I was taught early on that everyone is equal. There are no superior people or views. You can learn from different people and perspectives - whether it’s a Buddhist monk, a sport’s coach or an entrepreneur.
When I was 20 I took off to Japan. That was a huge culture-shock. But also one of the most defining moments in my life. I started a company while I was there, learned how to hustle.
I got into product management because the idea of building something from scratch fascinated me – that’s where my interest in technology began.
Creation, technology, strategy, impact… these things all come together in venture capital. That’s what drew me in. But I think it was when my professor said the VC industry is impossible to break into, that I decided that’s what I was going to do.
The best part of my job is working with entrepreneurs. People with big dreams and the courage to try something different. Getting to be a part of this incredible passion is invigorating.
Where possible, I like to give energy back. Founder pitches quickly become brainstorming sessions. I want the founder to have a positive experience - gain a new perspective, or a question that keeps them thinking for days after.
I’m Dutch – we are known to be frank and straightforward. I will be demanding with my founders if I think that’s the right thing to do. But I try to be honest and constructive in my feedback, to be there for them when it matters.
There was an incident when a founder faced a personal tragedy - and he called me to talk. Such moments show you’ve earned their trust.
I played table tennis with the Dutch selection as a teenager (Fun fact: I once challenged the one and only Ronaldo to a table-tennis game without realizing who he was at first…and won)!
Sports is an interesting parallel to entrepreneurship in many ways. It’s important to visualize your match, opponent and game. The mental aspect of both worlds is intense.
There’s a Michael Phelps ad - ‘It’s what you do in the dark that gets you in the light’. That really resonated with me.
That’s what we look for in founders. People who show ambition, tenacity and the endurance to achieve something.
I was once asked to give a presentation on the concept of chaos and that reminded me of one of Doug’s (Leone) presentations on the art of ‘getting comfortable with the uncomfortable’.
As a VC you are constantly in an environment of ambiguity, sometimes making decisions that have a long-term impact, purely on the basis of instinct. That can be tough.
There is an interesting graph that shows the high-highs and low-lows of founders. It also maps out the emotions of a VC - with the same ups and downs, but at half the intensity. This may be true of one company – but then imagine going through this all the time with ten companies.
During a week spent at a Buddhist monastery, I remember asking a monk - "How can you be passionate about something and maintain detachment?"
Over time you need to learn how to balance the highs and lows and keep your ‘zen’.
I ask my daughter three questions at the end of each day: What were the three things she is thankful for? What did she learn? What made her proud?
To realize, that on a daily basis there can be reflection, is something quite valuable.