Why Should Every VC Prioritize Its Founders’ Mental & Emotional Wellness? - Part I in the investors series

Jonny Saacks, Barak Rabinowitz, and Noa Matz
Managing Partner of F2 Venture Capital, Managing Partner of F2 Venture Capital, Operating Partner of F2 Venture Capital

Jonny has been an investor for over 20 years, and still claims till this day:

“It’s all about the people. There's the technology, the size of the market, etc, but at the end of the day, it’s about the people - not just as individuals, but as a team.”

When I asked Jonny how do they assess the founders when meeting them for the first time, he shared that the first thing they check is what’s the reason that brought the founders to do what they do - their WHY -

“If we can connect to that and it’s authentic, then that’s a great start.” 

Noa added that it’s a two way street - they both assess each other in order to build a relationship -

“We try to let them get to know us intimately, who we are, and say - ‘this could be your home some day’. Then, we can ask them to show us who they are. But it’s not really an assessment, we’re just trying to get closer to them.”

When challenges come

What happens when suddenly we’re not completely aligned? 

Jonny shared that for him it's all about communication and transparency first and foremost -

“try to determine as soon as possible if there’s an alignment of interests”

, that way, you’ll know that when you choose to go on a journey together, you’ll solve every obstacle and disagreement in the way as a team, because you agree on the big things and you look in the same direction. 

He added:

“There’s always tension. There's never a smooth ride to success. There’s always challenges, obstacles that you have to overcome in various fields, because you’re a founder, a team member and an employee and a manager, you have your family and you have your personal aspirations, and many different factors which come into play 24/7, and you need to manage and regulate it. It’s like a professional sportsman - they all have sources of stressors, but when they step on the field, the best of them can always bring themselves to be in peak performance.”

Noa shared that their goal is not to get to a crisis point, but to be prepared and not surprised by obstacles that come in the way, and make an effort to show that to the founders they work with. When they prove to the founders day by day that they’re with them and support them, they won’t be surprised by a big crisis, because they were there all along the way.

“The best teams are the ones who know how to talk about it and overcome it and work productively and effectively together. We had several companies where the founding teams didn’t work out, and in some cases the company had to be shut down because of this. In one of the cases one of the founders had to leave, and the founder who stayed brought another founder to work with him, and now the company’s growing extremely well.” 

Jonathan suggested that founders will choose their partner/s after going through some experiences together.

When I asked if they can tell from their perspective which founding teams won’t make it, Noa answered that they can spot tension between the co-founders -

“like when one of them speaks the other is not comfortable, or it feels like one is not giving the other to express their opinion - you can sense the tension through that in a meeting.”

- that’s why a crucial tool that she teaches the founders she works with is the ability to talk - to really share and listen to one another, to know how to engage in a conversation.

“In one of the companies that we work with I noticed that once the co-founders had a conflict and they were mad at each other, they stopped everything, found a room and talked it out - sometimes it could take five hours. And you can see how this ability to talk to one another with our guidance when something’s wrong allows them now to avoid looping into bad blood.”

Barak added a great insight to this process:

“we use the analogy of marriage and divorce between founders, but I think it starts to break down when you start to look at the stage of the company. Naturally, we like strong founding teams, but once the company passes series A, and they really need to start scaling in the US and internationally, hopefully both founders continue growing individually and as a team, but if they don’t, it’s ok. It’s ok to perhaps identify a different role to one of the founders, and it’s ok to bring an executive talent and put the egos aside.”

In the end, Jonny concluded with a punchline:

“Remember - it’s not easy, or else everyone would do it.”

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