One of my partners was heading past me the other day with an entrepreneur and as he ushered her in, he asked "are you sure we can't get you something to eat?".
It reminded me of a writer I admire, Michael Pollan, who champions a more mindful approach to how we eat. As well as decommoditizing food, he makes the simple anthropological observation that “the shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body, to a ritual of family and community.”
We agree. As we see it, breaking bread forges bonds. We want to connect at a human level with the founders who give up their time to meet us. We want to know their stories, and to understand their motivations.
But there is more to it. A desire to share food is just a small but consistent practise that underscores our approach as investors. Entrepreneurs often put themselves under tremendous pressure as they try to do something extraordinary. Much of their days are taken up with creative acts and acts of will - very little is humdrum. Strange timetables are the norm. Family relationships can be strained. Entrepreneurial life is exhilarating at times, but it’s not easy.
For those reasons, we also have a sense of responsibility. Our mission is to support the most ambitious entrepreneurs attacking big markets. That includes helping them to keep the show on the road, to keep body and soul together.
Of course, sometimes it is just a simple matter of hospitality. When a team from a Finnish startup squeezed in a meeting with us at 7pm one dark November evening, we knew their day had started 16 hours earlier in Helsinki, they were probably running on empty and were grateful for the sushi that arrived. As we ate together, it made for a relaxed and open meeting.
A different moment came early one evening in the office when we were opening a bottle of 20 year old scotch (Long story...) We offered a glass to an entrepreneur who arrived as we sampled the goods. As he sipped his malt, he shared his progress of the previous months. It may have been the spirit, but when he left he seemed enthusiastic and volunteered that we “seem completely different to other investors.” Perhaps we should try offering single malt to all our post-6pm visitors.
We’re often asked what we stand for as investors. Mosaic is so central to our lives, we want it to be the sort of place we want to spend a lot of time. That means being a human place, where people connect, and one where we look after our team members - and the entrepreneurs we meet.