384. Building with a 100-Year Vision, Getting to Conviction in Canva, the Mission-Driven Mindset, and Lessons from the Legend, Bill Campbell (Wesley Chan and Pegah Ebrahimi)

384. Building with a 100-Year Vision, Getting to Conviction in Canva, the Mission-Driven Mindset, and Lessons from the Legend, Bill Campbell (Wesley Chan and Pegah Ebrahimi)

Wes Chan and Pegah Ebrahimi of FPV Ventures join Nick to discuss Building with a 100-Year Vision, Getting to Conviction in Canva, the Mission-Driven Mindset, and Lessons from the Legend, Bill Campbell. In this episode we cover:

  • The long-term effects of the tech banking crisis
  • What Generative AI means for Google and Search
  • Finding mission-driven founders
  • The operating model for helping founders
  • Advice from Bill Campbell

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Transcribed with AI:

Wesley Chan and Pegah Ebrahimi join us today from the Bay Area. Wesley and Pegah are the founders of FPV, which launched 9 months ago with a $450M Fund I. Prior to FPV Wes was an MD at Felicis and Pegah was COO of Global Tech Banking at Morgan Stanley. Their investments include Canva, Flexport, and Guild Education amongst others. Wesley and Pegah, welcome to the show!
Gr eat to be here.
Yeah, it’s now it’s great to have both of you. I, you know, as we record here, amidst the Ides of March, and the venture industry has George Bailey moment, we will try our best not to get caught up too much in the news cycle of the day and focus on the mission at FPV. With that, maybe Wesley, you can start us off with your background and your path to adventure.
Oh, so it’s like this incredible series of accidents I was at at Google Ventures. I was at Google before that, as an operator. You know, I helped write the ad system, I launched and found Google Analytics on confounding Google Voice. And then, you know, after 10 plus years there, I was ready to, to move on and do my own startup. But Larry and Sergey convinced me to stay and helped us start Google Ventures and build that franchise out. And so that’s where I learned how to invest was at Google, where we built a venture fund. And we built a corporate venture capital group where it was founders first, you know, we said we would build a product like Google, but for founders, and instead of them saying, oh, like, you know, we’re prioritizing the interests of Google. First, we’re prioritizing their interests first. And that’s sort of Google’s like Google Ventures, or GVS ethos, went on to fleece is to help them build out their later stage investing practice. And then after seven years, I left and found on Google SRE founded FTD, with pega was just been a delight to work with.
Wonderful and then pega. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your path to FUD?
Yeah, so it was even more unconventional than Wesleys. I started out my career at Morgan Stanley, and one of my first deals I did was taking Google public. So I think, you know, we’ve come full circle now working together was, I was it was unconventional, in that I was the CIO. So I was Chief Information Officer for Morgan Stanley, really thinking about the digital strategy strategy for the bank, pretty early on in my career. And I love spending time with going out with emerging companies. And so a lot of the work I was doing is early stage companies at the time that weren’t selling to the big banks, I was spending time with them thinking how can we get them into into the large organizations and that was, you know, in 2006 2007, when it was early on in the cloud revolution, and those relationships ended up helping me really obsess about the younger companies coming out and how it could change a lot of what was going on in enterprise. So I got the bug then and came out to the West Coast and started was became CEO for tech banking, and started really working with a lot of VCs and trying to be helpful, trying to help founders along the way. And then, you know, fast forward to a few years ago, when Wesley and I were working together, I was advising a number of companies on go to market, Canvas sneak, and a number of others. And that’s Wesley and I got together after knowing each other for many years and working together. Awesome. Well, I,
I know that you, you have a background in tech banking, and you’re probably not an expert in all of SPBs holdings. But maybe we can talk just briefly, you know, this crisis that hit us last week, to see this as kind of a medium long term effect on on the tech industry. And, you know, what, what do you think startups should prepare for coming out of this tubing, all deposits are secure, and, you know, the capital at SVB and other banks and secure, you know, what, what do you think will be some of the effects?
