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Power to the Underdog

I try not to go into a first meeting with preconceived notions. It’s easy to misunderstand what’s really going on if you underestimate who someone is and what they’re capable of. 

I don’t care about pedigrees. I want to know what a person has done, and what they plan to do next.

A lot of people make assumptions about me based on my accent and where I went to school, but the real story says a lot more about me and how I see the world.

An early photo of the Built team after a big customer win.

I grew up in a small industrial town south of Birmingham, England called Redditch.

Knowing what it took for me to get from there to here... let’s just say I always bet on the scrappy underdog. 

In 2017, I flew to Nashville to meet Chase Gilbert for a one hour meeting.

After a serendipitous three hour dinner with his parents, I learned something about him that would have been impossible to learn on paper: he’s the kind of person who keeps executing on what he says he’s going to do.

Chase is non technical, didn't go to a "target" school and had no start up experience before founding Built, but I’d back him any day.

Chase laid out a much bigger vision than his early product hinted at. Beginning with construction loans for banks, he was going to build a construction finance platform to manage risk, maximize productivity and improve the customer experience. He walked me through every step along his product roadmap and understood every detail of his market. It was clear that he was prepared and he had an insatiable desire to succeed. I wasn’t able to invest at the time, but eventually I joined his team to work on finance, operations and go-to-market.

A Meaningful Meal - Dining With Astrix's Alon Jackson After Signing the Series A Term Sheet

CRV is all about investing in founding teams at their most nascent stages no matter where in the world they sprout up (see VC Firm CRV on Early Stage AI Investing).

Astrix’s co-founders, Alon Jackson and Idan Gour, are two of the most persistent and delightful founders I’ve ever met. My first meeting with Alon was while he and the team were in town attending the RSA Conference in San Francisco and immediately knew I wanted to work with him. 

Attending industry events and gleaning insights about what’s keeping smart founders (like Alon) and top CISOs up at night (see What’s New In Cybersecurity — Takeaways from the RSA Conference) is genuinely fun for me. Having discussions and paying attention to industry trends that might impact our startups (see The Convergence of Regulation and Innovation in AI Creates New Opportunities) is another thing that I enjoy doing. Listening and paying attention to non-obvious opportunities are things I love to do when I partner up with a company.

I knew Alon and I would make a great team when we got into an intense discussion regarding his views that non-human identities could be 100x bigger than their human counterparts. Alon’s points were conveyed with such conviction that we just had to be in business with him. CRV had the pleasure of leading Astrix’s Series A in 2023, and I joined the board. 

Picture Perfect - Signing the Finley Series A With Jeremy Tsui

Another area I’m passionate about, in addition to cybersecurity, is fintech. While we first met the Finley team in March 2021, it wasn’t until 2023, that we had a chance to lead the company’s Series A and join the board. Coming from a non-target school and an untraditional technology background, Jeremy isn’t your typical cookie cutter CEO, but he understands the debt market perfectly. 

Finley is building the operating system for the $1 trillion private credit market - starting with some of the best blue chip fintech companies in the United States and moving upmarket into household lending names. 

In Crew You Move Forward Together, One Stroke at a Time

Rowing is a silly sport which I love. You go backwards really slowly and it’s boring to watch, but the relationships you build are unbelievable. 

I started rowing when I was in middle school. I couldn’t shoot or kick a ball, but rowing seemed easy enough: pull as hard as you can for six minutes and try not to fall into the water! Crew opened new doors for me. I rowed on the Harvard team for four years.

You spend all your time with the same people in a small boat; you literally can’t do it yourself, and if you’re not in sync, things go awry. 

There’s a direct correlation between how hard you work and how fast you go. There’s a metaphor in there somewhere. It’s also important to genuinely like the people you partner with because life’s too short to not have fun.

Pals for Life - She May Be My Little Sister, but She's One of My Biggest Champions
 I recently got married. It’s too bad she doesn’t have a sense of humor.