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Is venture capital a lonely job?

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine that recently became a venture capitalist.

We discussed his take on venture capital. We talked about a wide range of issues like investing style, interesting startups, entrepreneurs etc.

The one thing that caught my attention in particular was his sense that life as a VC can be a lonely job. 

In his previous career he was an excutive running a good sized organization. It was a tightly knit unit. Everyone moved in the same direction and with a single purpose. Every waking, breathing moment is dedicated to moving the ball forward. Together.

His point was that as a vc, well, life isn’t quite like that. A vc has a portfolio of companies to care about. A venture capitalist spends a significant amount of time meeting new people from a wide range of interests and thinking about new ideas & new markets. And inside a partnership, the team is a group of peers working together but also working on very different things at the same time. And at times, yes, partners divide and conquer inside a firm.

I can see his point but I think it varies on the individual, the firm and the stage of your career. I’ll take those in reverse order.

1. Stage. A new venture capitalist isn’t on any boards and hasn’t made any investments. And most likely she/he won’t make any investments for a year perhaps. I’ve heard of some new vc’s that didn’t make an investment until their 2nd year in the business. (I made my first investment within my first 6months but I don’t think that is typical) You certainly don’t want to rush in this business. So during that initial period of time, a new vc is helping out the partnership and thinking/finding new opportunities. All day. All night.

At some point that changes. The inbound calls, emails, SMS, meetings ramp. Big time. And most early stage venture capitalists tend to be active. So each board seat is a real commitment. (fwiw I’m on 7 boards right now)

2. Firm. Some firms are run in a structured fashion and maintain a hierarachy of sorts. Some are quite large. I’ve seen some firms with committees (e.g. software, datacom, etc). Other firms are smaller. At Spark we decided to have everyone based in one office in Boston. Even though our investments are all over the planet, we wanted to be together. We travel together and we goto each others board meetings. We make decisions together. We also dont’ make any significant decisions over email. We do it in person or worst case on the phone.

If I were to guess, I bet that VCs in larger firms may feel a more lonely at times vs vcs in smaller firms. Again, just a guess.

3. Individual. Ultimately this comes down to a very personal point of view. In my experience loneliness has little to do with physically being around others.

It’s about a connection.

It’s about connective tissue and a bond you form with your ideas, passion, your friends, your business associates, your family and your lovers.

So am I lonely? No. I’m not.

But I do understand why a new vc may feel that way. My guess with this particular person is that it’s just part of the early stages of his new career.

And he’ll have to see if this particular shoe fits. My gut says it will.