Keeper, Steadily, Educative, Sieve, Dray Alliance, Smartcat, Emerge, Fini, Outset
My sophomore year of college, I cofounded a startup called Verbling out of a dorm room. For our first two years, we struggled to get traction. We were building in the video chat space, and the technology wasn’t mature enough to enable a consistently good user experience. Refusing to give up, we hung on by a thread until a breakthrough in peer-to-peer communication (specifically WebRTC) allowed us to make something people finally seemed to like. We raised venture money, grew into the millions of signups, and eventually became profitable. We created over 10,000 jobs for people in the process -- my greatest source of pride. These days, the business is owned by a publicly traded company called Chegg.
I wish I could say that after the first two years of slog, things get easier. They don't. In reality, founder-CEOs face constant, unforgiving pressure. My journey was no exception. From it all, I learned that the ability to turn pain into strength gets you further than a good idea, resume, or connections.
I got an early start. As a kid growing up in Sweden, I kept a “Book of Inventions.” In it, I drew blueprints detailing the workings of various robots that would add convenience to daily life, such as the home-cleaning robot, and the homework-doing robot.
When I was 15, I convinced my family to let me go pursue my dreams in America.
I attended Stanford on a full scholarship, and later went through Y Combinator with my startup. Suffice it to say I swallowed the entrepreneurial allure hook, line, and sinker.
I invest because I love the work that begins the minute after we write the check. One thing I got really right as a CEO was forming a board with no-nonsense, zero-ego directors who had encountered problems similar to ours a hundred times before. It accelerated my learning and provided me with leverage. The experience helped me realize I wanted to dedicate myself to supporting other founders full-time. When I commit, I commit personally to do everything I can to help you succeed. I’m grateful to the founders who’ve let me hang around the hoop as an investor.