Some Things Change And Some Things Stay The Same

A bit of personal news for readers of this Haystack blog — as it was announced earlier this week, starting Monday (tomorrow) I will become a Venture Partner with Lightspeed Venture Partners. I will continue to run Haystack independently as a single-GP seed fund. You can read more about the announcement in this blog post by Nakul Mandan, a long-time friend and current partner at Lightspeed.

With a change this big, it is important I briefly and clearly share some thoughts on the move:

First, I will continue to run Haystack independently and make seed investments. I believe seed is a collaborative stage of startup investing and fully intend to continue my history of writing relatively small checks into very early-stage companies. This is what I know best and what I love to do.

Second, I must commend and thank all of my friends and mentors at GGV Capital. Three years ago, they created an unusual opportunity for me to continue to build Haystack while joining them as a Venture Partner. All of the MDs at the fund had been personal investors across my previous funds and mentored me in the craft they have nearly perfected. While they treated me as if I were their partner, they also treated me as if I was a founder in their portfolio — and that is a story I expect to share with founders in the future who consider partnering with GGV. Changes like this are hard because they involve people I greatly admire — in particular, it was some of the MDs @ GGV and Nakul from Lightspeed who picked me up at a down moment and encouraged me to start a fund, eventually called Haystack — and I know in the future there will be many deal collaborations with GGV.

Third, I am excited by the opportunity created for me at Lightspeed. I have known many folks on the investment team over the years (some even before they joined), and I have worked on deals with some of the founders as Haystack companies have graduated from seed to Series A and beyond. Like GGV, the partnership at Lightspeed demonstrated creativity and conviction in believing in me to bring me aboard. For that belief, I am grateful and eager to get to work.

Finally, as I process the week behind me and all the notes from old friends and colleagues, I am reminded of a line a fellow kitchen colleague told me many years ago. In a previous life, I had wanted to explore making cooking my profession. I even worked as a professional cook. I was obsessed with books like Kitchen Confidential and Heat. He shared tons of kitchen stories and I was excited to soak them all up. One thing he said has always stuck with me, paraphrased: “When you’re in the kitchen, you just put your head down and work — in five years, you can look up and see what’s changed.” As I look back on my short investing career, I wired my first investment with Haystack (into Hired) in March 2013 — five years ago.

I wrote about this encounter a few years ago here. In particular, I would highlight the end passage:

I haven’t put my head down over the past four years, as I’ve used my blog and online networks to share ideas and learn about industries I have no former experience with, but in figurative terms, I have put my head down, worked at startups, help run deals, helped hire people, helped others raise money, helped others guide to exit, and so on and on. It feels good to just be helpful, if even an ounce helpful, and it’s a great way to bootstrap learning. I’ll likely put my head down more this next year. And, then, I will hit five years, and then, I will really look up and see what is all around me. The magical part of about the Bay Area is that fortunes can change quickly. A lot can happen in a year. And sometimes, there’s only one direction to go.

The magical part of the Bay Area is at play. And for that, I am grateful.