A big part of what we’re trying to build at f3fundit is an inclusive community of advice and information for founders. Because learning from others who have done it is one of the best ways to improve. We’ll be speaking with investors, founders, and others in the tech community to see what insight they can share from their own experiences. Today we’re very excited to present Brett Martin, Managing Partner of Charge Ventures.
Charge Ventures is a NYC-based pre-seed/seed-stage venture fund. They invest 200-500k at the earliest stages of company formation and then help founders take things from 0 to 1.
He is an entrepreneur, angel investor, pragmatist, and optimist. He spent most of his career in the startup trenches and now focuses on supporting other entrepreneurs. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia Business School, where he teaches product strategy and entrepreneurial finance.
He co-founded Switch, a mobile job discovery application, and Sonar, a location-based social network. He’s written for Harvard Business Review, launch a little website called Vice, found a rock band, and sailed thousands of miles on a 30ft sailboat.
When you first got started as an entrepreneur, how did that happen?
Growing up, I sold seashells by the seashore. My dad and I would buy a bushel of conchs from the fisherman for $2, clean them off, soak them in bleach, and then sell each conch individually for $2 a piece. It was a pretty good business!
My first adult company was Sonar, an early proximity-based social network. It was an extension of my person: how can I use technology to connect with the people around me?
And then you made the jump to VC, looking back, what would you say was the catalyst for that?
After handing over the reins of my second company, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I knew I wasn’t ready to start another company, but I also knew I didn’t want to consult or take a job. So I decided I would angel invest while figuring out my next move.
Well, I didn’t have enough of my own capital to invest, so I figured I needed to raise some. Right about that time, my Fulbright advisor from a decade previous, reached out and asked if I could help him direct investments for a few large family offices.
Constant personal development is such a big part of being a founder and CEO. What your secret?
I have no secret. I’m trying to figure it out like everyone else. What I will say is that I am a big believer in the power of language. What you say is what is. So anytime I hear myself saying “I’m not” or “I can’t,” I try to eliminate that language from my vocabulary. Don’t give yourself easy outs.
What do you perceive as your most significant professional success?
The amazing group of people that I’ve managed to surround myself with: my entrepreneurs, my partners, our investors, and the broader network of angels and operators that we collaborate with daily.
It’s 2040, how would you answer the same question.
Exactly the same thing: my community but x1000 larger and enabled by tech.
And now the hard one, what’s would you say is the hardest thing you had to go through professionally.
Leaving Sonar. Luckily I’ve already covered that here.
What has time as a founder, now VC, and professor at Columbia taught you about the way you approach life problems?
Throw smart people at them.
Who’s your go-to brain picker when you’re faced with a tough problem?
The secret is to have the right people for the problem.
What sectors or industries are particularly exciting for you in the next 2-3 years?
- Ecommerce infrastructure (still!)
- No code tooling
- Decentralized systems
What one piece of advice would you give founders starting today?
Get that cash while the getting is good.
And what would you say is the biggest mistake you see founders make that is just so obvious to you now that wasn’t when you started?
Getting the cash is only the ticket to the dance. Once you have it, you should hoard it like you’ll never get another cent.
How do you think tech entrepreneurship has changed since you started out?
It’s become a socially acceptable “career path,” with an established progression (F&F, accelerator, seed funding, series abc etc). Unfortunately, that’s all BS. Entrepreneurship is something you do when you have an idea that is potentially more valuable than your other options.
The founders are gonna kill me if I don’t ask them this, so what’s the best way to pitch venture, and then more specifically, Charge?
4 step process for raising $$$:
- Meet investors when you aren’t raising. Tell them what you are going to do.
- Update them with how you’ve done what you said you were going to do.
- Leak info to them about how others are investing/looking hard at your company.
- Let them come to you.
For Charge, we’d prefer to meet you as early as possible, see #1. If we are convinced, we’ll fund you then.
Is there anything else you think relevant or that you’d want to add?
I can’t believe I get paid to sit on a pile of $$$, spending my days picking the brains of passionate people trying to change the world, pick a few a really like, give them $$$, try my best to help them succeed, and have a chance to make real money if we are successful. I am so grateful to the entrepreneurs I meet and to my investors for giving me this opportunity. Thank you.
Thanks, Brett, That’s awesome, and such a great and positive message. Thank’s so much, Brett for doing this, we’re positive that the founders that take the time to read this will find it insightful.
To the community: Our format is Q&A, but we’re open to suggestions as well as questions you’d like us to ask investors and successful founders alike, and if you have something to say. We’re always looking for smart, witty contributors to write content.