Mergelane Blog

Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

How 75 Ski Days Made Me a Better Venture Capitalist

This year, I decided to do an experiment. To build our MergeLane investor and mentor network, I dedicated four months to exclusively focus on meetings that involved skiing. From December 15, 2017, to April 15, 2018, I skied 75 days and 1,193,578 vertical feet. Hands down, it was the best four months of my life. I have never been happier or in better physical shape. It was an obvious success from a personal wellness standpoint, but I had to ask myself one question: Would I have been more productive if I had stayed home (I live in Boulder) and stuck to business as usual?

Let’s look at the numbers. Of my 75 ski days, 61 of them can honestly be classified as meeting/work-related. Of those, 11 were totally unproductive, 26 created a moderately positive outcome, and 10 of them created a really positive outcome. While I could have fit in more meetings if the activity was coffee versus skiing, I doubt I could have achieved 36 wins over the course of 120 days with business as usual.

For this reason, I think my experiment was a massive success. This is great news for a future of merging business with my very favorite activity, but on further reflection, I realized I was left with a couple of questions that might be of interest to you:

Ski Famille - Family Ski Holidays by Robinseed is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

1) Why were my ski meetings such a success?

2) Can I apply those success factors to the 240 days a year that I can’t ski?

Here are the reasons I think my ski experiment was a win:

Authentic connections: I had the opportunity to spend the majority of the day with my connections. We rarely checked our phones and had little awareness of time or schedules. We had time to talk about personal and professional interests. We often connected on a deeper level than I typically achieve in a 30- to 60-minute coffee meeting.

Continuous connections: Because I mostly met with people who lived in the Vail Valley and skied frequently, I often had the chance to spontaneously reconnect with them multiple times over the course of the season.

Connection around a mutual personal passion: I was in my happy place and they were too.

A close-connected network: The Vail Valley is a small, close-knit community. Every meeting was an opportunity for a warm introduction. It was relatively easy to quickly build a network of credible people willing to share votes of confidence. Vail’s percentage of highly accomplished business leaders per capita certainly enhanced my success.

I was unique: Instead of being just one of a thousand venture capitalists, I was one of only a few. 

Room for spontaneous connections: To accommodate ski and weather conditions, chairlift malfunctions, and other daily variances, I kept my commitments to about one ski meeting per day. However, my meetings rarely lasted all day. This gave me the chance to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. If the skiing was good, I would simply keep skiing. If it was terrible, I would sit at a coffee shop or in the locker room to catch up on email. Some of my most productive days were the result of random chairlift or locker room interactions.

Removal from the minutia: I was limited to about three hours of pre-skiing productive computer time per day. This forced me to stay hyper-focused on the most critical aspects of our business. As an Enneagram One who leans toward perfection, this was game-changing for me professionally and was perhaps the most critical component of the happiness I experienced over those four months.

I feel immeasurable gratitude for this experience and my personal circumstances that enabled it. A special thank you to my parents for graciously allowing me to live with them in Vail for four months, and to my husband for driving through snowstorms to see me on the weekends.

Since the conclusion of the ski season, I have incorporated my lessons learned into all of my meetings and work life. I have found that a similar combination of factors can be found in many other types of activities for which I and others share a passion. You likely have passions that may line these factors up well for you.

My new outlook on meetings and on life seems to be moving the needle. I hope this reflection can do the same for you.

Onward.

Related Posts

Diversity in Venture Capital: Taking Action to Actually Change the Ratio

Kim Smith, executive director of the League of Innovative Schools, shares her thought-provoking insights to help drive racial equality in our venture capital industry, and makes a powerful call for white co-conspirators who are ready, willing, and able to fight.

Read more ➞

Tuesday Takeaways 07.07.20 | Going Cold Turkey on News and Emotion This Week

I am grateful for the clarity and inspiration this emotional time has afforded me. I am more driven to do work that matters than ever before. Because we still have a long road ahead, I'm going to take an emotional breather. 

Read more ➞

Tuesday Takeaways 06.30.20 | Surrendering to July

I find that I have to expend three times more energy to feel productive during the holidays. This pattern tends to persist not only during the week of July 4th, but for the entire month of July. 

Read more ➞

Fund81 Summer Spotlight: Five Startups Sourced from the Fund81 VC Forum

We sourced five startups from our Fund81 VC forum members to present for our June forum. Check out this episode to hear pitches from these incredibly tenacious entrepreneurs. ‍

Read more ➞

Tuesday Takeaways 06.23.20 | How to Ask for Introductions

I have fielded several requests for introductions this week. I like to be helpful, but I also like to be respectful of my network’s time. I'd like to share a few tips for making double opt-in intros easy.

Read more ➞

I've Regressed: Marriage and Gender Equality in the Face of COVID-19

I’ve always thought of myself as someone who has a modern marriage. Three months into this COVID-19 situation, however, I'm starting to feel like I'm stuck in a 1950s sitcom.

Read more ➞

Tuesday Takeaways 06.16.20 | Shifting from White Comfort

In a conversation on my partners Sue and Leah’s Marco Polo Channel this week, I shared that my fear of how my participation may be received given my white privilege has historically kept me on the sidelines of the racial equality conversation. Guest coach Kimberly Smith gave me some great advice.

Read more ➞

A Lesson in Leveraging My VC Network for Good | COVID-19 in Vail, Colorado

As a VC, I have the opportunity to build relationships with people who have tremendous resources. I often hesitate to ask my network to support philanthropic causes, because I want to respect our business relationship. After seeing the impact of COVID-19, however, I decided it was time to ask.

Read more ➞

Tuesday Takeaways 06.09.20 | The Best of My Weekly Reading and Listening List

I post my most interesting weekly thoughts, coupled with the best of my listening and reading list, and occasional MergeLane portfolio news each Tuesday. Here’s the best of what I’ve read and listened to this week:

Read more ➞

Episode #28: Finding BIG-Thinking and Executing Entrepreneurs with Dick Rothkopf

I invited Dick Rothkopf, co-founder of Learning Curve International, the manufacturer of the Thomas the Tank Engine toys, to share his thoughts on how to spot big thinkers and big ideas with the propensity to scale, and how to help entrepreneurs think bigger.

Read more ➞