It’s interesting, because I, you know, I was at Morgan Stanley when the financial crisis happened, and we had Bear Stearns going down, and Lehman was across just going down and we had to find an investor. And so I do think there’s a, you know, we have averted immediate disaster currently. But the reality is, these things have an impact on people, it changes behavior for a little bit. So long term, I think you’ll be fine. But in the short term, yet, it’s going to cause it’s going to cause a little bit of apprehension and people that your things you didn’t think about you never thought, hey, the money in the bank might be gone. That’s something people in the financial crisis didn’t think about. And so a lot of it’s very different than then because back then you were trying to govern was trying to bail companies, right, and their shareholders, whereas now it’s like government was trying to just ensure that deposits were were going to be available. I think in the short term. Obviously, Silicon Valley had a huge impact on the ecosystem for many years. In the short term, you’ve got one of the biggest, you know, champions of the industry not being around so there’s just less there’s there’s going to be a short term void there, depending on how long it takes for the assets to move. And that’s going to be felt by a lot of people who felt like they Were a great partner. And I do think if people are just getting more, it’s more certain that you have to be thinking about these things as as a founder more to so you have to diversify more, you have to think about everything’s things you thought were for sure going to be around, you have to reevaluate and say, hey, there could be kind of shakes in the space that could happen that whatever you thought was true before isn’t true. And so from that aspect, I think founders have to really think about that, I do think it also might put some immediate pressure, everyone’s a bit distracted. So if you had a term sheet coming this week, maybe you have to wait a little bit, people are distracted. And so and then Wall Street. And I think the other thing is, it was SBB for at least externally, even though the the what happened had not as much to do with technology and had to do with how they were risk mitigating their their assets. So it was much more of a risk, you know, Treasury issue and risk issue. It also might seem to the outside world, like it was an index on tech. And the there’s amazing companies with great fundamentals that are otherwise resilient outside of this issue, and have cash reserves and are close to profitable and are not burning through their money. As you know, some of the articles might might say some are, but a lot of the founders we work with, have been thinking about those for many years. And so I think it also makes a cloud on some of those people for a little while from external. But I think over time, it just it, it will, it will quiet down and people will will figure out the huge value that’s created in these companies and the great companies will come out of it better. And some companies will suffer from it right? Because they might not get cheap financing when their balance sheets aren’t as strong.
Wesley any changes to the guidance you’re giving your portfolio founders?
No, I mean, we just want them to be successful. They talk about the future and you know, sort of roll of every punch that they get. Half of what they’re dealing with is completely unexpected Wednesday, we did not see. On Wednesday, we did not see we thought Silicon Valley Bank was one was well capitalized, a friend of startups 16th largest bank in the country. By Thursday, we were watching a bank run in quietly telling them that you know, something’s going on, you should monitor this carefully. And if needed, pull some money out so that you can continue operating in case the worst happened on Friday, the bank collapsed, right? So we were friends of them. And you know, all we wanted to do succeed. And you know, again, part of one of the SPV stands for is founders point of view. And we want to think about how to help them create that best point of view to succeed and roll of any punches that comes their way.
Again, isn’t that what FPV stands for founders point of view, one of
many things that it stands for, but for us, you know, that’s one of our Northstars is we care deeply about founder service and about their point of view, and when an honor, we’re going to make their dreams come true and honor their their the journey that they’re they’re on and make it less lonely, right, so that that point of view is so critical to pick an eye and the rest of the teams behavior and our our true authentic desire to want him to succeed.
Interesting. Let’s talk maybe thesis first, and then some differentiation after that. So what is the core thesis at FPV? You know, what stage do you invest in? What’s your cheque size and sector orientation?
I’ll start off and I’ll let pega add to it. Our thesis is that there’s a there’s this world of exceptional mission driven founders, you know, we tell our LPs, and we tell our founders that we look for the true folks that are mission driven that have 100 year plans that knock down any brick wall that comes in their way to make to help the company succeed and help their team succeed. My background, as I talked about earlier was was that I was at Google very early on and was served as Chief of Staff for my first five years, I helped write the ads and help build and launch and found Google Analytics and help launch and found Google Voice. And eventually, Google Ventures and, you know, folks, we were mentored with taught us that we wanted to put users first we cared about customers. And the world didn’t believe Larry and Sergey very early on, when they were building their search and NERC 20 other search engines, they were the 21st. And you know, every all the 20 search engines were going in one direction, tricking people to stay on weather reports, tricking them to stay on with fantasy football, like you wouldn’t do what you’re looking for search for information and digital camera could care less about fantasy football. And Larry and Sergey said, No, we want to kick you off the search engine in two seconds and 10 Sorry, 10 seconds and two clips, they looked at a smartwatch to monitor this and it didn’t understand that they make money until you know the human was on help build the system. Now those are the folks we look for right, mission driven founders that see the world differently and we’re willing to back up the truck and help them out. Melon cliff at Canva Rachel at killed in education. They all are exceptional founders today where the world sees their genius but back when they started it was kind of confusing. Why why they were building it. So that’s what we index on that’s what we invest in that founders point of view, especially in those early days when it’s lonely. That’s what we look for. And if they build the next school it serves everybody well that’s that’s the that’s the ethos of our fund. Perfect.
Yeah. No, I must be covered all look, it’s so exciting for us to spend time with people that have a unique insight. That’s what really we look for people who have a unique insight on some something they’ve been at stressing about and making us a leader of it right in the process. So it’s generally not things that are that obvious. So it takes someone having this ambitious, unique insight because of the obsession they’ve had like Mel when she was obsessing about this space and seeing what was really needed. And a lot of people didn’t, you know, realize it, but she had a unique insight and seeing kind of having a, you know, in those lonely times when not everyone’s a believer, being a believer of those, those insights and the execution that it’s going to take to to get there. And that’s what why we love doing this.
Very good. And then is there a Preferred entry point? Is there a stage that you often get involved?
