On my 21st birthday, I sat on a beach and meditated. I focused on the question “What should I do with my life?” The answer that came was “Create change”.
Call it a quarter life crisis 🤷♂️
A few months later, an opportunity arose to put this into action. My Israeli great-aunt was killed by a Palestinian terrorist in Jerusalem. Rather than sitting on the sidelines, stewing in partisan anger, I felt a need to take action.
I joined together with Palestinian and American co-founders, and we created Jozoor Microfinance, the first non-political, non-partisan micro-finance institution focused on Palestinian youth employment. We sought to provide micro-financing to hundreds of thousands of blue collar Palestinian youth who had lost their jobs amidst border closures connected with the second intifada.
Within a few months, we brought together advisors including senior Israeli and Palestinian government leaders, became Kiva’s first Palestinian MFI partner, and spread the word on CNN and NPR. We ultimately launched programs in the West Bank, Gaza, and even Jewish/Arab joint lending groups in Israel.
Since then I have sought to continue to use my life to create change.
I’m thankful to have the chance to continue to put this to work. First studying and teaching computer science at Stanford; at Microsoft, IBM, and a few Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv startups; as a social entrepreneurship fellow at Harvard; as a pre-launch advisor for Sierra Leone’s first PE fund after their civil war; at one of Africa’s largest VCs; in Beijing on a small team that became one of China’s biggest fintech VCs and venture studios, launching multiple publicly-traded companies; and later as a strategy consultant in Southeast Asia, advising corporate and government leaders across Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
More recently I co-founded a fintech startup, helping financial advisors more holistically serve middle-class clients (using financial aggregation, behavioral finance, and machine learning), having a chance to work in the trenches with one of my closest friends, and spending countless hours coding, designing product, talking to customers, and growing the business.
That company (Guide Financial) was acquired by John Hancock / Manulife, the only startup software company acquisition in its 150+ year history.
Together, my co-founder and I went on to launch another startup with John Hancock’s internal support, hired the company’s San Francisco / Silicon Valley team, recruited a team of highly talented product, designers, engineers, and became the only robo-advisor ever featured by Apple as its App of the Day, growing to tens of thousands of customers before moving on to lead partnerships and new ventures for John Hancock – spanning life insurance, retirement solutions, long-term care, direct-to-consumer, and new businesses.
After nearly five years, I felt something else calling.
I got to know the team at Jackson Square Ventures (JSV) and started to really admire their approach. JSV is a small investment team that has built a stellar venture investment record by supporting dozens of talented entrepreneurs – somehow managing to do it with a humble culture and focused on making anti-hype bets at a time when other VCs are increasingly focused on piling on to the same popular and safe deals.
Equally compelling to me, I see their work as focused on creating change. The team is passionate about their craft and the startups they invest in, and deeply empathize with the entrepreneurs they serve – having all run companies themselves before.
Everyone on the team has deep experience. They bring the most open, curious, contrarian and humble mindset I’ve seen in venture.
After a multiple-month process of getting to know the team and its portfolio companies, the firm asked me to join as a venture partner and I was thrilled to accept.
There’s lots of different flavors of venture partner roles. This role is full-time and focused on supporting the team and its entrepreneurs over the long term, and growing with the team over time as we raise future funds.
I’ve been passionate about fintech for decades and will continue to be so. I also look forward to expanding my focus as a generalist across many other industries. My overarching aspiration is to work with entrepreneurs that are truly changing their industries and improving human life.
Most importantly for me, it is a tremendous opportunity to create change at scale. It’s a platform to seek out, invest in, and support entrepreneurs who seek to improve the lives of their customers and as a result, their industry and our collective society.
As I write this, COVID-19 has yet to peak in terms of impact on mortality and possibly financial markets. Now, more than ever, it’s time to support entrepreneurs who have found new ways to operate and improve lives in a changing world.
In terms of work satisfaction, I believe the most important factor is the people you work with. In this case, I have the distinct pleasure and honor to work not only with great entrepreneurs, but with a humble and experienced group of colleagues to collaborate with, commiserate with, and grow with.
I am thrilled to join Jackson Square Ventures, and to be in a position to help identify and support entrepreneurs creating change.
Whatever stage of venture you’re working on – from scribbling on a napkin to scaling your business – please ping me at email@example.com if you’d like to talk.