By Bob Johnston
September 27, 2022

Alan Patricof – Venture Capital's Founding Father

My guest today is Alan Patricof, founding father of venture capital and author of a new book entitled, "No Red Lights: Reflections on Life, 50 Years in Venture Capital, and Never Driving Alone." Alan and I dig into the book and we also cover a potpourri of topics that had me feeling inspired for many days after our conversation.

Among other areas, we discuss his love of music and how he started a disco tech in the 60's, why he missed Woodstock, and the fact that he attended Burning Man a few weeks ago (I'm still awaiting photographic proof!). We also hit on why Alan is perennially optimistic and the importance of making room for a whole life by being spontaneous  and not letting work absorb our free time. For example, Alan is a fan of taking people up on last-minute invitations to dinner or an evening event.

Alan and I also cover how he became chairman of New York Magazine, his first fund (called Decahedron), his longtime friendship with Sir Ronald Cohen, with whom he established the VC industry in the UK and France, resulting in high honors by both countries.

We also cover how Alan's father left the Ukraine as a boy and ultimately landed in New York, selling remnant clothing and working on Wall Street as a broker until the age of 89. Alan has a treasure trove of advice in the book. For example:

- Life is cumulative
- The next best thing to yes is a quick no
- Not to count on a cascade of miracles when running a startup
- When taking meetings, don’t think of it as transactional. Instead, think about how you can help the other person
- Listen to the last thing someone says before the elevator closes (it will likely hint at their true intention)
- ...And many more. Of note, Alan responds to every phone call within 24 hours.

We also discuss investing, of course, and how he views risk and reward with early stage companies. Alan's latest fund, Primetime Partners, focuses on the over 60 population (or the "ageless generation") and the fund's focus on investing in companies that are creating solutions and experiences for this ageless cohort.

I hope you enjoy!

Life is cumulative.
On the importance of long-lasting relationships
Don't count on a cascade of miracles when you're looking at the assumptions of a business.
On founders being rooted in reality

9:11 - Alan describes his love for music – especially folk music in the 60s – that has impacted his entire life, including the fact that he  goes out most nights per week for music and other events, whenever possible.

14:53 - Alan makes the point that you can't be a venture capitalist without being an optimist.

17:54 - Alan talks about his mentors

19:50 - Not many folks were focused on private investing in the 60s and 70s

21:00 - Alan talks about his first fund, Decahedron

23: 35 - Alan discusses the history behind the VC industry

26: 15 - Alan describes his relationship with Sir Ronald Cohen

38:00 - How one can have good business judgement without having a technology background

42:06 - Alan discusses one of his favorite quotes, "Don't count on a cascade of miracles when you're looking at the assumptions of a business" and how it applies to investment philosophy

45:05 - Alan talks about another great quote, "Life is cumulative"

46:40 - How Alan begins every meeting, "If you come away with just one good idea or one good relationship, it was worth the experience"

47:50 - Alan explains his philosophy, "The next best thing to yes is a quick no"

49:00 - Alan talks about several of his many "you don't remember me but...." moments

52:07 - Alan discusses his latest fund, Primetime Partners

58:00 - Alan talks about concerns for the ageless population and issues that we as a society should address

1:01:51 - Alan discusses his training regimen, including prepping for the upcoming NYC marathon, reading 3-4 papers a day, and traveling

1:03:15 - Alan shares his go-to news and information sources, including The Information, Axios, Business Insider, the FT, NYT, WSJ, and others.