We don’t we don’t think of we’re early stage. So we’re going to, but early stage can mean very different things in different environments. So for us, we really think about are there four inflection points, at least that we can see that are still going to be in the company and you know, whether Hey, they haven’t figured they, they have some, they have an insight, or they have some customers, but it’s really figuring out if there’s a real huge product there. And so it can be a read anything from earlier than an A all the way up to see right, generally, but I think that the letters mean different things in different environment. Like Wesley, you did guild on the sea, but it was still not obvious back then. Right? Like, I mean,
I mean, I mean, even even a company like Canva, right, which I got involved the series a couple rounds before they hit that inflection point that they were talking about, you know, we’re revenue, where people were using it for more than designing one, one set of business cards or a brochure, the most important thing is that we hear the founder say, here’s 100 year plan. Here’s how we continue compounding here are the amazing inflection points are coming down the road and not just one. Right. That was me it was there’s five of them. So that’s that’s the that’s the ethos that we look for in terms of what what we care deeply about as the founder of truly understands how big their market, how big the product is, and how much how deeply everybody cares, or will care about what they’re building out. And often, you know, men take a take a few years for that to happen. So we’ll get involved even if it’s a little later stage because this company is compound. I remember this one story when I was a Google was IPO and pega. That was pegas. First IPO she worked at Morgan Stanley was my my first IPO as a product operator, right. And I still remember everybody yelling at me, and you should sell them the IPO and I bought almost my entire life savings and bought Google shares at the IPO at $85 A share that was the clearing price. And somewhere around 13 or $14,000. Today, people didn’t understand that. At that point, Larry and Sergey had such a long vision and a long game that they were playing that there were probably 10 Plus inflection points, YouTube, Android, you know, Google Voice, all these things that they were building that like really mattered, and the company would continue compounding and, you know, at $5, a share, which was the IPO price was a complete steel. So stage for us, doesn’t matter as much as long as we can get in. And we understand the inflection point of the company and the founders view of it. And we just asked the founder, what if it does come true? What if what they’re saying for this crazy 100 year plans, articulating becomes reality? You know, what if? What if Google does become this amazing media conglomerate? Right? Like, who knows? You know, it’s up to their founders, imagination is our job to help them you know, realize that dream, even if it takes 100 years?
Perfect. You know, I’m curious what you think about competitive and crowded spaces? Wesley, you mentioned earlier that Google was the 20 some odd search engine, right. I had a guest on the show a few weeks ago that said he hated competitive spaces. I have my own opinion on, you know, startups that are entering a space that that has a lot of competition and is seemingly crowded, you know, what’s your, what’s your opinion on that?
I don’t look at as competitive spaces I look at as monopoly, right? If a founder says, here’s how we get to monopoly, here’s how we are the number one product from that space, then they went, That’s the bottom. That’s the bottom thing. So at the end of the day, whatever they’re doing has no competition. But the problem with a lot of other, you know, investors who, you know, I’ve been doing this business for, almost, you know, 1314 years, right? I started, I started, I helped start GV in 2009. And, you know, one of the wonderful things about having lived through the Google story, like you talked about was that everybody thought there were 20 other search engines, but Google was an n of one. They did search, but it wasn’t like the other 20 search engines. Same thing with Canva. Right, I led the series A and that story has been told over and over again, there were 111 investors that Mel had on her spreadsheet when I got involved, and looked at them in Australia, and I was fortunate enough to meet her in person. Here’s this amazing story, but she tells me, mostly 111 investors passed on us we’re okay, if you don’t invest. You could be the 100 fault. I said, No, no, no, you’re doing something interesting, right? And she goes, everybody thinks Adobe is our competitor that we’re like disrupting Adobe. We’re not disrupting Adobe and she had this broad insight as a former me of her or her past is incredible. She was the yearbook teacher, Clifton, her co founder was a construction worker and as teaching yearbook like what her unique insight in the world was that like, students were taking four years of yearbook first three, to learn how to use Adobe products and the fourth one to make the yearbook and she sat there going, nobody shouldn’t have to spend three years running some tools and make a yearbook, right. And so, you know, the first version of Canva was a cloud easy to design like, you know, sort of, you know, beautiful yearbook design tool. And she realized that wasn’t a big enough market, and then moved to Canva. And Canva. Today has hundreds of millions of users worldwide, with 15 billion plus designs that they have been identified. It’s a monopoly. I probably shouldn’t say that too often. It’s the number one product in their, in their in their category. And everybody thought that there was a complete competition with Microsoft and Adobe. And people did not realize that she created a category of their own right. So we don’t look at it as competition we look at it it is this person articulating to us this, this founder telling us that there is a true product category they’re creating, even though the world thinks that there’s 20 Other people sort of doing kind of what they’re doing, and everybody else misunderstands their insight. And that’s what we look for. Awesome.
You know, the two of you have notably issued hyped up technologies sectors, and it’s my understanding that you’ve avoided crypto investing altogether. Why why did you not see value in crypto?
You know, I was probably the first.
