Managing Partner & CEO Emerald Technology Ventures,
Member of multiple boards, Clean Tech Venture Capitalist
Trust is the foundation for happiness because without trust, you can’t have successful relationships. Even happiness with oneself requires trust.
My initial position is to trust people I meet – I decided to believe that people are trustworthy until they prove differently. Obviously, on occasion I have been terribly disappointed but not trusting people until they prove they are trustworthy is a sad existence. Once someone destroys trust, it is really difficult for me to trust them again. That being said, understanding the intentions of the action which led to the destruction of trust is even more important than the act itself. I have a real problem with people who are unfair, egotistical or take advantage of others and I probably wouldn’t even invest the time and energy in trying to repair the relationship. Life is too short.
The role of trust in society has become more important and complex. In an age of digital anonymity, trust is too often abused. It has led to a situation where we can’t trust the news we read, the emails we receive, etc. unless we know the source.
Did I think about trust in a different way some years ago? – Oh, yes, because the world has changed dramatically the past few years. Nefarious actors have harnessed the power of IT and are using it to prey on the trusting nature of mankind. This trend is likely to get worse which means the value of personal relationships will increase.
In our business, we definitely prefer to work with people we know but the nature of venture capital is to finance start-ups and these are very often companies we have never met before. Meeting the management in person and spending time over several months before investing is essential to build trust. We take our commitment to a start-up very seriously and we partner with them through thick and thin. There are so many hurdles they will have to overcome and the strength of the relationships will be tested over time.
As a leader, I am very focused on creating the best environments to build successful relationships whether that is amongst my team members, with our portfolio company management teams, with co-investors or with our investors. I believe trust is built on mutual respect and interacting with another person. Although we all considered ourselves super productive during the pandemic as we jumped from one video conference to the next, the truth is that relationships suffered in this time. Those who were lucky enough to have already built trusting relationships were able to leverage them. The flip side is that it was more difficult for new team members to get integrated and for our team to build conviction for new investments. Without the opportunity to build strong relationships, it is more difficult to commit to long term partnerships. Investing time to build the foundation for these relationships based on trust is unavoidable.