Rest in Peace, Joe Trustey

Jul 30

In: Personal

I had heard about Joe Trustey long before I met him. Notre Dame graduate. Captain in the U.S. Army. Baker Scholar at Harvard Business School. A great sense of humor.

I was a young plebe at Bain & Company. Joe sat near one of my roommates, who had long declared Joe “a cool dude.” My roommate introduced me to Joe.

“Hi, ‘Phat,” he said, a play on my name “Josaphat.” He gave nicknames to everyone.

“Hi, J.T.”

We had an instant and very good relationship from then on. It’s hard to explain. We never worked together, but Joe became a friend and a mentor. We had a lot in common. I really liked him. I really respected him. He was one of those genuine, good-hearted, insanely-smart, and funny executives.

I still remember the day when his young bride and newborn son visited Joe at the office. “I want a life like that,” I thought to myself. Joe looked so tired but joyful at the same time.

He left Bain and joined Summit Partners. We kept in touch. Joe rose through the ranks, became a partner, and later, COO of Summit. No surprise there. The practical jokes he engineered there are legendary.

I reached out to him when I received an offer from Bain Capital and wasn’t sure if I should take it. A few years later, I reached out to him again, as I received an offer from a VC firm.

In each case, he replied to my emails within minutes. And, he’d call me soon thereafter.

Joe always had great advice. No B.S., told it like it was. Very gracious. When I wanted to do due diligence on the VC firm that wanted to hire me, he connected me with the head of private equity at the Harvard endowment, to get that person’s point of view. No hesitation.

A few years ago, I saw Summit mentioned in the news and reached out to Joe. “Sure thing, ‘Phat,” he wrote back. We met in his spacious corner office. He was the same guy: irreverent and humble at the same time.

“How can I help you?” he asked, after we settled in.

“Nothing really,” I said, “I just wanted to say hello, purely social.” Joe looked touched when I said that.

We talked about Summit and Kepha. We talked about our families, our hopes for our children. We talked about our challenges. We joked around. I still remember Joe’s laugh, his smile, and how genuine he was during our meeting. No spin. He was so authentic.

That’s how I always want to remember Joe.

I’m writing this because I learned today that Joe and one of his children unfortunately passed away in a plane crash (more here). I’m not embarrassed to say that I shed a few tears right away. I suspect there will be others.

8/2/15 Edit:

Not surprised by this quote in a very good newspaper article, which appeared on the front of Sunday’s Boston Globe:

Often, though, he was “a quiet philanthropist,” his wife said. Hearing that an intern at Summit Partners couldn’t afford college, he arranged on her last day to fund her education, working through an intermediary. At the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater and which oldest daughter Caroline now attends, Mr. Trustey heard some students couldn’t afford to visit family for the Christmas holidays. He paid their fares anonymously through the school, his wife recalled, adding: “He said, ‘I don’t want anybody to not be able to go home.’ ”

Joe Trustey, you really are one of The Good Guys. I feel privileged to call you my friend and a mentor. You are missed.

My Fundraising Advice: Shop for Values

Jul 28

In: Entrepreneurship, Philosophy

I’m finding myself increasingly giving the same advice to entrepreneurs, who are looking for funding. I tell them: “Shop for values.”

Many of them are in sell mode, trying to convince a VC to invest. But, I hope they remember they are also in buy mode: they’re looking for people with whom they can work, and, ideally, with whom they feel comfortable.

A group with aligned values can stay united and overcome challenges. Things may not work out, but you feel that people are on the same team. And, when things do work out, an aligned team really feels incredibly close and productive. I’m a big fan of common values; that’s one reason why our firm has Operating Principles.

Different values ultimately will mean different agendas, which will lead to distrust. I know, for I’ve been on Boards of both types. And, I’ve worked at both types of companies in the past. The cultures where people mistrust each other are absolutely exhausting, as everyone is trying to figure out who is manipulating whom and what folks are really trying to say.

I think “values” is one of those loaded words that means everything and nothing at the same time. It all depends on who is using the word. And, it’s difficult to shop for values. I mean, if you ask someone if they have good values, nearly all people will say, “Of course, I do!”

