Hometown: Nashville, TN
Desert island game: Golf…or Codenames!
Six-word life story: Nashville, Chapel Hill, Oxford, District of Columbia.
- What is your role with MassLight?
I mentor our partner startups on business strategy, fundraising, and operations. I’m also on the panel that evaluates pitches from prospective companies.
- How did you find your way into venture capital funding and business strategy mentorship?
After graduating from business school in England, I worked as a consultant at McKinsey; I advised businesses on strategy as my 9 to 5, and I also taught the course for new associates. At some point, I felt like I could have more impact building something new with a clear mission, so I went on to co-found Pacify, a telemedicine startup primarily supporting low-income women. We were MassLight’s first Build-for-Equity partner - one of the best decisions we made at Pacify - and after Pacify was acquired in 2019, I stayed on at MassLight as an advisor.
- What excites you most about MassLight’s Build-for-Equity program?
The greatest aspect of Build-for-Equity has to be the opportunity it gives to non-technical founders. I was there! The elements of engineering, marketing, and business support create an alignment that is not common in venture funding–or tech.
- What’s the best part of working with startups?
I love the sense of urgency at startups, and I love the rush that everyone on the team feels when a solution finally starts to scale. That energy is fantastic. The Build-for-Equity program was vital to that acceleration at Pacify, so I love to see other founders step into the excitement.
- You’ve been hard at work all morning and it’s time for some fresh air. Where do you take a break?
I’ve got two boys under 5, so I wish there were more breaks! Most of the time, I’m on the playset with them. In the evenings, I’ve played a bunch of rec soccer in DC leagues.
- Name a surprising skill or experience of yours that plays into mentoring small businesses.
Fly fishing. Many of my fondest memories are from trout streams, and a lot of the skills and approaches required are analogous to business. It’s hard work - you put in your hours on the river - but it’s not a feat of brute force. You have to listen and watch before you act. And most applicably: when it clicks, it’s profoundly easy, and it has a natural, repeatable rhythm.
- What qualities in partner startups do you look for?
I think a track record of execution is underrated in startup land. People look for big ideas, but most startups don’t succeed because they had some elusive idea no one else ever contemplated. A genuinely compelling idea in a big market is necessary but not sufficient when we review Build-for-Equity applications.
- If you could meet any historical character, who would you meet?
Abraham Lincoln, assuming we could chat for a bit.
- As someone who co-founded an acquired startup, what’s a piece of advice you would give early-stage founders (or aspiring entrepreneurs?)
I generally avoid giving advice; so often, we overlook the element of luck that factored into the success of a certain choice. Also, what worked for us may doom another startup in a similar situation.
But there’s a general orientation that I recommend: “Have strong opinions, loosely held.” It’s just a way of summarizing the startup mentality. Without courageous convictions, you won’t keep at it when it’s tough, but if you can’t pivot when the facts change, you’ll run out of time and money.
10. What's one book everyone should read?