Today is my 43rd birthday. As I think about the last year, my good friend and CEO coach, Kirk Dando, comes to mind. On page 141 of his excellent book Predictive Leadership, Kirk writes:
Life is like a record album, composed of songs to form the whole. From age 24 to 40, I had been playing the song "entrepreneur". I set a goal when I was 25 to one day found a tech company and take it public - by the time I was 40. Fifteen years later, I achieved that goal (my ultimate BHAG - "Big Hairy Audacious Goal"). Society didn't know about this very personal BHAG (only a few friends, my parents, and my wife did), and they expected me to keep playing the same song over and over again. This was natural, expected even. But as I wrote about in my "time is money or is money time" post, I was determined to step back and think deeply about my next move post being the CEO of Bazaarvoice. I didn't want to just set the same goal all over again (i.e., "now I'll found a sixth company and take it public again"). I knew I wanted to help entrepreneurs - I had always enjoyed doing so while I was at Bazaarvoice or Coremetrics but I had done so very sparingly due to the time constraints that I had (managing high-growth ventures takes a lot of time). I had love in my heart for Austin and thought I should do my part, along with many others like Josh Baer of Capital Factory, to help our scene evolve. So I jumped into that part of the arena - but in a more "grandfatherly" role as opposed to being the actual "man in the arena" (a nod to Theodore Roosevelt's powerful speech in 1910). As far as becoming an entrepreneur again and going back to that song, I had to think very deeply about it.
Today is my 43rd birthday (you can read about what I learned over the past year inmy Lucky7 post about age 42). Looking back on my last year, I've grown to really love angel investing. My wife, Debra, and I run a family office that we call Hurt Family Investments. She takes the lead on philanthropic projects, and I take the lead on startup investing. For the past two years, we've invested the same financial amount in non-profits as we have in startups. We always agree on what to invest in - she has to meet the entrepreneurs before we make a decision - and that leverages the best of both of us. Debra is a contrarian thinker and was also born to entrepreneur parents. We both learned a lot about entrepreneurship growing up, and we actually started Coremetrics, my fourth business, together. She has terrific entrepreneurial instincts and there are a number of companies that I haven't started because I listened to her (thankfully), when I was playing the song "entrepreneur" on my record of life. Now, we are involved in 34 startups (mostly in Austin) and multiple VC funds that give us exposure to at least as many additional startups (you can see our portfolio here).
Well, what a week it has been. Speaking of my last Lucky7 post on entrepreneurship being all about the journey, this week has been a one giant leap for Austin mankind (and womenkind, of course).
First, the week started out with an amazing Austin City Limits taping with the band Phoenix playing. Debra and I are annual donors to KLRU and attend these tapings regularly. Debra was out of town for this one, though, and I took Garrett Eastham, co-founder and CEO of Compare Metrics, a company that I proudly serve as their independent Chairman of the Board of Directors. You'll be hearing a lot about this company soon (it is currently in mostly stealth mode, taking a page out of my book - see my Lucky7 post on the weighing whether to be stealthy or not), and I'm having a blast working with them. Here is a photo of Garrett and I at the show. Phoenix was one of the best tapings I've seen - right up there with Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire, and The Lumineers.
As I've gotten more ramped up here at Austin Ventures, I've learned a lot about the "other side" of entrepreneurship. I've known the world of a founder for the first half of my life (I'm 41 now), and I've started five companies, including Bazaarvoice and Coremetrics. But I've never been on the other side of the table as an investor and been a part of the closed discussions that occur after founders make their best case to an investment committee. What I've learned is really eye-opening and is helping me put a lot of patterns together (this is called "pattern recognition" in the investing world).