSFP
Spike was one of the first 50 hires at Airbnb where he is still at today. We talk about the culture of the company in the early days and how that carried them through multiple stages of growth. We also talk about advice for young people in creating a unique path for yourself. You can read the article we talk about, "Don't Fuck Up the Culture", by Airbnb CEO and Founder Brian Chesky here: https://medium.com/@bchesky/dont-fuck-up-the-culture-597cde9ee9d4 and follow Spike on Twitter @spikebrehm
Bernard Moon is co-founder and partner at SparkLabs Group, a network of global accelerators and venture capital funds. He has a ton of experience in the world of startups and evaluating emerging markets. Barnard and I chat about how SparkLabs works, how they started, and where they're looking next. Follow Bernard on Twitter @bernardmoon or follow SparkLabs on their website http://www.sparklabsglobal.com/ - they're been running free webinars so definitely take a look at those as well.
Christian has a really diversified background ranging all the way back into his childhood when he decided to become an actor. He's been on Broadway twice, taking away a Tony award for his performance in Jersey Boys. He has also been involved in the Hollywood scene and has engaged in many business ventures. Christian has a ton of value to share in taking his acting skills into the business world through many strengths, two very important ones being the art of story telling and the ability to sell.
This episode is going to be a bit different... after interviewing several successful individuals, I realized it would also help a ton to get advice from people who had just landed stellar first jobs that set them up for future success. Jesse and I chat specifically about how he got his job with Brandon Steiner and what opportunities he had afterwards. I want to thank Jesse for being my first conversation for this new series and hope everyone gains something from his incredible experience.
Tobias is currently the CFO of Colibri Studios and host of the Media CFO podcast. This was a super interesting conversation where we talk a lot about the process of making a film and how it relates to building a business. While many people think about what a career in film would look like, there is very little talk about what it actually look likes and how to get there. If you're interested in learning more about this space, I highly encourage you to check out Media CFO. Follow Tobias on social @tobiasjaeger on IG and Twitter. Find his podcast here: https://medium.com/tobias-jaeger-the-media-cfo
Joe Hollier is the founder of Light, a company that built a phone to help you disconnect. The Light Phone essentially gives you everything you need and keep you free of distractions. Joe and I chat a bit about the many uses of the product which range from a way to disconnect on date nights to CEOs staying focused on what is going on while their assistants tend to other notifications. Joe also has a background in design, so we talk about what his transition to entrepreneurship was like. Follow @thelightphone on IG to keep up with what's going on there. You can also find them on their website, https://www.thelightphone.com/
Zach live most sports lovers dreams... as you'll hear in this conversation, Zach knew he wanted to work in sports at least since he was an undergrad at the University of Oregon's Sports Business Program. He then went on to manage social accounts for Adidas and even started their baseball page. After leaving, he took an opportunity to start Voltage Management, where he handles brand development for professional athletes. In our conversation, Zach talks about the process for figuring out what your brand is and how to scale via social media. We also talk about relationships... why they're important and how to build them through social media interactions. Follow Zach on all social platforms @zsoskin and as he mentioned, Voltage will be launching a new site which can be found at voltagemgmt.com
Leo Polovets has had a wild ride so far... he was 2nd engineering hire at LinkedIn after leaving Microsoft and later worked at Google. After leaving Google Leo thought he would return to building startups, this time as a founder. Instead, Leo ended up falling into VC, where he has been for the last 8 years. Leo and I have an awesome chat about what it was like to build LinkedIn and he shares amazing advice to young people regarding trying new things. You can follow Leo on Twitter @lpolovets and read his blog, Coding VC, at codingvc.com... and of course, you can also find Leo on LinkedIn.
Micah and I chat about his experiences as they apply to leveraging your skill set, being aware of mental health, and being conscious of diversity. Micah was the CEO of Graphicly in addition to being a part of many other startups. He also went on to play a role as an investor and is currently helping build Grasshopper Bank. Micah can be found on Twitter @Micah
Megan Olivi and I chat a lot about the importance of bringing story telling into the way we interview. She talks about how there are a lot of layers to an athlete and the best ways to "peel the onion" in order to tell their story. Megan could provide a Master Class on a lot of what we discuss and her insights were definitely important for anyone regardless of what you may be interested in. You can find Megan on social @MeganOlivi
Mike Clay and I chat about his journey in finding his career as well as how he was able to stand out to get where he is. We also chat about the importance of using historical evidence to back up claims whether this be something related to sports or anywhere else in life. Follow Mike on social : @MikeClayNFL on Twitter and Instagram. You can also find his work on ESPN Fantasy.
Joseph and I chat about his company, Universe, which aims to put the power to create in the hands of everyone looking to share something. We talk a lot about software and the characteristics that help software provide value to the creators of the world and their audiences. Read more about Universe here: https://onuniverse.com/ Read more about Joseph here: https://joe.onuniverse.com/
Max and I chat about his nontraditional journey that started back when he was a kid with his business partner and childhood friend, Cyrus. This goes on to cover a lot of the ventures they have started and where they have taken them. Max is currently working on starting Extra, the easiest way to earn rewards and build credit. Read more about Max here: https://maxhellerstein.com/
The first conversation of the series is with a long time friend and mentor of mine, Doug Lewis. Doug and I talk about his journey in achieving his athletic goals. He is a two time Olympic Alpine Ski Racer and the first US male athlete to win a World Cup medal in the downhill event. We then shift into talking about where his career has gone since wrapping up racing as he transitions into starting a business as well as becoming an analyst/TV host with NBC.