For me, having common values involves this:

  • You want to spend time with that person
  • There is mutual respect in the relationship
  • You feel that you are being treated fairly and with transparency
  • You feel you can be yourself

Unfortunately, I’ve run into entrepreneurs who seem to view financings as transactions. And, I’m sure some entrepreneurs will say the same things about some VCs.

And, I really believe that transaction-focused people can still make things work. But, time and again, I see that people focused on common values do extraordinary things and create extraordinary results.

You see this in other areas of life, too: dating relationships, marriage, etc. Common values create energy. Divergent values deplete energy.

Alignment is very powerful.


Words of Wisdom from Ben Watson

Jul 23

In: Personal, Philosophy, Race, Spiritual

Tonight, I’ve been catching up on the news. It’s a bit disturbing.

There are more articles about police officers, captured on video, who have violently and unjustifiably mistreated African-Americans (the arrest of Sandra Bland and her apparent subsequent suicide; and, the sentencing of a L.A. police officer, who was found guilty of assaulting a person, who later died).

It made me remember a very cogent and insightful essay from Ben Watson regarding Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, who was shot and killed by a police officer.

Watson is famous among pro football fans for a very gritty play. He ran 120 yards to prevent a touchdown (video here) during a playoff game. He didn’t give up. So, I’ve long been a fan of his, even when he left the New England Patriots.

And, to me, I also am a fan because of his incredible honesty. Here is his Facebook post:

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:

I’M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.

I’M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.

I’M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I’m a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a “threat” to those who don’t know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.

I’M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.

I’M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.

I’M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.

I’M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I’ve seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.

I’M CONFUSED, because I don’t know why it’s so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don’t know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.

I’M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take “our” side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it’s us against them. Sometimes I’m just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that’s not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That’s not right.

I’M HOPELESS, because I’ve lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I’m not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.

I’M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it’s a beautiful thing.

I’M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I’M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that’s capable of looking past the outward and seeing what’s truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It’s the Gospel. So, finally, I’M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Book: ‘Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams’

Jul 22

In: Books, Class

In our nation, there’s almost no discussion about class. We pride ourselves on being a classless society, a meritocracy. I think that’s mostly true, but not fully.

Class issues are evident at work. Here are some examples:

  • What people wear at many offices oozes middle-class (and up) culture. For example, men often wear khakis (a remnant from the British Empire), and, in the summer, wear short-sleeved shirts that tend to be what people wear for golf.
  • Communication style is very much middle-class. There’s a premium to being very indirect, and, at times, passive-aggressive.
  • Employees from different classes almost never socialize together. At my first job out of college, the library staff and secretarial support team nearly always lived on Staten Island. The investment bankers lived in Manhattan or Connecticut. The two groups worked together, but never hung out together. And, I was struck by how poorly some of the bankers treated the support staff.

I write this because I recently read Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams. It got rave reviews on Amazon. I enjoyed reading it.

The author writes about his own life, how he went to Columbia and how what he encountered there was a different world from his own (his father was bricklayer). The author also interviewed many others from blue-collar families and who are now in white-collar jobs.

There is some, but not total, overlap between my immigrant background and the family culture about which the author writes. But, many entrepreneurs with whom I work come from blue-collar families, and I do see a general pattern: stamina, the desire for an open culture wherein people speak their mind, grit.

It’s a good book and worth reading.


Jul 19

In: Fly fishing, Personal

I fished yesterday. Half of our children are out of town, and there are fewer activities in the summer. So, it is a chance to get out with minimal guilt.

Also, it’s a nice way to take a rest from work and family obligations. I focus on one thing: catching fish.

Fly fishing is a never ending mental puzzle. What worked last time, or, even, one hour ago, may not work now. Every stretch of the river has different currents and depth. Weather, water temperature, and the seasons greatly affect trout behavior. I love it. I fished for 13 hours and it felt like the day whipped by.

At one point, there was a downpour, complete with thunder. A true soaking. But, I have good rain gear and just kept going.

I landed ten trout. Here are unfiltered pictures of four of them.