Episode
#23
ENG

Deep Dive into the Heart & Mind of a Seasoned Investor

Featuring
Gigi Levy-Weiss,
General Partner at NFX

Gigi is one of the most appreciated, sharp and talented investors in the Israeli startup scene, but also abroad. He is a GP at NFX together with James Currier, Pete Flint, Omri Drori & Morgan Beller.

After being a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, Gigi founded several startups, such as Playtika (acquired for $4.4 billion), Ridge, Beach Bums and more. He used to be CEO of 888 Holdings, one of the world’s frontrunners in the gaming industry. Gigi invested in startups such as Komodor, Mammoth Biosciences, Kenshoo, MyHeritage and countless others. He also serves as an advisor on the board of several organizations, such as MEET - Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow. 


Gigi candidly shared with me his personal journey.


The CEO Persona

We spoke about the complexity embedded in the CEO role - the costume you wear, and how that sometimes gets confused with the real you. We shared how as a young CEO - he was managed by his ego, with no compassion and forgiveness, and how important it is for a CEO to learn to put his ego aside and really listen to others. Being forgiving to himself and to others  is something that he takes with him into the investor position.


In Silicon Valley - both the founders and investors use a language which nurtures a complex threshold of expectations -  they are all “killing it”. They should not show weakness, which brings a lot of misery, and literally “killing it.” Now - it doesn't mean that you should share your weakness with everyone - but you should do it with your inner circle and close peers.  


The Investor Persona

Gigi sees his role as the sounding board of the entrepreneurs he invests in. Once they share their truth - it’s a ‘Protected Zone,’ and they can rest assured that it stays there. Gigi and the other NFX GPs don’t insist on being on the board, but they insist on being the last conversation prior to the board.

Sometimes, it’s also ‘tough love’ - as this is what they need to hear at that moment.


Gigi believes that as investors - they should be grateful to have been chosen by the founders to join their journey. The founders are generally brilliant, hungry, energetic and sacrificing a lot in this path. It’s not ‘our’ company - it’s theirs. For him, the lowest of lows - is to find out he picked the wrong entrepreneur. 


Founders’ Psychological Traits 

Gigi has seen more than 10,000 entrepreneurs over the years. In different verticals - different traits are needed. But, there are psychological aspects that are true for entrepreneurs in general.  

  1. Founders are a mix of inherent contradictions
  2. Optimism - they never believe they’ll fail
  3. They must have an elastic and agile mind, so they can reconvene new directions when needed
  4. Be open and transparent
  5. Crystalize a clear vision & WHY
  6. Be data-driven decision-makers
  7. Entrepreneurs can be either arrogant & loud or insecure & quiet; the range is surprising. However, both types can be great entrepreneurs.
  8. Decision Makers - “Move Fast and Break Things” - Speed is one of the main character traits founders should have, whilst being willing to accept failure. If you make a mistake>>you fix>>iterate>>move.  Speed needs to be balanced with the quality of decisions - especially when it comes to recruiting talents. 

Gigi shares his personal growth from being the smartest guy in the room, telling others what to do, to being the mentor that thinks together with them. He likes providing them with tools to make decisions and letting them make their own. That has a lot to do with the concept of parenting and how we educate & mentor our children and founders.


Gigi sees the cherry on top of his role as an investor in helping the entrepreneurs balance their psychological traits, is learning how to wear the various costumes when needed. More importantly, it is knowing when to leave them aside. 


For Gigi, what helped him more than all in his personal growth journey - was learning from failures. Failure, the way he sees it, is a call to reach a higher level of consciousness. A “wake up call,” an opportunity to better ourselves.


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