I couldn’t be more thrilled to share the news about my next gig. Together with my new partner Matias Mosse, we will be making early-stage investments into companies seeking to address humanity’s biggest challenges and opportunities.
A couple of years ago I wrote my first public post (it was on Medium, and I’ve stuck with it ever since). I don’t know if I did it to understand a new communication platform, because I succumbed to the Valley’s culture of publishing your two cents, or because nearing 40 and having kids I was reaching some predictable life-stage in which I was looking for more meaning in my work. But in that admittedly very meandering post (written weeks after my third child was born so I like to blame hormones and lack of sleep for its deficiencies) I wrote the following: “…it just makes me wonder what I can do to unearth additional transformational opportunities that make society better and generate billions in value”.
Since then I focused more energy looking to invest in startups in healthcare and other sectors likely to generate broad positive impact. I also considered operational roles in mission-driven startups, and explored opportunities in non-profit and impact investing areas. After the presidential election I even entertained some ideas on the side to improve political discourse in our country. And then I met Matias, and it all clicked. He had been thinking of early stage investing in much bigger and broader ways than I had allowed myself to. We both share a global viewpoint, a belief that the profit motive can actually improve the odds of successful outcomes, and the conviction that the world will be radically different in the next century and collectively all of us can impact how that future will unfold.
The most successful entrepreneurs have always had clear visions that were before their time (think Bezos, Jobs, Zuckerberg, Page/Brin, and Musk, to name a few). They had a grand objective and the talent and tenacity to pursue it beyond most people’s wildest dreams. (It’s easy to forget how many discarded the online superstore model, balked at Apple’s ability to compete with the likes of Motorola and Blackberry, and scoffed at Elon’s ability to make a good car in Silicon Valley not so long ago). In the words of Louis Brandeis: “Most of the things worth doing in the world were declared impossible before they were done.” I believe the next wave of mega-entrepreneurs will bring novel solutions to the biggest problems and opportunities we have in front of us. Thanks primarily to Matias’ vision and efforts, our fund’s portfolio already includes cutting edge startups ranging from bioengineered foods to applied artificial intelligence to blockchain systems to DNA data storage and next-gen disease-testing devices. All of them address huge markets, solve real unmet needs, and can positively impact our world. You can learn more at www.starlight.vc.
I’m excited to embark on this new adventure, although it brings to an official close a chapter in which I worked with, learned from, and was lucky enough to be mentored by someone I consider a Silicon Valley institution (and to whom as a result I owe probably more than 100 Buck’s meals!). Roger McNamee was my boss for over a decade, first at Elevation Partners and then -after a few years- working directly helping him run his personal investment arm and non-profit foundations. I have learned so much from him and through him that it is impossible to capture it in a few paragraphs. As an investor he has an uncanny ability to see around corners, even though most people only realize it in hindsight. He is a true champion for his entrepreneurs, providing much-needed emotional support and extending loyalty even when the financial models might lead others to move on. He looks for patterns and once he is confident he has understood one applies it broadly including where others might forget to look, thereby unearthing profitable investments. He is a big picture thinker, combining cross-industry and general knowledge to identify new opportunities. He has conviction and follows through, even when everyone else is on the other side of the bet. The batting average is not 1000, but like in baseball he has made a fortune with much less. (Roger — if you read this I hope you feel happy and proud that I managed to insert a baseball reference into this post ;). But despite all I was able to learn from one of the most experienced and successful tech investors in the Valley, what I take the most with me is his (and his wife Ann’s) humanity. They are considerate of others, thoughtful with strangers and those who can do nothing for them, and generous beyond belief. In a time in which the Valley is plagued with stories of misogyny and racism, Roger stands out as a supportive voice for women and minorities. In our years working together, I saw him not only publicly advocate for change, but also be very thoughtful about considering his own biases and correcting for them.
To this new role I will bring everything I’ve learned about investing. And like with most other things, it turns out the people part is the hardest and most important. Building the right partnership and team, surrounding ourselves with the best advisors and growing our network of trusted and knowledgeable experts is the most important and stimulating part of our endeavor. Partnering with the right entrepreneurs and behaving and providing value in ways that make them our biggest advocates is Investing 101. I couldn’t be more thrilled to partner with Matias and our amazing advisors and venture partners, and we are committed to finding and supporting the most visionary, ambitious, knowledgeable and talented people who have a mission to build businesses which will improve our lives. Needless to say, if you are one of them or know of them, please reach out.