Often times in our line of work (or any investment area for that matter), there is a sense that making investments is what our business is all about. Investments are sexy. Investments receive lots of attention. Investments make the participants feel good. Investments are entered into with the naive optimism of the possible. We think about what could be, the bright future, the lives we impact, the industries transformed. We think about building a big company with tons of employees and legions of adoring customers. We think about making boat loads of money. We think about changing the world.
And then reality sinks in. Tech is hard to build. Team takes longer to hire than anticipated. Partners aren’t living up to expectation. Operational challenges are hindering execution. Product release gets a lukewarm response. Competition is heating up. The economy sucks. Cash is running a bit too tight for comfort. Internal tensions surface.
It’s during these trying times while experiencing the real shit that inevitably goes down along the journey that I’ve come to internalize that our business is not about making investments, it’s about building companies; and if there is anything that I’ve learned to appreciate over the last three years it’s that building companies from a standing start of nothing is damn damn hard. In our business, making the investment is the easy part. Building something productive and of tangible value is the hard part. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think about the sage words my father-in-law once shared with me: “deploying capital is really easy; it’s getting it back that’s hard.”
That is why today I am so excited for my friend, former roommate, and portfolio CEO Eli Portnoy and his co-founder and partner John Hinnegen who announced that their company Thinknear has been bought by Telenav. Eli and John are exemplary entrepreneurs, having started the Company two years ago with one idea, recognizing an unforeseen pain through their own early experience, pivoting into a completely new model based upon that experience, and nailing execution so much so that they became invaluable to their strategic partner who felt compelled to buy the Company outright. It was not an easy ride by any stretch, but it was always purposeful, educational, exciting and fun. I am blessed to have had a front row seat as a board member watching Eli, John and team build a truly impactful company that will drive value creation for years to come.
While I imagine every exit feels pretty good, this one will always hold a special place in my heart. First and foremost, it is our first exit at IA Ventures representing a major milestone in the life of our young fund. Second, it is the first exit that I have been a part of, the experience of which has been incredibly valuable to my growth as a young VC. And finally, it is incredibly special that this milestone transaction was made possible by someone whom I’ve known as a close friend since my first day of college more than 12 years ago when I walked into the dorm room that Eli and I shared for the next year and a half.
Congrats to Eli, John and the entire Thinknear team on a job incredibly well done. As us Hebrews like to say; may you go from strength to strength!