It’s funny. Wesley was on the Web Summit, I think on November, what was it like early November, right before the crash that was saying it onstage? And I think it got picked up. So I mean, he kind of called it at the top, but I’ll tell let him tell you about it. But I was always impressed that he called the top but
look, one of the most valuable pieces of mentorship I’ve ever gotten, you know, from folks like Bill Campbell or or John Doerr, for buyers who are just so instrumental in helping them start GV and who taught us in the earliest hold invest? They said a couple things, pick the area that you have an edge, I don’t have an edge in crypto, right. And then they said one more thing, no, pick an area where there are people building great products that have true use cases of things that people want their core learning. Place a lots of crooks, right, like, you know, crooks, I don’t have an edge in picking picking the winner out of a bunch of crooks. And there’s a lot of people in crypto where it’s high pay, it’s tricky, you know, some of them crooks right now where they’re gaming the system, and they’re trying to sell you something that I can’t understand what the core value is, or it’s a product that people want. I keep asking folks in this business, like, why would people want this? What are you doing? The candidate told me very clearly that people need design today. They’re used to spending three years learning Adobe, we think we’re building something people want, right? You know, when Josh Reeves from gussto told me, here’s why we’re building gussto payroll sucks. ADP sucks, like, you know, no offense, but like, you know, to get on board, and ADP will take somebody three months to figure that out. And it’s for big companies. And you know, there really aren’t that many other great products, we’re going to do simple payroll for dollar per user per month, and build a product to expand across all the HR services that you need brothers insurance, something else, I sat there, I’m like, that’s something I want if I started the business, I know when was last time you heard something that was, you know, from a crypto founder, where you sat there and go, Oh, that’s something you want. I recently got pitched a crypto company where the person goes, we can help you pay with crypto and I’m sitting there going like, okay, like what’s wrong with my credit card, right. And maybe if there’s ever this situation where there’s a bank run or something, crypto is my only asset that I had left. But I couldn’t quite understand what the use case for that thing was. Even if you kept like needling the founder bone, please just tell me I’m trying to like you know, give you a give you a lead here to figure that out. So I don’t have an engineer. It’s not my area, and maybe other people have an engineer. I just don’t. So that’s why we avoided it.
Well, how about another hyped on sector sector or the current source of most hype? Right? We’ve got AI, we’ve got generative AI, there’s, there’s a number of different subcategories here. But what’s what’s your take on the space? And, you know, is the hype warranted?
Well, I can talk a little bit about it. And then I’m sure Wesley will add to it. Look, I think what’s happening in Geneva is really fascinating. So I think there’s a reason there’s a hype, there’s a difference between it being very new to a lot of people. So everyone has a lot of excitement. It’s the first time a lot of people have interacted now with seeing aI have an impact in their life. Whereas before, the people who spent a lot of time in AI ml and have spent all the time they’re new, the powers of these tools, but for the average person, this is the first time it feels like oh, I can see how this can be useful. So I think that’s a lot of the reason there’s been so much fast excitement. And there is great stuff there. The question, I guess we do, we do think there’s just a hype is there’s gonna be some amazing companies that come out of it. But initially, what ends up happening is every company that says generic AI just gets tagged as doing something incredible now, and I think we’re skeptical that everyone that just adds it to their name and says they’re using it is going to necessarily have some of those exactly hallmarks that what he was talking about, is there. Is there a unique insight here? Is there actually going to be a potential monopoly for what you’re building? Or if you can build it in a month? Can the someone else go build it in a month? And is it what is really the value? Like, is there real data that you have access to that lets you do use it in a, you know, high, much more impactful way? So I think there is going to be a lot of value but it’s early innings and everyone kind of goes after everything. And I think it’s we kind of think about what what is the next stage going to look like? Given the space and what are going to be the companies that step up, so we’re spending time there, but we’re not necessarily jumping over our feet trying to invest in general AI, just invest in it. And I would say, look, having spent so much time in enterprise and large companies, there are troves of data in large companies that are highly valuable that if you can use AI ml, in an impactful way, will get you two answers that will meaningfully change the business. There’s so many inefficiencies and yes, one of them is people writing emails, but there’s a ton of, you know, how should we price? How should we actually autonomously make decisions to, there’s all these amazing things that AI ml can do. And they’re not in the generic category. And they’re hugely impactful to companies and GDP and supply chains and all those things. So we’re also still spending time in the regular AI ml space.
Wesley, I know it’s been some time since you’ve been at GV and Google, what do you think this means for Google? You know, do they open their core engines up and allow applications to be built on top and, and leverage the value? Or does this you know, do the early applications become a replacement for for search?
You know, I think search has been around at the beginning, I think it will evolve. I don’t think it’s the right placement, we’ve all been trained to type in something in the Google in this search bar that has two buttons underneath of it, and it kind of for the most part works, right? You know, everybody, there’s this huge hype, when people launched Alexa and Amazon, at Amazon, or you know, the the, okay, Google, or the Google Assistant, which, you know, some of the work I did on Google Voice help build. And it’s one of those things where it is it has not replaced search, people talked about that, oh, we’re gonna like talk just talking to our phones one day, and tell it things and it’s going to replace search. So I think this will help you another mode that people will be accessing information. And maybe it will be a fun way of doing it for a while. But it’s not going to replace search anytime soon. I think there is a fear that Google will be 100% honest, is watching and hearing things from my old colleagues there, that it could disrupt search successful people do it, you know, it’s the same thing when iPhone first came out, you know, Android was an answer, because Google did not want somebody else controlling the interface, how you get access to search. And you know, today, Google’s still the dominant thing on mobile. So I think what will is important for Google to build the technology to have access and the most amazing and plentiful compute power in the world that allows them to go process these models, they have some of the best talent in the world to do it. And we’re excited to see what comes out of Google. But it is it’s one of the modes, it’s not the only mode. And I don’t think it’s the complete replacement.
