This Doesn’t Seem Like You
June 10, 2022
“This doesn’t seem like a thing you’d do”
“What do you even know about venture capital?”
“Are you serious?”
When I told my friends and family about my entry into venture capital, those were some of the frequent responses. They are fair and reasonable reactions. I’ve been a designer my entire career, and the top skills needed to be a designer don’t usually include business or financial acumen. And vice versa for venture capitalists, the top skills don’t include understanding color theory or typography. Yet that assessment says more about our perception of what people are “expected” to be based on their career, than what actually is valuable (but that’s an entirely different topic).
Such a dramatic departure from someone who makes things look pretty for a living might seem uncharacteristic or even foolish, if it weren’t completely predictable. Over the last thirty years my journey has been littered with uncommon pursuits. Whether it’s participating in a international beard growing contest, photographing the NFL, writing and acting in films, or co-founding a startup, much of my career is made up of seemingly random experiences. For the sake of a challenge, or altered perspectives, or just personal enrichment, but all in the hope that I might use whatever I participate in, deepens my empathy and understanding of the world. And that is still truth, with one major difference: I no longer want to accumulate for myself, but rather to provide those opportunities to others.
There is less road remaining for me to travel than the miles I’ve already wandered. That’s just a fact of aging. I’m sure in some way that fuels my urgency to do something more meaningful - and daresay impactful - now, then wait on the uncertain future. My career has been spent on myself, on temporary outcomes, and personal pursuits, but it’s time to do more. The horizon time progresses toward is not meant for me, but for my children and their generation. Right now the destination is more obstructed than it is welcoming.
For the sake of them and every person who inherits the debt of our inaction - on inequality, on inequity, on energy and climate, on health, on inclusion, and on and on - I feel I must do something now. I’m not interested in scrambling backwards to relive and revive the past, nor am I interested in waiting for someone else to do what is right and necessary.
While it might seem my skills are antithetical to the venture capital world, I think they are precisely what might help transform an industry in dire need of renewal. For decades we turned a motto, originally meant to keep developers on task and improving their code deployment, into a mantra for all startups: “move fast and break things”. And we have moved so fast that we’ve failed to consider how we are breaking things. While we are busy widening and repairing and beautifying the road, talking glowingly of the improvements and advances, the destination remains the same.
When Mark proposed that we begin Renew to address these systemic issues, and focus on Impact and historically excluded founders, it was exactly the avenue to address my growing dissatisfactions. It is another new path to wander, to discover ways to use my skills and expertise to benefit and support founders who want to improve their world. I could dismantle the illusion that my personal convictions were a worthy substitute for collective action, while meaningfully contributing to a future that sought to renewing outcomes. Explore new destinations with people pleading for change.
You are the sum total of everything you've ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot - it's all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
– Maya Angelou