Happy Birthday @sether

My partner Seth Levine turns 40 today. I’ve known and worked with him for 11 years. It’s been awesome.

My first memory of Seth is him showing up in our office at 100 Superior Way with red velour platform shoes. There wasn’t much I could say since I was probably wandering around barefoot or in sandals at the time. But it made an impression – I knew he’d always be more stylish than me.

Seth started working with me in the fall of 2001. This was a truly shitty time for me for a variety of reasons, some having to do with the implosion of many of the companies I was an investor in due to the collapse of the Internet bubble, some having to do with 9/11, and some having to do with the overall stress on the system from lots of directions. Seth didn’t seem to mind that most of our conversations started with me saying something like “well – this is all fucked up, but I need your help on …”

I remember when I realized I was going to learn a lot from working with Seth. We were working together on Service Magic. He’d dig in deep and really understand what was going on. I had a pretty strong sense of it using my jedi number mind trick. But when I really wanted to understand something about their extremely highly analytical business, I just asked him. And he always knew the answer.

There came a point early in our work relationship when I realized I completely trusted his judgment. I knew he’d get whatever work done that was put in front of him, and this was good, but it was really table stakes for being a VC. Seth quickly took it to the next level and within a few years we were working as partners on things, even if we theoretically weren’t partners. That would change – in 2007.

In 2006 we started talking about creating Foundry Group. The early conversations were clear – this would be an equal partnership, not a “Brad thing” with other people working for me. The last thing I wanted was a hierarchy of any sort, especially since I’d fully embraced the concept of a network in all aspects of my life. Seth embraced this and on day one when we started Foundry Group was an equal partner with me.

Five years later I realize how unbelievably lucky I am to have three equal partners – Seth and our partners Ryan McIntyre and Jason Mendelson. We are best friends, love working together, and treasure each moment of life that we get to spend together.

Seth – your 40th birthday is a special one. I remember 40 like it was – well – almost seven years ago – and it was the beginning of what has been an awesome decade so far for me. I’m thankful that I got to spend so much time with you when you were in your 30s and I now get to spend so much time with you while you are in your 40s. It’s going to be an amazing time!

Happy birthday @sether.

  • James Mitchell

    When people hyperlink someone’s name, why do they always link to their Twitter account, rather than their web page/blog?

    • Seth’s blog is at http://www.sethlevine.com and it’s well worth the read, he’s awesome. And now that I know his birthday is today he’s even more awesomer (same birthday as mine :-)).

      • James Mitchell

        I know where his blog is, I read his blog, and I found about his blog from the link on your blog.

        The question is why you (and almost everyone else) link to someone’s Twitter page rather than their blog/website?

        • I can’t speak for everyone else. I thought I answered it for me but I’ll try again. I know that his blog is listed in his twitter header so I figured by linking to his twitter account I’d also be easily pointing anyone who cared at his blog.

    • Since his blog link is in the header of his twitter page I figure I get two for one with this approach!

    • DaveJ

      I think the real answer is that it’s easier to type. Instead of a hyperlink, you just type @ and a handle.

  • Good friends are invaluable. And sort of unrelated, this post reminds me again that you guys have done a great job in not “growing for growings sake” keeping the same number of investments and partners year after year. You guys are content with your pace, which is great. But I am just wondering if this mentality conflicts with the goals of your portfolio companies and VC in general, which is after big gains and hyper growth. Or if you think about the two mental models you employ yourself and onto others.

    • I don’t think they conflict at all since our goal (and job) is simple – our LPs give us a box of money and our job is to give them back a much bigger box with much more money in it. To do this our goal is to invest in companies early that have enormous growth and value creation. We believe that the input side of the business doesn’t scale well (at least not for us / with the approach we are taking) so we can accomplish our goal without growing.

  • Mac

    And, he can dance and rap. The complete package. 🙂 Many have benefited from the team you both created. Continued success. Thanks

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  • I think the concept of an equal partnership really minimizes managerial overhead. Rather than spending a lot of time fighting over money, fees, etc., the equality frees up the investment team to do what investors want them to do: work with great entrepreneurs and build real value. The Foundry ethos was a real inspiration to us here at Kepha when we started. So, thank you!

    • Thanks Jo. It gets even more powerful when you decide never to grow. We made that decision at the beginning with the stated intention that every fund size would be the same, we’d never add a new partner, and we’d never add any junior people – it would just be the partners. That eliminates an entire another set of activities and management overhead that reflecting back over the past five years frees up an enormous amount of time to spend on what matters.

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