Got it? Yeah, I was having a conversation with my late 60s father last night, and I, I, I had shown him a chat GPT a few weeks ago, and it’s become his default for search. It’s what he uses. Now. It says, you know, when I go to Google, it sends me off to all these lengths, but now he’s chat GPT for everything, so it’s kind of interesting, like somebody at his age, because I have never turned him on to a technology that he actually uses until now.
It is something exciting to use, right? You don’t like playing around with it. It’s it’s an interesting modality. And any all these sort of look at, you know, some of the fun things that you can do with it. And is it is captivating, right? I think that’s why it’s getting so much amazing attention.
So if everyone’s you know, chasing these generative AI opportunities, you know, how have, you had FPV identified areas and, and, you know, the spaces within that you think are most interesting.
You know, like back to, I’ll take it back to our mission, we invest in mission driven founders. So we’re not saying hey, we’re in this sector, we’re in that sector, when we meet a founder who has a unique insight on how they’re going to use this to change and create a category or really change the game and something that’s what we back. So it’s not like we’re saying, Hey, we’re just do generative AI and this or that, I think there’s smarter people that are looking at how they want to change the world with this technology. And, and that’s what are, you know, we want to find those people and believe them when maybe other people aren’t
perfect. So you’re not sitting back making market maps and saying, Hey, we need to go over here. And then a company doing this, you all
see obviously, Nick, and Nick, if I made market maps, I would never have found Platt would never have found gussto would never have found Robinhood would never have found Canada, right. Like we don’t do market maps, we just optimizing the optimism, building great networks and mission driven founders. And somehow, you know, they all find each other and then we get to hear the whispers. And then we go and pay him a visit.
Tell us more about how you unpack this mission driven element. And like you’ve talked a lot about authenticity previously. I think many of us would say, you know when you see it, but is there a way that you think about it? Or are there core characteristics or elements that that you, you find in a founder that you could articulate to us and say, Hey, here’s somebody who’s really got that mission driven orientation.
You want to take that one and
I do think it’s a mix of tangibles and intangibles, right, like you say sometimes do when you I think the one thing is mission driven founders, you know, tend to know what they know When not pretend like they don’t know stuff they don’t know. And that authenticity, right? So they know the areas I’m not great at. So I’m going to supplement here there’s the areas where I know a better than anybody else. So even if you tell me hey, this is wrong I so it’s deep conviction in the pieces they know they know and not pretending like to know everything. So I think that’s a big hallmark of just, you know, genuine people they know they’re, they’re very aware, self aware of those things. And yeah, so I would say that, but a lot of it is intangibles because you know what we were having lunch with, you know, Munger, not so long ago. And it was amazing, because I asked him, I said, What’s so what’s so more difficult now than it used to be investing in you know, what he said, says, everyone’s become a great storyteller now goes to yc. Everyone goes to college learning how to storyteller that didn’t used to be the case 3040 years ago, right, like some people had knew it, but not everybody. Now. It’s clear. And so everyone becomes great, you know, saying things that sound machine driven and all that stuff. So a lot of it is not just exactly what they say, but how they say it, and how, how authentic they are in that. So I thought that was
perfect. Wesley, you talked before about sort of the 100 Year Vision for Google search, is that something you’re looking for, as well, and the founders that you’re meeting with, whether it be Canva, or some of these other examples, kind of, you need to see that short term trigger that that shows you that a business is working, but then also that long term path toward monopoly monopoly.
