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).
I'm very proud to announce Hurt+Harbach, a seed-stage venture capital firm focused primarily on Austin investments.
I've enjoyed working at Austin Ventures since November of last year. I've had a long partnership with the good people there, dating back to August of 2005, when the firm invested in our Series A at Bazaarvoice and Chris Pacitti joined our Board of Directors. My last day at Austin Ventures was August 15.
I'm an entrepreneur, after all. I discovered that I really enjoy being a VC. Helping entrepreneurs is the next phase of my career, and this is a natural evolution for me. Co-founding a new venture capital firm is the ideal way to express my passion for building extraordinary companies.
Spurred on by my recent Lucky7 post on how capital efficient Bazaarvoice was on its path to IPO, two friends sent me great posts this week on entrepreneurship and risk. And I guess it seems appropriate that I'm writing this post from Edinburgh, Scotland here at TED Global. Edinburgh is, after all, one of the birthplaces of capitalism. Adam Smith, author of The Wealth of Nations, and other prominent figures were born here. And speaking of capitalism, the former Prime Minister of Greece and the poster child for the European economic crisis, George Papandreou's, TED Global talk is already live. I found his talk sobering and, for all the controversy surrounding him, it felt rawly authentic to me.
On Thursday, Consumer Reports named the Tesla Model S the best car they've ever tested. That is quite a statement considering they've been testing cars since 1936.
Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory (and who invited me to be with The President and CTO of the United States on Thursday), was the first person in Austin to get one and he let me drive it the day it came in, back in November (or maybe it was December). I'm quite an auto nut, and I was stunned. It was like the first time I used the iPhone. I knew it would up the ante forever for the auto industry worldwide. I was also proud that it was happening here, with an American-born company (and the first new American auto company to have this good of financial results in 50 years).