The field of impact measurement has evolved meaningfully over the past 20–30 years, most recently with PRI as an investor framework, UNSDGs as a general benchmark, and the B Labs BIA as an operator assessment. For the private sector, the tools have been developed largely with public markets and growth stage organizations in mind.
Understandably, these mechanisms don’t fully account for the challenges, opportunities, and successes of earlier stage, venture-backed companies — because early-stage startups are uniquely and singularly focused on one thing: survival.
Obvious invests in companies with impact baked into their business models, whose products and services propel…
Now that the rain has finally closed the chapter on California’s vicious 2020 fire and smoke season, a little reflection is in order from a longtime resident. Especially as friends and family ask me why I continue to live here.
First, some context. In 2001, I road tripped from Connecticut to California to live the dream. The attitudes were perpetually optimistic, epic nature was accessible year-round, and anyone could build houses anywhere. The magical possibilities were infinite.
Nearly 20 years later, it’s clear the California vision sold to me — and millions of others — was an unsustainable, false bill…
“I don’t think of myself as a ‘marketing person’. I’m a scientist! But marketing matters. Learning to tell the story of Recursion, to share a truthful narrative that highlights the potential of our company, was one of the most important things I could do as CEO.”
Christopher Gibson, co-founder and CEO of Recursion Pharmaceuticals, could teach a master class in storytelling for technical founders. When Recursion first started in 2013, their idea of rapidly accelerating drug discovery through a computational biology-led approach was either ignored or met with fierce skepticism by Pharma, potential investors, and prospective employees of all stripes.
Though I’ve worked in venture capital for the past four years, I still identify as an outsider. The majority of grand VC musings today from the industry’s most visible figures don’t align with my values. Investors have become known for funding products and services that create more systemic problems than the conveniences they provide.
But today, I’ve never been more optimistic for the future of venture capital. With high-flying valuations vanishing, we must engage earnestly with companies around resiliency, durability, and purpose. With gig workers providing for our basic life necessities, we can’t help but imagine how technology could remove…
My non-venture colleagues have been passing around an essay from Marc Andreessen, one of the most visible figures in Venture Capital, titled IT’S TIME TO BUILD. The commentary has been a combination of ambivalence and abhorrence.
While provocation was the point (“I expect this essay to be the target of criticism…”), I still believe his well-intentioned essay missed the Marc due to a few too many platitudes (“…it all failed — no Western country…was prepared”), outdated philosophies (“Why not educate every 18 year old [at university?]”), and a lack of reflective, human values.
“Daddy, the construction workers need to work faster.”
“What do you mean, kiddo?”
“We need more houses. There are too many homeless people living in tents.”
“Yeah. It’s complicated.” [Fighting back tears.]
The root causes of the humanitarian, health, and moral crisis deepening on our streets are decades-long in the making and overwhelming in number, complexity, and interconnectedness. It has morphed into a beast of a systems-level challenge that includes unintended policy consequences, selective law enforcement, poorly planned civic infrastructure, spiraling labor costs, ill-supported social services, and the decline of religious institutions — to name a few.
What’s troubling is…
I wanted to go for something a little less sexy: education.
Specifically, one that tackled big issues while stretching beyond the echo chambers and old debates, and to do so via experimental formats, vibrant art and photography, and a solutions orientation. I reached out to Manami Kano at The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and in short order we had funding and a strategic partner.
What we didn’t have was an editor.
father of daughters. portfolio services + marketing @obviousvc.