It was 100 year vision on Google the company not so much the Google search, that’s that’s the that’s a nuanced right there, that makes it really interesting, right? Because the, there’s a lot of founders that say, Oh, I’m gonna start with a small area. And if like, you know, that small area succeeds, and I’ll pivot or change, or I’ll go into a bigger I call them dominant role companies, right, a lot of dominoes have to fall into place. And if like, the one missing Domino, or like, you know, something falls ahead of time, then, you know, the, you don’t see that whole sort of domino sculpture like sort of play out, right. And those are wonderful boy. But the mission driven founders sort of say, like, we this, we’re starting here, not a lot of things have to fall in place, but because people will find out that technology isn’t ready, or because we’re building this long, you know, this long game, you know, Google had had all these unique insights to build a lot of their server and structure in house, right, they, you know, they were making their own RAM at one point, because, you know, they were designing their own architecture to make servers faster. And that’s how Google had this amazing ability to continue serving up search results in a very, very short amount of time as faster twice as fast or three times as fast as some of the best competitors. Because most of Google’s expertise and engineering has been focused on reducing latency and making the speed of the search faster, whereas everybody else was spending time in fantasy football. So it was one of those things where they understood this long game they were playing and all these inflection points, not that all the dominoes have to fall in place at the start in the small area. So that’s that’s the nuance that we look for, is there truly a bunch of inflection points, the foreigner articulates to us in what they’re building that this? What exists 10 years from from now is very different, or even five years from now is very different than what exists today. Like, Could you have imagined Google being one of the biggest, you know, sort of phone offering system providers today disrupting a bunch of other things, but first started, probably not. But that was an inflection point. And that was part of Google’s mission, you know, that they drilled in everybody’s head, organize the world’s information, make it universally accessible, that was, you know, the phone is one way of doing it such a big mission. Right, but it wasn’t, you know, search. At the beginning, was YouTube part of search, like, you know, was, well, you know, there’s a lot of user generated content, let’s help organize it. And YouTube became a part of Google, right? Because that fit the mission really well. I was in some of those meetings, as they were discussing, whether bring YouTube onto other Google’s vision and the mission and was part of 100 year planet. So we look for founders like that, right? There’s just there’s, there’s thinking is just so big that like, you kind of sit there and go, Wow, like, what if what they’re saying comes true, there’s a world truly change? And if the answer is yes, you know, becomes a highly valuable company.
Hey, go what? What’s the operating model post investment with your founders? And is it the same for each of you? Or you know, do you do you both have your own approach and cadence
for helping with the founders once we invest? Correct? Yeah, yes. What’s investment? Yep. Look, yeah. So for us, Look, we’re not a huge team. When we when we invest with founders, you get us, you get Wesley and I get both of us Wesley’s this amazing product, you know, expert, and he’s built some of the most iconic products at Google. And so depending if the founder is really struggling with product stuff, I mean, it’s, it’s Wes is going to be on the phone with them often. Right. And for me, it’s really go to market. I’ve advised some of some amazing companies and worked on all different kinds of go to market strategies from pricing to thinking about landing your first big customers to expanding that flywheel. And so I get a lot more on go to market. And I would say we do think of ourselves as service to the founders. So it really depends what the founder needs. Sometimes the founder doesn’t need it as much and sometimes the founder needs a lot right? And sometimes the founder doesn’t know what they need and it’s more we say, here’s the things we can be helpful. Let us know if these are helped. feel to you. And we’ll do those we’ll do whispers for you we’ll call customers will do any day, but you’re not, the real thing that we focus to be is their first phone call. So if they’re struggling with something, and they’re thinking about something they know, they get the honest answer from us, and that we’ll do whatever we can to help them. Sometimes we can’t. And sometimes we can. But the one thing I would say is you just get both of us, we don’t we, we really just when we invest in a founder, we have a mentality of being team players about it. And we’ve been friends for a long time, and we love working together. So we figure out who can be most helpful to them at the time. So and,
and Wesley, with with your background, do you have a certain style or a degree to which you’re hands on with founders,
I think I have one guiding principle in this business, which is, you know, again, you know, we like the word we like the letters FPV. We named our fun not for that, because one of the things that stands for is phone call ventures that take a pointed out, you know, that’s what we optimize for, right? A lot of fun, a lot of fun, and leisure, create a supermarket services, you can get recruiting or PR help or whatever else, you know, we help founders through those areas. But this is not what we do. We say we’re really good at product, which is my expertise. And my edge and pegas edges go to market. I mean, she helped build, you know, one of the largest and turn around one of the largest organizations and built their enterprise go to market at Cisco, right. And you know, she’s helped many founders through that whether, you know, even before we partnered, she was an advisor at Canva, and visor guild advisor at sneek, helping them with their enterprise go to market motion. And every founder I check with that she worked with for buyer, right. And she’s like one of the best go to market people, she really understands the market motions. Hagen was former global CIO of Morgan Stanley, where she, you know, has this amazing network of global CIOs of like fortune 50 is on her speed dial and you know, can understand whether they’ll buy something or not, you know, well, one quick phone call can persuade them to buy something, or really, truly understand it’s not something they’ll ever spend any money on. So why waste your time, at that ground getting to that ground truth, when we do an investments helpful, what’s even more helpful is when you have peg is in your corner as a founder, and she can dial up the CIO of, you know, some important fortune 50 company and say, I thought that’s amazing founder, I know, usually don’t buy from Starbucks, but to take a bet on on this company, you know, all the problems you’ve been complaining about, to me on security or on it or on, on how to onboard employees or on payroll or whatever else like this, we think this thing solves you, it solves it for you, you know that that co pays attention given that, you know, she was gonna peg it, or he or she was one of those like, you know, colleagues in a