By @SimonCocking

John Frankel Early stage venture capitalist. Love working with energetic entrepreneurs working to change the world. Partner at ffVC @ffvc We support technology founders who are changing the way we interact with the world. 

Your background? What led you into what you do now?

I have always been a tech early adopter, and coded my first project at 16.  After graduation from Oxford, and a stint at Arthur Andersen, I joined Goldman Sachs for a two year stint, which turned into 21 years.  I helped build various businesses internally for GS and later worked on the trading floor covering hedge funds.

I started angel investing in December 1999 and found I had quite a knack for it.  When I left Goldman Sachs in 2008 in the depths of the economic crisis, I founded ff Venture Capital and we are now on our 4th fund, with 27 people in-house and still loving it.

ffVC – 1 min pitch, why are you guys awesome?

Did I say 27 people? We approach seed stage venture capital with an unique approach: the people and resources, our ”Acceleration Team”, to really help make a difference in getting companies on the right trajectory early on.

How was the last 12 months?

Crazy busy.  Added some great new companies to our portfolio, saw existing companies hit important milestones and added a few amazing people to the team.

On a macro note, we are really seeing a stronger acceptance in mainstream culture that the entrepreneurial economy is here to stay.

Anything you’d do differently?

Great question.  Venture is such a long term business that you can spend a lot of time second guessing yourself.  I wish I had invested in that company.  I wish I had not invested in this company.  Etc.  But, in reality you can’t waste cycles doing that.  Venture is all about being wrong to be right.  Taking risk and seeing what comes of it.  We have some great emerging companies in the portfolio and some wonderful global platforms that are emerging around them.  That being said, I think that there is little I would do differently.

What are trends you excited about for the future?

Crowdfunding and drones stand out as two worth talking about.  Crowdfunding is here to stay and will be just part of many businesses.  It democratizes the funding process by disintermediating the gatekeepers.  Will be very, very interesting to see how this develops.  Still in the early stages.

I believe where the drone space is now is analogous to where the auto industry was in the late nineteenth century.  There will hardware providers, software providers, service providers, regulatory information and services providers, and companies that are vertically integrated.  This is going to be a multi-billion dollar story real fast.

New York, pros and cons of working from there?

New York is an amazing town to work in.  We have the benefit of being the unofficial world headquarters for so many industries, such as media, advertising, finance, and fashion, that are ripe with talent and potential for disruption.  New York has also always been a beacon for the hungriest and most ambitious people from all over the world.  It is an extremely fertile ground to start your company.

On the con side: traffic comes out of nowhere,it is an expensive place to live, but I guess all cities are like that.

Early stage investor – what do you look for when investing?

Great team, with a big vision, and the hunger, passion and stamina to achieve it.

Tips to startups to succeed?

Read widely, and ignore most advice.  Go with your gut, but get to market early and test with real paying customers.

Life / work / online / offline how do you navigate a balance between these demands?

I likely do not.  My five kids will likely tell you I do not.  My wife of 32 years might tell you I do not.  But I am less insufferable when working, or that is what they tell me.  I find work to be all immersive.  But I feel immensely privileged to be so enthused by what I get to do every day.  I am blessed with a large family, and enjoy time with them.  Other than some exercise, I have no time for sports and and hobbies.  I wish I had time to read more books.  Perhaps I will have more leisure time in a decade or three, but too much going on right now.

As a side note: there is not enough time in the day to answer all your email.  I think that you just have to live with knowing that is the case.

What’s your take on the Irish tech scene from where you’re sitting?

Seems to be thriving.  The Irish go-getting spirit that is irrepressible is essential for the entrepreneurial economy.

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

I think that we are going through an entrepreneurial boom only rivaled by what was seen last during the Industrial Revolution.  This era is truly an amazing time to be alive.  The tools are there, and more accessible than ever before.  Take advantage of it, take the risk.  Life is too short to just let your dreams drift away.

I am very active on Twitter, and if interested you can follow me at @John_Frankel.  We have even made a couple of investments that came via Twitter, so you never know 🙂

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