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Apr 16

From Operator to VC

Posted by: George Mulhern        

I have been into the martial arts for a number of years, though I started very late in life. I remember my first night in class…….. a 40 something VP from Hewlett Packard, standing there in my new uniform and White Belt. I was in between an 11 year Black Belt and a college age Brown Belt. It was a humbling and exhilarating feeling all at the same time. I was humbled by how little I knew, especially when the 11 year old gave me that Keanu Reeves/Matrix hand wave saying ‘bring it on’.  But, I was also really excited to be learning something completely new. I decided that night that you should always be a White Belt in something.

Well, here I am, a White Belt VC. I have been with Highway 12 Ventures for about six months and it has been a humbling and exhilarating six months. I learn something everyday from my partners, other VCs and the entrepreneurs that I get to interact with. I love it.   I will probably write more about my observations of moving into the Venture Capital world, but two things have really exceeded my (high) expectations.

First.  None of the VCs that I have met sleep in coffins during the day. Or suck the life blood out of their companies during the night.  (I may be caught up in the “Twilight” hype)  The openness and willingness to help newcomers like myself, the drive to help make their companies successful and the high level of integrity and ethics has been impressive and heartening.  Part of it may have to do with the inter-mountain region and the type of folks that choose to live and work here.

Second.  The energy, enthusiasm, drive and innovative spirit of the entrepreneurs that I have met has been exhilarating.  I knew it would be, but it is far exceeded my expectations.   Interacting and working with you pioneers is a privilege.  Being able to help in anyway is extremely rewarding.  And yes, I know that sometimes helping is just a matter of getting out of the way.

Martial arts provide a life long learning opportunity and when you achieve Black Belt rank, you are officially recognized as a beginner.  I think the world of Venture Capital and Entrepreneurism is similar in that respect.  I love it.


2 Responses to “From Operator to VC”

  1. avatar Bryan Gray says:

    George, thank you for this post. I am a Black Belt in two different styles of martial arts, and as you've said, when you attain Black Belt you realize how much you don't know! I think it's relevant for people to understand how you achieve a "Black Belt", because in our culture you go through the progressing ranks, white, yellow, orange etc. But originally the practitioners all started with white belts and over time, blood, sweat and sometimes tears, the belt got darker and more tattered, until one day it was "black". This is relevant today, to become anything worthwhile you need to spend a lot of time at it, whether it's starting a new business or learning to invest and knowing the pitfalls before they happen. It doesn't come easy and if it did the reward would not be as great.

  2. CP_Shankar says:

    George - while your story on blackbelt vs. whitebelt was interesting, you have a jaded view of VC's. After your 'honeymoon', you will soon begin to see the realities. A Brazilian philosopher once said - "to be surprised and to wonder is to begin to understand." I was a formerly in the VC business and now enjoying the trials and tribulations of an entrepreneur.

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