I recently had an inspiring conversation with Brooke Hammerling, the Founder of Brew Media Relations, where she shared stories about the Web 1.0 era in Silicon Valley.
The common theme among her mentors, in particular, Larry Ellison and the late Dave Goldberg, was that they always gave time.
“You never felt like you were asking anything burdensome,” she said.
The same genuine desire to pay it forward laid the foundation for Adam Besvinick’s career.
The catalyst for Adam, now a Principal at Deep Fork Capital, was a cold email to Chris Sacca, who’s recognized as one of the greatest investors of our time.
Despite the message containing all of the ‘cold-email errors’ Adam cautions against today, Chris responded promptly offering to answer three questions.
As Adam shares in his blog, he asked about the best way to get operating experience, the difference between traditional venture funds and seed-oriented funds, and Chris’ take on corporate VCs.
Chris responded with in-depth answers, and the two have been friends ever since.
Chris has always been incredibly helpful, a strong advocate, and an insanely valuable reference.
Adam spent from March 2011 to May 2013, his time at Harvard Business School, fostering his relationship with Chris. In addition to communicating with him via Twitter and email, Adam maintained a list of rising startups for Chris and worked on projects for his portfolio companies at Lowercase Capital.
He cites Chris reaching out to him about the first project as “a critical moment validating the work he’d been doing up until that point.”
Today, Adam advises aspiring founders and investors who are similarly trying to build relationships not to get discouraged when their efforts go unnoticed.
The person you’re reaching out to may not respond to every email or tweet. They aren’t ignoring you. They’re just busy. Don’t let this deter your efforts and continue to follow up in a helpful fashion.
You can learn more about Adam’s story reaching out to Chris, and 150 other founders, angel investors and venture capitalists, in his blog post: From Jefferies to Wanelo: A 2.5-Year “Job Search.” It’s a great read!
Four years later, the pay it forward mentality that shaped Adam’s journey is the driving force behind his work investing and working with founders at Deep Fork Capital.
As an investor and friend, he’s adamant about taking as many meetings as possible; Cultivating and nurturing relationships is the core of his work.
A third of the investments Adam’s made over the last year have stemmed from cold emails, random encounters, or introductions from old friends and alumni.
It’s a small world. Keep your relationships open and cultivated.
“In New York and Silicon Valley everyone is one degree away from each other. The more helpful you can be, the more opportunities you set yourself up for,” he said.
“Even if it’s something little, it goes a long way; Especially in such a tight knit environment.”
Adam’s highest goal as an investor is to be ‘on-demand’ for his founders.
“I’m always a text away from jumping on a call,” he shared.
The collaboration is born out of working with founders who become friends rather than solely partners.
Adam cites Bijan Sabet, a General Partner at Spark Capital, in saying that the most exciting meetings for investors are when they’re eager to work alongside the team to build the product.
He describes them as conversations where milestones and metrics, despite being important, take a backseat to who a founder is an individual; When genuine conversation overrides a standard list of questions.
These meetings are brought to life by founders who Adam describes as possessing a “symbiotic relationship” with their product or service.
He highlights Sahil Lavingia, the Founder of Gumroad, as the perfect example. After struggling to find a way to sell a pencil icon he created online, Sahil built a digital platform for creators to sell directly to their audiences. Three years later, hundreds of thousands of products are sold on Gumroad.
Partnering with founders like Sahil – who live and breathe their work – is critical to Adam and his partner Tim Komada, Deep Fork Capital’s founder and managing partner, playing an active role in their portfolio companies.
“We want to get our hands as dirty as the founders want us to,” he shared.
“We want the companies to reach out to us and give us homework too.”
Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss:
- The core lessons Adam’s learned from Chris Sacca
- The immeasurable value of relationships, plus how to maintain them
- Why he strives to take every meeting
- How he’s achieving his goal to be a ‘Dr. On Demand’ for his portfolio companies
- An inside look into the future of Virtual Reality