prior for fers. And so, all those things, earn trust from the founder, sometimes we don’t take board seats, because that’s not what the founder wants. You know, it’s kind of like the old adage that Scott Cook, once told me, Scott Cook, being the former CEO, and one of the founders of Intuit, and he was mentioned by Bill Campbell, they have a famous trillion dollar coach set of books written about. And he goes, you know, he was asked to be a lot of, he was last asked me a lot of boards, he’s like, No, I want to be your advisor, not your board member, because I want to know the truth, and help you not know what you want me to know. And it’s one of those amazing stories, what uses hear going, like, I want that trust with the founder, we don’t want to be managed up to we don’t want to be, you know, on some board where they’re, they’re telling us what they think we want to hear versus what’s really happening in the company, because how can we help them solve, solve the challenges that they’re going through and make their journey, their journey less lonely if we don’t truly understand what journey they’re on? So that’s, that’s a part of our ethos, right? Like, you know, that’s how we work with founders, it’s not so much hands on, it’s really being first phone call. And that that isn’t about me solving, recruiting issues, that isn’t me about solving your PR how to do better PR, most of those are table stakes for lots of many things that other folks can do. But we truly built this deep relationship that, you know, I that matters so much to the founder, and it becomes sacrosanct. And one of the reasons we were one of the very few funds to be able to raise at the size we did last year, I’m someone you know, I would say, a majority of our money if not almost all the money is from endowments, charities and foundations, right? People doing good things for the world, art investors are mission driven as well. We have the Wallace Foundation, it’s one of the few we talk about, you know, that’s helping underprivileged kids get access to the performing arts right, what an incredible mission is the former leader digest money in their, their their LPs at us. And we remind each of our founders of our mission, we remind each of the key members of the mission of the folks money we manage pegging I remind each other every day, why we’re doing this, which is we’re helping these amazing organizations that are doing great things for the world succeed. And when that happens, you know, the founders tend to also have this trust in us that we’re doing right by them and they’re doing right by those organizations that we’re, we’re working with because, you know, again, that first phone call relationship, that understanding of that low that, that that how lonely that journey is for some of our founders and to add additional purpose into what they’re doing. That’s that’s a that’s a very horrible thing in my you know, what some of what we’re doing is working.
Leslie, was there any advice that you received from Bill Campbell that you disagreed with at the time that you’ve come to agree with or accept as time has passed?
I have to be honest with you as like a 22 year old Good, we’ll work. So the reason I got I was able to spend so much time with Bill Campbell’s I was served as Chief of Staff, right. And Bill would spend a lot of time helping me make Sergey a better, a better, you know, founder and a better manager and a better executive. And one of the you know, I still remember the story about that I killed a lot of my CEOs I work with the horrible when I was appointed, served as Chief of Staff was part time is still building the system then. So you know, everything was part time at Google. They help 47 job different jobs, either part time or full time capacity. When I was there, that he would, they’ll come with come to me one day, Phil Kent, Bill came to me one day and said, Wesley, like your your, your job now is to go through and sit down with Sergey at the end of every day. And he handed me a red highlighter, one hand and a green highlighter and the other and he secured. So that was Sergey and go through, go through his calendar with him. If asked one simple question, if it’s if it’s if the meeting drains his energy than you will, on his calendar, highlight, meeting red, if the meeting gave him energy? How did it green Your job is to get every red meeting off the counter, take it yourself, find another executive to do it, he can’t run the company. There’s any green meetings, I thought that’s like a chore. And I’m totally understand, I understand why you’re making me freaking go through his calendar with highlighters, right. And it was one of the most wise things I’ve ever heard of such an important piece of wisdom I ever received, because I would do you know, at the end of some of my positions at Google where I would, it was time for me to move on and do something else I would do that on my own calendar, I would highlight it red and green because it gives me energy to drain my energy. And look Phil said to me was when you do this for yourself, it will give you clarity on whether you’re having your the job is bring you joy or not. It’s not worth your time, the opportunity cost is too high. If you have too many rare meetings for too long. Gotta make a change that helped me go into venture capital writers operator, I’m like I’m getting too many read meetings have to go into venture capital. You know, what’s Google Ventures group big and I love them to death. But you know, it was very different. As a very different musician. When I joined it was four partners. When I left when it was a lot more water, read meetings on my on my on my calendar, it just gives you this amazing clarity of whether what you’re doing is truly bringing you joy. I have to say that you know, even though most of my meetings are green, I still do this exercise every once in a while just to make sure I’m doing the right thing. So so that’s one of those, like amazing Bill Campbell wisdoms, where I never understood as a 22 year old why I was like, Dude, that sounds like a weird chore, right? And then it turns out to be one of the most important exercises, I implement my own life, and has been so pivotal in my ability to have clarity, when I need to go make a career change or job change, like even even starting this fun, right? Like I sort of sat down and said, You know what, my M one is what I’m doing bring me joy? And the answer was, it’s time to not as much time to go do something else you’ve learned you’ve contributed, you’re not needed there anymore. Time to go build the next thing, right. And you know, if you’ve looked at my career, whether it was Google or was GV or it was, you know, fleeces, or even, even today, like, you know, it’s it’s such an amazing piece of wisdom, my founders do it today to you know, how they get clarity. If they’re still, if they need to hire a COO, you know, if there’s too many, or a Chief of Staff, there’s too many red meetings, this is a time you’re doing something wrong, or you need somebody to help and you know, offset some of that, who enjoys some of the things that you don’t enjoy doing, but it’s draining your energy more than you’re doing it. And it brings so much clarity to founders, you know, to myself, my own life and, you know, help me help Sergey become a better person, or a better manager, right? It was such an important, important clarity. But Never would I have imagined doing myself without Bill Campbell’s needling when I was you know, in my early 20s.
