The Bicycle Test

I am at Money2020 this week, meeting in person with hundreds of colleagues from all over the world, out of the 6000 attendees. We all use phones and Skype and GoToMeeting and so on, and still, there is no comparison with face-to-face encounters. Meeting and talking with everyone through scheduled Skype calls would have taken months… The only problem is that you need to take a flight, be away from home for a week, and be ready to have non-stop meetings for days in a row.

I used to travel a lot in my IBM days, managing 9 development teams on 4 continents, and I thought that was bad… Today, as I look for great fintech startups to invest in, I have to do it again, and it’s not easy, see here for a recent perspective from my friend Matteo Rizzi.

I read (or heard?) that a Valley VC would not invest in a company that she can not reach by bicycle in a day — a way of saying that VC investing is local and close proximity to fledgling companies is a critical ingredient of VC value-add. Even more, standard advice for syndication partners is to have at least one local VC in the mix that can “keep an eye” on the startup.

I wish it were that simple. For better or for worse, fintech investing is a nascent field, with hundreds of companies distributed around the world. Instead of a “power distribution” typical of Silicon Valley investing, we have a global normally distributed collection of great companies. And we travel, and travel, and travel… As of now, we have investments in New York, Mountain View, London, Helsinki, Moscow, Lausanne, Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Hong Kong — with more to come.

Our bicycle is the airplane…