Backing a Great Entrepreneur / Person … and Helping His Shark Tank Dreams Happen

Backing a Great Entrepreneur / Person … and Helping His Shark Tank Dreams Happen

I’m not a hater. I always try to look on the bright side. Hands down, I’m an optimist. It’s hard to be an entrepreneur if you are not. Cynicism may be a way of life for some, even a sport for others in this always highly connected but too often low touch world. But, in my opinion there is nothing noble about being cynical. Anyone can do it, it doesn’t take much effort and in my experience it rarely leads to victory. Therefore I am an entrepreneur and venture capitalist that likes ABC’s hit reality show Shark Tank. Because I try to look for the good in it, not the bad. Shark tank can help to promote positive aspirations in people while educating a little, around the edges. However, is Shark Tank indicative of life as an entrepreneur? Not really. Is it reality? NO! No five minute snippet on TV can even begin to tell a tiny part of the multiple year saga that starting most companies entails. Is it reality TV? Yes! Is it story-telling with slivers of truth in order to make money and sell a product? Yes and Yes! Indulge me a little… It is a bit ironic and then in another way, totally not, that the sharks are being entrepreneurs themselves and filling a market with robust demand by promoting an even less than half-baked view of what entrepreneurship really is through the show. I trust that they know this themselves, through their own experiences as successful entrepreneurs. And speaking firsthand… I enjoyed my 10 minute plus conversation with Marc Cuban, that got whittled down...

Advantages of Being an Underdog: The Top 3 Qualities I Look for in an Entrepreneur

One thing that really gets me fired up is feeling like I’m an underdog.  I’ve felt this way most of my life, actually, regardless of the successes that may have come.  I need challenge.  I enjoy the fight.  Without a battle the wind goes out of my sails, and so sometimes I even create tension just to experience that positive conflict that helps my passions rise.  Reflecting on why being the underdog is so important to me, I’ve found that there are three fundamental qualities that an underdog develops in the quest for victory:  the will to win, the ability to lead and rally a team, and big vision.  These qualities have been essential to me on my own journey of entrepreneurship.  And therefore are the qualities I look for when investing.  Let me share with you what each of them means to me.  First, though, a bit of context. This is me as a high school basketball player.  At 5’8″ and 165 lbs. I felt like an underdog in every game.  This is Scott Pollard, 6’11” and 278 lbs., who you see here blocking Shaq (Scott is that big).  I played against Scott in high school, and remember one particularly painful moment when he dunked all over me.  As he landed, pounded his chest, and screamed in victory to the crowd, I remember feeling small and insignificant.  Nothing that I could have done would have blocked that dunk.  Sometimes you aren’t built to win, or at least it appears that way.  But if you are an underdog you have to find a way.  You’ve got to hustle and...

An Introspective Look Back: Peak Ventures Year 1

How do you celebrate your birthday?  It used to be cake, music and parties for me.  Now I prefer quieter and slower moments of reflection to look back and think about people I care about and the things we have accomplished together. During these moments I also account for the hard lessons learned in order to make sure I don’t lose the valuable impact people and experiences with them, have had on me.  A month or so ago, we celebrated the first birthday of Peak Ventures, the official closing of Fund 1.  I wish I could somehow give you cake and presents!  But in the spirit of reflection, here is something that’s hopefully useful:  some lessons further internalized & memories from our first year together. First, some background. Peak Ventures began on a solid foundation, namely 21 investments in what we now call ‘Fund 0’ that were made beginning in 2009–all in preparation for the raise of our official Fund 1. These deals have yielded great returns and are a testament to the strength of Utah entrepreneurship. A byproduct of this success is the lessons learned backing tech founders, including insights into governance, the types of entrepreneurs we love to back, raising rounds & exiting. The returns–coupled with the solid year-over-year performance of Peak Capital Partners–pushed us to formalize our venture activity in Peak Ventures. These combined forces made the road-show for Peak Ventures fun and effective, helping us to raise $23M in commitments within a matter of weeks. Utah seems to be a magnet for remarkable people finding their way back to the state and leaning in, and...

Our Investment in ObservePoint

Today, John Pestana and Rob Seolas announced a series A raise for their latest venture, ObservePoint.  Peak Ventures is proud to back these innovators in tech alongside Pelion Venture Partners.  Johnny P is a close friend, and in addition to enjoying the camaraderie as entrepreneurs across the board table, I equally enjoy spending time with him outside of building our businesses.  For Peak Ventures, backing entrepreneurs like John and Rob is a clear decision due to the caliber of people they have attracted, the size of opportunity they are tackling, and the meaningful traction they have achieved at Observe Point. Some have asked me to clarify Peak Ventures’ investment thesis, questioning whether we consider ourselves seed investors. To that end, and in the context of our investment in ObservePoint, here are some thoughts…. People first, so we double down on the individual(s).  When you meet with the Peak Ventures team, we’ll be as interested in learning about you as we are the nuts and bolts of your company. In fact, our most important data points are about you personally— how you came to your idea, what you did before, and your commitment to seeing it succeed. This provides the foundation of our investment thesis. By comparison, when it comes to the founder of ObservePoint, we’ve seen him lay the foundation, erect the walls, build-out the home, and sell it at an amazing return! Of course, I’m referring to Omniture. Part of the investment thesis in ObservePoint is simply doubling down on a proven tech leader in Utah. Lessons learned over the last decade of personal investing.  At a recent event, I was surprised when someone commented that...

Our Investment in Tute Genomics

I’ve always been super passionate about early-stage startup companies that can change the world, and I believe one of those companies is Tute Genomics.  I remember the first time I was exposed to Reid and what he envisioned to do with Tute.  He had created the world’s biggest genomics database and coupled it with the software to use it that was six times faster than anything else.  This would bring personalized insight into medicine, and customized products made right for the individual.  This could change the world!  It was at a pitch meeting with several investor groups and I immediately raised my hand and exclaimed, “I’m in!” That was the first time we invested and now Peak Ventures Fund I is doubling down. Reid has proven himself to be just the type of entrepreneur that we love to back:  He’s scrappy and determined to change life for the better for millions of people–and audacious enough to believe he can do it.  Our thesis is that Tute Genomics’ technology + many vertical segment opportunities + market momentum + inspiring leadership + the Peak Ventures team = 10x...
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