For both of you, there’s a lot of layoffs going on right now that the talent market is in flux. Wesley, you just mentioned talent. Is there any general advice that you have for your portfolio founders when it comes to sourcing, vetting and finding sort of the the right talent for the business at the right time.
And there’s there’s general talent, thinking about talent all the time, we’re not even just in this market. Look, I think the best, as we said the best founders are great at telling telling their vision and telling the story. And they tend to be amazing at finding some of the best talent, we definitely connect them to people. But it’s incredible, the the the correlation between amazing founders and the people they can attract on the team. So I think you can’t totally outsource it as a leader. That’s the number one thing if it’s a really critical role, like you need to do it, you can’t just outsource it. And I would say in this environment, look, there’s there’s when you think someone that can be a game changer for your business, you do it, it doesn’t matter when the environment is but you do have to think about, can you withstand shocks. And right now in the industry, we do, it’s not in a, hey, everything’s going perfectly and smooth sailing for a while it’s going to be bumpy. So you have to think your number one job as a CEO is to make sure you’re going to have enough money and you’re going to have enough time to get to that 100 year plan. And so you do have to be thinking, how critical are these? Where do you want to really invest and which critical people are really worth investing in right now versus the peanut butter approach of? Yeah, we’re doing more so let’s hire a little bit all over the place. So I think you have to be much more thoughtful in that than maybe you you didn’t have to be as much you should always be that way. But I think the last few years you had the luxury We have been able to make a lot more errors along the way. And it was fine. And I think now you have to be a lot more thoughtful and tactical on that. But the number one thing, look, I mean, both Wesley and I have had had large organizations 5000 plus people in our organization. At the end of the day, it’s the people that you have around you make the make the company and that’s why a lot of founders that spend a lot of time on really cultivating that leadership below them and the the people who share in that vision have the same type of tenacity and the same type of obsession, whether it’s about the product or about the customers and others is, are the ones that win. So I still think you should spend a ton of your time recruiting some of the best people
pagan Wesley, if we can feature anyone here on the show, who do you think we should interview and what topic would you like to hear them speak about?
I mean, look, my my favorite stories is Mel Perkins, Canada, and how lonely it was when 111 investors passed on or the resilience that she and Cliff had in building that company. I mean, she’s far off in Australia. I mean, she learned a kite board to go to a kite boarding camp. So you know just where she met Bill time got her got one of her first checks. It’s It’s incredible, right? Their resilience and their thoughtfulness about building a highly durable company. I mean, even how they hire right just because they have such different pedigrees. And a lot of investors passed on them because of the pedigree, right. And it wasn’t a Stanford wasn’t a Harvard degree, like, you know, they were from Perth. It was also an ESOP company get started at Perth, she was a yearbook instructor, he was a bricklayer, right? That’s a construction worker, they’re from Australia, right? A lot of people back in, you know, sort of 13 2012 2014 nearly as a candidate passed on them, because they were way too far up in the amount of resilience that you have to have in surviving all these knows all the rejection for something you so truly believe in. And then like, you know, watching, watching them succeed, and you know, sort of watching them grow and just build on these most iconic companies that customers still love. It’s an incredible story, you know, something that, you know, I cry every time I hear it. So I’m very fortunate to have a front row seat to it, both as an investor and as a board member, but it’s just, it’s incredible. That even hearing it from that story of resilience, highly inspirational,
amazing. And pega. Do you have any habits, tactics or techniques that are a secret weapon?
Oh, wow. Where I think I think one of them, as I didn’t think of it early on, but it ended up working out is, you know, I think in this industry, it’s a long, it’s, it’s not a short game, it’s a long game. And I think you got to treat people well. And you got to help people even when there’s nothing in it for you. And it did seem a fighting chance, added so much value over the years is all the people along the way you’ve been helpful, or you’ve been authentic with that will repay it back. And I think that’s the one thing in this industry, that’s really a hallmark is, the longer game you play, the more wins you have along the way and not having a zero sum strategy about it. So and I think a lot of people can forget that sometimes.
Amazing. And then finally here, what’s the best way for listeners to connect with you and follow along with FPV?
Or on LinkedIn? Yeah, we’re pretty easily.
Well, congrats on what what seems like a very successful fundraising. It’s a very difficult environment. We’ve heard great things from many founders about you both. And you know, I wish you the best with this fund. Thanks so much. Thank you.
All right, that’ll wrap up today’s interview. If you enjoyed the episode or a previous one, let the guests know about it. Share your thoughts on social or shoot them an email, let them know what particularly resonated with you. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that some of the smartest folks in venture are willing to take the time and share their insights with us. If you feel the same accomplishment goes a long way. Okay, that’s a wrap for today. Until next time, remember to over prepare, choose carefully and invest confidently thanks so much for listening
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