Closing out the bullseye

Posted on October 26, 2017. Filed under: Uncategorized |

About a year ago, I sat down at my computer and drafted an offering memorandum for a venture capital firm that I was calling Manifest Capital. I wrote it by myself, in a vacuum, in what was objectively more of a down than an up in my life. I sent it to 3 people I’ve known for a long time and who I knew believed in me at some level…they all disliked it. It was basically the sum of everything I had observed and thought and learned while at General Catalyst, Lerer Ventures (now Lerer Hippeau Ventures), and my 3 startups…overlaid with a big fat dose of defensiveness. I read early memo’s from Spark Capital, Founders Fund, and a few others, and tried to fit my experience and narrative into the tone and structure of those documents. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t organic…it was the first dart thrown that doesn’t even hit the board.

After a little reflection, I decided that I wasn’t ready to build a new firm just then. I buried that memorandum deep in my Quip archive and decided I would focus on becoming more technical in fields that i cared about while not forcing my next big professional step unnaturally. I started taking classes in genomics and studying the blockchain more deeply and made a bunch of angel and crypto investments as I learned, without much thought toward my goal of building a firm. Part of me was waiting for Union Square Ventures to pick up the phone and invite me into their partnership, and part of me was waiting for my dream cofounder to leave his or her firm and come build a new one with me, but fast forward a few months and neither of those things happened…so I just kept going deeper and deeper into the world of crypto. It was intellectually so exciting that I felt fulfilled at “work.” There were days I felt alone, not having a team to build or think with, but the kind folks at Box Group lent me some space so I had smart people around to think and hang out with.

Somewhere along the way, my interest in blockchain went from esoteric in the venture capital world, to entirely in focus, and I had something new and interesting to explore with my friends around the ecosystem. 18 months ago I would tweet out ideas around crypto and get back a wall of blank stares and crickets…whereas now the “cryptolikes” flow from even the most unlikely of people. To really get beneath the hood and know what’s going on in blockchain, it’s a tremendous up front investment of time and energy. Not by accident, but fortunately by interest, while I was waiting for my long term goals to materialize, I managed to amass thousands of hours of learning in something that appears, at least to me, fundamental to the future of technology and the capital markets.

About 2 months ago, Olivia (my wife) basically shook me and asked me why I hadn’t raised a fund yet to go after this market? She knew I had been approached by a few crypto hedge funds starting up, and also that some of my friends from the venture capital world were looking to allocate capital to this space, and she couldn’t understand why I was still puttering around, reading papers, investing small amounts when their were hundreds of millions waiting to be deployed. Part of my answer was that these crypto hedge funds and early structures felt temporal and not enduring to me….like they were built to take advantage of a moment in time, but not in a foundational way that would beget a 20+ year enduring platform. And the other part of my answer was that I still didn’t have anyone with whom I wanted to build a firm.

I did listen to her, though, and pulled my head up from the whitepapers and protocol sketches to start thinking about how to scale my efforts. My interest was in building a venture capital firm with a blockchain thesis as opposed to a crypto hedge fund. I wanted to orient around 10 year funds, long term thinking, and a brand that would outlast any technology of capital markets cycle. I sat down to “update” my Manifest Capital document to reflect my work in blockchain, but in reading through it, I realized it didn’t at all reflect what I had come to believe in a post-blockchain world. So I sat down and designed something completely new…a thesis…on how I could grow a firm on the back of my developing knowledge and genuine belief in this fundamental technology (and it’s downstream markets).

The thesis I think is on point. After a round of feedback from some of the same folks who read my first try, and some new folks with different backgrounds and domain expertise, it feels like this dart is squarely on the board. There are some structural challenges, timing nuances and so on, that are keeping it from the bulls eye’s promised land, but I think I know what those things are, how to solve for them, and I’ve got this next dart in my hand that’s feeling pretty good. Strangely, rather than attacking those last solves and going out to make it happen ASAP, i find myself recessing a bit back into the whitepapers and the stack of reading that has piled up while I crafted this new thesis…something is still missing…it’s a feeling more than a strategic angle or point of feasibility…but I’m not quite sure what it is. My sense is it may be a team…I miss the people who I have built with in the past. Doug, Etang, Kenny, Ben…big shoes to fill for a founding moment…but I am not sure if that’s it or not…

Perhaps what’s missing is simply a deep breath before the dart’s release…inhaled…that steadies the mind and sharpens the focus…the life breath…the energy…the soul of the thing…present in the ether…waiting to be embodied.

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    About

    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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