Where I’m At

Posted on May 4, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I spend a lot of time soul searching these days. Almost daily, I battle with feelings of not caring about what’s happening in my twitter feed. I don’t know if that’s because the technology world doesn’t feel as innovative and mind expanding as it did 10 years ago, or maybe my graph is just focussed on things i’ve grown out of or lost interest in…but I do find myself wondering why inspiration is harder to come by when reading about new and recently funded companies. I feel like I used to get aha moments 4 or 5 times a week when learning of new projects…and right now they are more like once every 2 weeks.

I have pushed myself to get ahead of the noise. I’ve exchanged light exploration of new apps and business models for depth of understanding in genomics, synthetic biology, and bioinformatics…and that has been rewarding. The pure science lesson has been fascinating. I can squint and see the investable opportunities here, and feel good that this is an area that promises more aha feelings in in the future. I’ve also been sort of deeply lurking in and around the blockchain…partly because it fuels my capital markets mind and partly because it promises to organize hundreds of millions if not billions of people around new behaviors that neither enterprise nor government (the two primary organizing forces in the world today) have been incentivized to harness in the past. I wouldn’t say I have regular aha moments when exploring new blockchain projects, but I know what I am looking for in this world, and stand mouth agape on the ICO/Capital Markets side of this world while I wait for the substantive protocol(s) I am seeking to emerge from the ether (no pun intended).

So I come to work everyday and I’m academically engaged…but some days it does feel a little masturbatory in nature. The question of “why am i doing this?” runs deep. I think this is partly because I am feeling a little lonely in my pursuits…loneliness tends to evoke questioning…and I think its partly because there is something inside me that has always been guided by a sense of destiny…and I feel a little like i’m treading water on the way to whatever I’m supposed to grow up to be. I still feel like I am in the right life pond, but maybe not yet at my ultimate depth or inlet.

When I ask this question of “why am I doing this?” I come to real and honest answers that satisfy me. Things like “because I love thinking about the future,” “because I can make really good money while being genuine and honest and helpful,” and “because I love learning new things alongside creative and inspired thinkers.” Perhaps the most inspiring and true answer is because “there’s a set of founders and projects out there that are weird enough in shape that every other VC is going to pass just at the moment when they most need capital to build the future, and I can make sure those weird shapes get the chance to realize both their societal and economic importance.” Those reasons satiate me even on the days when I’m feeling lonely or disenchanted.

I find myself feeling a little sensitive about not having a partner or two to chase down the market opportunity and life opportunity that I see ahead. Even though, rationally, I have concluded that I am “on track” from a timing perspective…it still sucks to be alone and it sucks not to be in market, breathing life into fledgling visions that need it.

It’s a very fine line between patience and inaction. On one hand, waiting for the right cofounders to shake free feels totally right in the way that grinding it out at a poker table and playing tight until the cards come feels totally right. Patience is everything in that scenario, and this feels a lot like that. I’m at the table, i’m in the game, and i’ve folded down maybe 20 playable hands in the belief i’ll see queens or kings. On the other hand, I am not extending myself deeply…I’m not out on a limb trying to really get to know people I haven’t known a long time. I’m not flying out to California to meet with a low-likelihood prospect…i’m not really calling the blinds just to see the river…and that is all good too…until you realize you’ve been sitting at the table for 8 hours and the blinds are going to drive you out of the game at some point. I’m not there yet, or even close, but the blinds in that analogy are the opportunity cost of my time and that will get more real at some point. I’d feel bad if I woke up and had spent a year waiting for the right thing to happen on the cofounders front.

When I think this way, about arbitrary timelines and mental milestones, I ultimately I arrive at “what’s the point of setting them?” I had breakfast with my friend and former colleague Jeff Weinstein last week and he said something that resounded with me: “you’ve taken a lot in, you are still taking a lot in, and you are getting ready to do something with it.” I think that’s right. I’m not deeply attached to any one outcome…rather I have a converging sense of the direction in which I want to act, and when the right seem in the universe reveals…i will see it and move through it. My sense is that seem is going to look like my first partner in a new firm, but I have considered the possibility that it might be the right Nature paper on targeted Cancer therapies, or something else not yet considered.

One of the hardest parts of this period of simultaneous soul searching, waiting, and quietly advancing is answering the question “how’s the new fund going?” An answer of “waiting patiently while learning new domains and gently evaluating cofounder relationships” does not come across as progress. I think most people are looking for an answer like “I’ve got $40M of the $120M raised” or something like that…and I’m at “haven’t had a single LP conversation because I don’t have any partners yet.” I fill in the gaps in conversation with what i’m learning about genomics or the company I backed 5 years ago that just sold for $850M…i guess trying to communicate that the story of a new firm is strengthening, albeit not in a way where my time to market is any shorter…and I find myself back in the same place I’ve been anytime i’ve ever founded anything…believing…resolute…slightly insecure…willing to be misunderstood…right where I’m supposed to be.

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One Response to “Where I’m At”

RSS Feed for Jordan Cooper's Blog: startups, venture capital, etc… Comments RSS Feed

If you’re interested in exploring the Toronto/Waterloo/Canadian venture scene I’d be happy to connect you in while you are waiting patiently.

A University of Waterloo alumni angel group I run is having a health-focused event on June 12 at JLABS (the Johnson & Johnson incubator) event here in Toronto: https://www.waterlooalumniangels.com/workshops/2017/6/12/event-2-jlabs-fireside-chat-speakers-lyon-wong-spectrum-28-one-more-to-be-announced

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I think there is one metric that can be used to measure the value of a human life and that’s impact. How did you change things? How many people did you touch? How different is the world because you lived in it and how positive was the change that you affected? (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it) You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com


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